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I started my first batch of home-brewed beer last night. How many mistakes did I make?

1. I didn’t clean the kitchen before starting, so I ended up having to work around a lot of dirty dishes taking up counter and sink space.

2. The largest stock pot we have wasn’t really large enough. I had to use a half-gallon less water than instructed and still had a boilover. I may look at getting a larger one before the next try. (I think this one is a 3-gallon pot; I need a 5-gallon.)

3. I let the grains boil when they should have just steeped in water no warmer than 170 degrees. Lesson learned: Be more patient to get the temperature stable before steeping; stay at the pot and monitor. This might be a fatal mistake, since I read that letting the water get too hot leaches tannins into the wort and makes it bitter — and not in the good way that beer can be bitter. We’ll see when the batch matures.

4. I may not have disinfected the equipment adequately. I’m not sure I like the powdered no-rinse disnfectant that comes with the kit. Most of the books I read advocate using a bleach or iodine solution, which I might try next time. Also, I didn’t know what to do with the thermometer, hydrometer, etc. after disinfecting and before or between uses. It may be that  I need to disnfect multiple times, before the equipment touches the wort. I need to mull on that one some more.

5. I transferred the wort to the fermenter when it was a little warmer than recommended, but not by much. The main concern here is whether it’s hot enough to kill the yeast, but I think it was fine.

6. I wasn’t able to get an exact reading on the hydrometer, due to not having used one before and also due to a lot of foam on the surface of the liquid, making it hard to tell exactly where the instrument was settling. I got an approximate reading though that seems to be in the right range.

I’m going to go ahead with fermentation and bottling, even though I suspect this batch may be lost, mainly because I want to make any further mistakes now rather than on the next one. Even if this first try, fails, I learned a lot that will come to bear next time.

The main lessons come down to two key words: Patience and Attentiveness. A few of the above mistakes (1, 4, 5) happened because I was rushing things, and number 2 because I wasn’t paying close attention as I needed to. The others were born of inexperience and unfamiliarity with the equipment, and will be less of a factor next time.

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