KIT#2 – Coopers English Bitter

Kit: Coopers English Bitter
Music: Nick Cave “Dig Lazarus Dig”, Midnight Oil
Date: 31/10/2010
Time: 3pm – 5:30pm
OG: 1.023(!) (corrected for temp at 22C)
Expected FG: Don’t Know (someone suggested 1.008)
Expected ABV: 3.8% (from moderator on Coopers Forum)

Bottling Date: 14/11/2010
Actual FG: 1.006
Actual ABV: ?

Sanitised using VWP in the usual fashion. This time I re-hydrated the yeast properly – I covered the jug in foil and placed a thermometer in water. I cooled the water by putting the jug in a bowl of water cooled with mini ice-packs. Worked a treat – had to keep an eye on the temperature though, as this method cools the water quite quickly. The temperature was exactly 30C when I sprinkled the yeast. Stirred with the thermometer and left to stand for about 25-30 mins. Probably a bit too long.

I sprinkled 500g spraymalt into the FV and poured in 1.5l boiling water, swirled to dissolve the malt. Added the can of malt extract and rinsed the tin out with another 500ml boiling water. Trashed the wort using the paddle and created lots of bubbles. Started to add cold water and mixed well, aerating the wort. By this time, there was a huge head on the wort. By the time I neared 5 gallons, I was afraid the head would fall out of the FV. Just made it though.

Then I realised i had left the paddle inside the FV!! [MISTAKE #1] Figuring my hands were clean enough after all that sanitisation, I retrieved it using my hand and rinsed under the tap.

Took a sample in the trial jar using the baster.

Took temperature, was shocked to see the wort was at 20C! Thought it would be a lot hotter. I used 3l boiling water and no cold spraymalt when I did the Muntons IPA. Need to be careful of that in future. no delay in pitching the yeast – gave it a swirl in the jug and swirled it into the FV. Gave the FV a stir with the paddle and popped the lid on it. Attached air lock filled with boiled water.

Took the temperature of the wort in the trial jar. 22C. The hydrometer reading gave me 1.022! Even adjusted for 2 degrees in celsius, this reading seems way too low. After doing a bit of reading online, I now know this brew is going to be pretty low in alcohol, but 1.022 would mean it would have to ferment out to 1.000 just to give an ABV of 2.5%!!!! It’s possible that the wort had not been mixed thoroughly at the top of the FV where I took the sample from. Must remember to mix better and take sample from deep within the FV.

By 11pm, the wort had started to bubble a little. No stir from the airlock though… surprise surprise….

01/11/2010 – Some foam on top this morning and some very gentle bubbling but no krausen. Put a post up on Jim’s Beer Kit about the low OG.

02/11/2010 – Some serious krausen on top now. Big buildup of CO2 in FV also. No bubbles in the airlock though! The lid on my FV must be really loose.

10/11/2010 – Dry-hopping an English bitter with Cascade? Okayyy… We’re not exactly striving for authenticity here, then?? Racked to secondary and dry hopped with 20g Cascade. Took gravity reading. 1.006 at 21°C which makes 1.007.

14/11/2010 – Bottled to a mixture of PET and glass using 1 carbonation drop per 500ml bottle. Removed floating hop bag from FV. Sanitised with 19l StarSan. Little or no sediment in FV this time. Gravity 1.007. Taste was sweet and fruity with plenty of bitterness coming through. I’ve better hopes for this than the IPA. Two weeks to carbonate and a week to condition.

29/11/2010 – Put one bottle in the fridge overnight and sampled. There’s a nice bitterness there, but like the IPA, it’s also got that fruity/sweet taste. Maybe they both need more time to mature. Pretty low carbonation, same as the IPA, but is perfect for the “bitter” style. I’m going to have to bulk prime in future I think. I’m going to leave at room temperature for another week before moving to shed.

03/12/2010 – Tried another bottle and it’s tasting pretty damn good! Loads of cascade hops on the nose which reminds me of 5am Saint – surely no bad thing! A pleasing ‘pop’ when I cracked the bottle open, so definitely more carbon dioxide developed since last week. I also noticed there was a layer of gas sitting on top of the beer when I opened the bottle. Presumably this carbon dioxide had not been absorbed into the beer because it had not been left in a cool place. So we’re looking good. The fruity taste has dissipated somewhat, and there’s lots of bitterness now. Very pleased. For the moment. Will move some bottles to cooler room and leave some at warm temperature for purposes of comparison. Now, if only the IPA was developing as well…

05/12/2010 – Moved just less than half of the bottles to the shed. Very cold out there at the moment. I want to see if the bottles condition further – hopefully the CO2 will be absorbed into the beer, instead of sitting on top it, after a few days conditioning. Will test again this weekend.

17/12/2010 – I’ve only about 12 bottles left I think! I’m reasonably pleased with this one. There’s a bit of Cascade coming through which might be masking some off flavours there, but it’s very, very drinkable. I really must leave a couple of bottles aside for consumption in a couple of months time. Would definitely do this kit again, but will be doing it in an ESB style next.

04/01/2011 – Finished this batch now! Excellent. It’s a nice kit, but I think it needs some extra hops. Got some Fuggles pellets so will use plenty of these next time.

05/01/2011 – Even though I was pretty pleased with this one, I don’t think I’d use American hops in this kit again. I think there’s more appropriate kits to do that kind of hopping with. But I would definitely dry-hop with something like EKG or Fuggles. I actually think this kit is so good I’d use it to “use up” hops, and just throw a load of leftovers in it.

Despite the small amount of extra malt that goes into this one, I’m not sure I’d change it. It makes a really good session bitter. Would be interesting to double the malt though and steep some crystal in it.

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