Real Fermenting: Pale Ale Update

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Pale Ale Update

The pale ale is in bottles now, for at least a week. After one week and a day in the Better Bottle, I could see that fermentation had practically stopped. No more bubbles were traveling up the side of the bottle and the beer was even starting to clear. In this post, I describe how to estimate the alcoholic content of your brewed beverages.

Measuring the final gravity of the beer

First, the pale ale. It smelled great, with a fresh hoppy blast when I opened up the Better Bottle. This batch had 1/4oz Cascade dry hops. It actually really reminded me more of an English Pale Ale style, rather than the West Coast variant I was trying to recreate. It was bitter, hardly malty at all and quite dry. I'll have to see how that impression holds up after the beer gets a chance to condition in the bottle for a week or so.

To make a accurate measurement of the alcohol content of your brews, you need a hydrometer. This is basically a glass bob which floats at a different level depending on how dense your liquid is. More sugar in the solution means it will be denser, when that sugar gets converted to alcohol, the liquid becomes less dense. Water has a specific gravity of 1. This system assumes that you only have sugar and alcohol in your water, but as they make up the massive majority, it produces very accurate readings.

Take a sample of your brew at both the beginning and end of the brewing process. Pour the sample into the handy tube that was probably provided with your hydrometer. Carefully set the hydrometer into the liquid and read where the surface crosses the scale. Simple as that. 

The original gravity of this pale ale was 1.030 (@80F). The temperature is important, so if you are recording your gravities, be sure to make a quick note of the temperature of the liquid too. The final gravity was 1.006 (quite dry, and also at 80F). Using this handy calculator, I can see that the final alcohol content is 3.6% by volume. Which is right on the nose for English Pale Ale, but too low for American Pale Ale. I basically did not have enough sugar present in the wort for my target style. Let's hope this is a happy accident.

Tasting report in a few days.

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