Can someone help a brother out?

What went wrong? Was this supposed to happen? Should I throw it out? What do I do now?

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Can someone help a brother out?

Postby newguy » Tue Aug 27, 2002 9:29 pm

I am a beginning homebrewer. I recently brewed an Oatmeal Cream Ale, modifying a kit I bought at a homebrew store, The primary fermentation was great, very flocculent with a tasty result, but I think I might have hit a snag. I added vanilla beans to the secondary fermenter, and now, a week and a half later the beer dosn't look so good. Virtually no yeast activity or sediment, and little yellow clumps floating near the beans. We washed our hands, but only halved the beans- leaving the shells on. What's up?
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give it a taste..

Postby bredmakr » Tue Aug 27, 2002 9:50 pm

I have never made a cream ale or used vanilla beans in the secondary. However, I can tell you to have faith in the beer. Trust your senses of smell and taste. The lack of activity is not alarming. If you had it in the primary and the yeast flocd out and attenuated well then you might not expect so much sediment or activity in the secondary. The fact that there is no further activity is evidence that nothing new is fermenting the sugars. Did you check the specific gravity at the time of transfer? If you did a comparison of before and after primary gravities will tell you if the yeast fermented all the sugars. If you got down to your target gravity then I wouldn't worry too much. Next thing I would do is look to see if the beer has become more cloudy since you racked it to secondary. If it has that could mean trouble. If it hasn't then smell the airspace over the air lock. If it has turned really bad your nose will know. Last thing that I can tell you to do is to pull off a good sample of it and taste it. If it still tastes good then you're good to go. As for the yellow stuff around the beans it could possibly be dormant and dead yeast being attracted to the beans and not falling out of the beer. Not too slick with the chemistry so maybe someone else can help you out there. Smell it, taste it, and see. Good luck
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Bredmakr Said it all

Postby Azorean Brewer » Wed Aug 28, 2002 1:58 am

He's right, taste it and check S.G., I have nothing more to add. Let us know how it turned out, and where to find the recipe if it is good, I know my wife would like this one.
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A safer way.

Postby Brewer2001 » Wed Aug 28, 2002 9:10 pm


When making additions it is best done in the kettle if that will give you the desired results. The boil sterilizes the additions. An alternate method for secondary additions is to steep the added ingredients (hop tea, etc). This will also sterilize the additives. Lastly you could soak the addition in liquor (vodka, everclear) or food grade phosphoric acid would also work.

You may be able to make additions without sterilizing them first, but you always run a risk.

As for this batch (as bredmakr advised) take a sample smell and taste it to see if it is palletable. Remember this ale might need some maturation time to convert the 'green beer' flavors out.

Good luck and good brewing.

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Agreeing with Brewer2001

Postby niburech » Thu Aug 29, 2002 9:31 am

I agree with Brewer2001. The first time I try any new ingredient, I've always done it in the kettle while the beer is on the boil. However, you started out with a kit, and some kits avoid the cooking portion of brewing entirely. I would suggest (for your next batch of course) boiling the beans in a tea-like way and then adding them to the primary fermenter along with the kit. You could even grind them up in a food processor to avoid the big, floating hunks.
For your current batch, I think that you don't have to worry so much about it going bad if you sterilized everything the proper way in the first place. Besides, if it is tainted, your nose and taste buds will tell you.
All that said, I have never brewed with vanilla beans before, and I am interested in what kind of flavour you get out of it. I thought vanilla might be useful to smooth out other harsher flavours. Please let us know what it tastes like.
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Postby newguy » Sun Sep 01, 2002 2:57 pm

Hey Y'all- Thanks for the advice, it reminded me to relax, and like bredmakr said," have faith in the beer". We just finished bottling the beer, which turned out just fine. It was sweet, sublimely vanilla-y, and had a rich malty taste thanks to the oatmeal. (I think) I will submit the recipe here under the name "Seat of our Pants Cream Ale" for those interested in checking it out.
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