Noob Brewer Question: Panicking About Mouthfeel

It even had a fancy grain bag - so why is the mouthfeel so light after two weeks of fermentation?!

Okay, so I moved my first-ever beer from primary to secondary fermentation over the weekend.  It’s a bourbon barrel porter that has been fermenting for two weeks.  It will now spend another two weeks in secondary and then 10 days soaking with bourbon and oak chips.

I used the beer thief to grab a sample for the hydrometer, and after I measured it, I took a sip.  The flavor was pretty good, but the mouthfeel was alarmingly thin!  As this is my first brew, I don’t know if it will “thicken” as it ferments over the next 24 days or if I should do something to about it right now.  If there’s anything I can do.  I dunno.

So wizened brew nerds, I ask for your help once again.  Do I need to worry at this stage of brewing about having a thin beer?  Is there anything I can do about it?  Am I suffereing for using an extract kit instead of going all grain?  Please share your insights!

Also, the brewing obsessed amongst you will be happy to know that once I freed up the primary, it was immediately refilled it with a wheat I brewed on Sunday. It should be ready to bottle in two weeks, which means my second beer will be ready to drink long before my first.  Probably should’ve started with something more simple…

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Categories: Beer, Home Brewing


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14 Comments on “Noob Brewer Question: Panicking About Mouthfeel”

  1. March 23, 2010 at 11:58 am #


    First, non-carbonated beer tastes VERY different from carbonated. It always comes across thin and watery. What was the hydrometer reading?

    Since you’re brewing with extract plus added steeped specialty grains, I wouldn’t remotely be concerned about body. Though it’s gotten much better since I started brewing 16 years ago, extract tends to finish high (control over the fermentability of the wort is one great reason to move to all grain).

    Relax, don’t worry and have a beer (since you don’t have any homebrew in stock yet) and all that jazz.

    • March 23, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

      I can’t recall the hydrometer reading, Dave, but I did write it down for later analysis. I started at 1.053 and think it’s now 1.041. I thought it’d be lower by now, but it still has two weeks in secondary and then I’ll bomb it with bourbon, so I’m confident it’ll be boozy enough for my tastes!

      thanks for the insight on mouthfeel. As this is my first brew, I have no idea how it progresses through fermentation and carbonation. The wort was nice and thick, but it thinned down once the sediment and yeast settled. You’ve made me confident enough to hang in there and see what happens. I’m pretty sure I’ll drink it whatever the case.

      And I have been drinking lots of beers in lieu of a homebrew as Mr. Papazian suggests. I brewed a wheat this weekend and enjoyed a Victory Prima Pils, which just about leapt out of the glass with its flavors. Something about playing with hops and malt made everything really taste crisp.

      • March 23, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

        1.041 after two weeks would be a concern. When you get a chance to double-check what you recorded, please do so.

        Depending on yeast strain and fermentation temp., I’d expect a 1.053 beer to be done-ish (in the 1.010 to 1.020 range depending on residual unfermentables) with alcoholic fermentation in three to five days.

        • March 23, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

          Yeah, according to the chart in How to Brew, the ABV was under 4%, but I really don’t know if I’m reading the hydrometer correctly (both the original and the latest gravity) or if I’ve adjusted the numbers correctly for temperature. I’ll double check it. It was bubbling like mad for a few days, so I know they yeast was working. To what extent is the question.

          I’ll sneak a little off the top and check again. Thanks for the tip.

        • March 23, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

          Well, if you saw active signs of fermentation I’m back to not being very concerned at all. That points to hydrometer issues (which is a nice way of saying human error . . .).

        • March 24, 2010 at 10:00 am #

          yeah, I’m hoping it’s human error, at least the hydrometer-reading type, not the bad brewing technique type!

  2. March 23, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    Ditto what dave said. Beers that taste/feel weird come to life in the bottle. I’m very proud of you for brewing again so soon.

    • March 23, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

      I have to recoup my investment 🙂

      Actually, I love it. It gives me lots of energy. I was doing about seven things at once on Sunday (brew day) and realized I had to pace myself, just in case my wife figured out I could actually be that productive. The list of demands would never cease!

  3. March 23, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

    Who knows what the bourbon will add. You may end up with 5-6% beer. That seems like a high second measurement, especially when you say what you do about the mouth-feel. I’d double check it and I’d make sure that when you do you pour it back and forth 20 or so times between two cups. That will get the entrenched co2 out it and let the hydrometer do it’s thing. I can’t help but reiterate that you’ll perceive the beer much differently with CO2, so don’t worry about that. If it’s too thin, you can fix that next time.

    If the beer bubbled like mad for a few days, I think maybe your reading was off.

    • March 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

      Thanks for the two cups tip Mike. I’ll definitely try it out. I think it’s most likely me not having a real handle on the who hydrometer thing yet.

      The fermentation went nuts for a few days, releasing gurgles loud enough to be heard through the walls – while being covered with a blanket, no less. I really had no concerns until I took the reading, but as you said, there didn’t seem to be anything suspended in there (like lots of uneaten sugars) and the bottom of the carboy was lined with globs of gray goo that smelled a lot like the dregs of a belgian dubbel, but nothing that looked like wort. I guess I’ll know when it’s done what the deal is. Only eight more weeks to go!

  4. March 24, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    Well, there’s not really any “bad brewing technique type human error” (BBTTHE!) that will result in the beer being unfermentable. The fine folks at the extract-producing facility already put all the fermentables in there, and there’s not any BBTTHE that will remove them.

    The only ones you added are whatever might have come from steeping the specialty grains, which isn’t much. BBTTHE could result in other issues in an extract brew, but unfermentability is not one of them.

    • March 24, 2010 at 11:10 am #

      Yeah, the extract thing has made it easy to get started with few worries, and it’s made me industrious too. I now have my primary filled with a wheat I brewed on Sunday and my secondary filled with the porter in question. Once the wheat is bottled, I might do another extract IPA, or move on to all grain. Haven’t decided yet.

      Problem is I haven’t tried my beer yet, so I’m not sure what the taste compromises are that come with extract brewing. The taste thing will be what motivates me to get serious about all grain. Well, that and I’ll get to hangout in the driveway brewing longer. 🙂

  5. Marvin
    March 24, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Get a second Hydrometer and take another reading. I went through 3 of the darned things before I realized how not to break them (Too hot wort readings). You can get paper slippage, cracks, and bunch of other issues. Or, even check the one you have in a glass of water to make sure it’s reading correctly.

    1.041 is awfully high after 2 weeks. Most of my beers attenuate after 4-7 days, anywhere in the 1.021 to 1.010 range depending on how high my mash out was. So, I’d bet it’s a broken or misread hydrometer.

    • March 24, 2010 at 11:34 am #

      I’ll have to check it in water. I never baselined the damn thing and it came as part of a kit, so who knows if it’s a “good one”, although everything in the kit has been pretty good quality so far. If it’s busted, I’ll grab a new one. I think the hottest wort it’s met was 79 degrees, not sure if that’s too hot or not.

      This is the part of brewing I’m going to be bad at. I should turn it over to my wife – she’s a research scientist and lives this stuff.

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