If there is one thing brewing beer requires that I don’t have it would have to be patience… really, I hate waiting 2 or three weeks for things to happen, but fortunately it has been worth it all along. There are two stages that require that patience, fermentation and conditioning.
I think fermentation is the most screwed up step most newbies make because all the emphasis is on the boil and not so much fermentation. Most brewers feel like their job is done as soon as they pitch their yeast and place the airlock in their fermenter.
That being said… here’s a question I got from a reader…
My kids bought me a Cooper’s kit on my birthday, and it came with a lager recipe. I’m glad I found your site since the kit’s instructions are not easy to follow.
The beer has been in the fermenter for a week now, but I’m not sure if I messed something up. I was getting ready to bottle, so I opened up the fermenter and took a gravity reading which read just a little above 1.010, so I figured I’d let it sit for another day or two. It didn’t look bad, but when I tasted I felt it was a little cidery. I think it tasted better before it went into the fermenter?
The kit came with 1 kg of sugar, which I have yet to add and I’m wondering if that will get rid of the cidery taste?
Will letting it sit longer help it?
I fermented the beer at 74 F in an extra bedroom, if that means anything?
>>> MY COMMENTS
You are illustrating the reason why short fermentation times are a bad thing. I don’t blame you though, I bottled my first batch sooner than I was supposed.
It happens… we just want to drink the darn thing and not have to wait!
Now here’s the thing… if you fermented at 74 F, that’s your first problem. I’m assuming the recipe is using a lager style ale yeast and not a true lager yeast. See, lager yeast needs to be fermented closer to 50 F so I’m assuming the kit came with a lager style ale yeast.
What separates ale yeast from lager yeast is 1) fermentation temperatures 2) lager yeasts ferment a sugar (raffinose) which ale yeast doesn’t ferment. A common rule of thumb to identify the two types of yeast is that ale yeast are top fermenting while lager yeast are bottom fermenting. There are however, some lager yeast that like to ferment at warmer temperatures (60-70 F) which is the type of yeast used in steam beer… It’s actually now being called California common beer thanks to our fellow brewers over at Anchor Steam brewery in CA.
Ok, now that I got that off my chest, on to fermenting times.
When beer is fermenting, it produces acetaldehyde, which is the source of the cidery taste you swigged. This is common in young beers with high alcohol content or in your case, trying to rack too soon. Basically, the yeast is not done fermenting so you should leave your beer in the fermenter longer. I normally go for 10-14 days even though my lack of patience kills me when I do so, but you don’t really have a choice if you want good beer.
There is a possibility that a cidery taste is due to an infection, in which case you can’t do much about it. Normally this happens if there are fruit flies around and they seem to be very attracted to our brew so keep your fermenter closed and watch out for those basterds… in your case it sounds like it’s just young beer and time will fix it, otherwise you’ll have to dump the infected beer.
Breaks my heart…