The Pumpkin Ale has been fermenting for the last two weeks now and my measurements show that everything has ended with the process. I will probably be bottling the beer this afternoon but before I do that, I wanted to give a quick update. My mini-fermenter has fully cleared and the beer looks beautiful. The color is exactly what I was hoping it would be. There is a lot of sediment on the bottom. I am not sure if it is due to the two different yeasts used, the extra amount of sugar in the wort, or if the yeast just multiplied like crazy. There is also the big chance that the bottom is a lot of pumpkin puree that clogged my mash tun. In any case, there is a lot of it.
I took my gravity readings and it comes in at 1.010. If you remember correctly this beer had a starting gravity of 1.082, so it finished out in the 10% ABV range for my quantity of wort. I pretty surprised it went that high as both of my yeasts are not known for having a high tolerance. I also took a test taste from the extra drops left over from my refractometer reading. The upfront taste is distinctly pumpkin. Score. The back is all spiciness. I is a bit harsher than I wanted and I think it would of been totally dead on if there was a full 5 gallons. The cinnamon and nutmeg come through the most with some all-spice hints. Overall I am pretty happy with how it has turned out thus far (minus the over spicy) I can’t wait to get it carbonated and have it ready to drink in a few weeks.
As a side note, sorry for the lack of posting this week. I started a new job and I’m getting used to the whole work/life balance again.
The Belgian Tripel is fermenting away and is my most active fermentation to date. Most of my brews go crazy for a day and a half and then the bubble subside and the yeast start working on all of the tough sugars left. The Tripel on the other hand, has been bubbling like crazy for the past two days and shows no signs of stopping.
What I generally do with my brews is take a clear bottle and put a small sample of wort into it. I then seal it up with a rubble stopper and airlock. Of course all of this is sanitized. I do this for two reasons, the first of which being that I can see what is going on in the fermenter on a small scale because it is all based off of the same wort and yeast in the larger fermenter. The second is that I don’t have to waste wort getting samples out and don’t have to risk contamination in doing so. My refractomer only requires a few drops of wort, so it does not make sense to open up the whole thing to get a little bit out. You can read more about my “mini fermenter” here.
When I first put the wort in the mini fermenter I noticed some seperation happening towards the bottom. I believe that it was the wheat malt dropping out and some of the reminents from the hop pellets. When I check the mini fermenter today there was no sediment at the bottom. There was a very active fermentation going on, almost violent. I was and still am thrilled that the fermentation seems to getting along so well with my concerns about the yeast. As of this morning, the fermentation seems to have peeked and the bubbles as coming to a slow (but the violence happening in the bottle is the same). I still haven’t taken any gravity readings yet but that should be coming along soon. I want to wait for all of the activity on the top to subside before doing so. I’ll update in a few days on the progress of the beer.
So I finally got tired of opening my buckets to take hydrometer reader (actually I use a refractormeter). I got smart and made a mini fermenter to show me what is going on in the real fermeter. The main reason I would do this is becasue I don’t want to rely on airlock activity to be a measure of my fermentation progress. I want to take gravity readings.
The first step in making on of these things is the equipment. You need a bottle, preferably clear, a drilled stopper, and an airlock. You sanitize everything the same as you would you fermenter. When your wort is put into your fermenter and combined with yeast, you take a small sample (only a few ounces) and put it into the bottle. Now you have a mini batch taken from your larger one. It is the exact same thing, and if you keep it in the same storage, it should produce the same results.
Why would you want to do this. If you are working with a plastic bucket or a carboy, it can be a pain to keep reaching into your fermenting beer to grab a sample. You run the risk of infection every time you touch it. Also, you take from the main fermenter, you can’t put your sample back into the beer. Making a small version you don’t have to worry about wasting any beer as you can use the same sample over and over since you will never be drinking it.
Another nice thing is that you can visually see what is going on; if you are not using carboy this can be a real advantage. There are a few problems with this method however. The biggest being that a small sample of liquid reacts much quicker to temperature changes then a large sample of liquid. This can increase or decrease your actual fermentation process. I think getting gravity readings this way is a good way to go and you can leave your beer alone while still knowing what’s going on inside.