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Old 05-24-2007, 01:56 PM   #1
Turkeyfoot Jr.
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Default Which aeration technique would you use?

Let me start by saying that I’m semi-new to homebrewing. I’ve been brewing for almost a year now and I have around a dozen batches under my belt. One of the things I don’t think I’ve been doing well enough is aerating my wort. My normal process is to add the wort and chilled water to bring to 5 gallons in my carboy and then agitate.

The first issue I always run into is that the carboy inevitably foams out the top before I even get all the wort poured into it. I pour it through a strainer which I think is providing a lot of aeration itself. Once I get it all in there I cap it and agitate which generates more pressure and more foam and usually I have to let it sit and settle down for a bit before I have room to pitch my yeast.

I know that everyone’s first suggestion will be to purchase an aeration system but I’m brewing on a tight budget and elbow grease is dirt cheap so I’m sticking with manual agitation of some sort for the foreseeable future. I have other investments I want to make in homebrew equipment that I consider more important.

As I was pondering my options I was flipping through the latest issue of BYO and in an article about something completely unrelated the author made reference to transferring the hot wort into a plastic fermentation bucket along with water to make 5 gallons, agitating there and then siphoning into the carboy. This way there’s less mess, getting liquid that needs strained into a bucket is far easier than getting it into a carboy, you can really agitate and you get a lot of contact with the air since the bucket is so open and you can stir the wort.

What do you guys think of this method? I know that aerating with regular air increases the risk of infection but in 12 batches that have all been air-aerated I’ve not had an issue, knocks-on-wood. I was planning on using my bottling bucket as the aeration bucket that way I can just hook a line to the bottling spigot and run the wort into my carboy. Would doing so reduce the amount of oxygen I just added to the wort? Would it be better to still use a funnel with no strainer and just pour the wort into the carboy?



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Old 05-24-2007, 02:04 PM   #2
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If you arn't getting stuck fermentations doing what you are doing I wouldn't worry about it all at. Your top-off water, if its not pre-boiled, will have lots and lots of dissolved O2 to feed your yeasties already.



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Old 05-24-2007, 02:09 PM   #3
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If you are not doing full boils, the water you are pouring your wort into will be aerated. You can stir the daylights out of it with no foam. Pour it (the water) from bucket to bucket (sanitized) if you wish. Boiling is what removes the oxygen from the wort.

I'm not a big aerating person and have found that acceptable to get a good start from the yeast. I do use starters which has helped a lot.

Regular air should be fine. Most contaminants ride on dust, so make sure you are in a breeze free, relatively dust free area when splashing around. Worst beer I ever had was one I was working on and my two dogs came racing through the area. The beer definitely took a hit from some creature.

Barry

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Old 05-24-2007, 02:11 PM   #4
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It sounds to me like you are probably getting adequate aeration already. If you are really worried, then agitate the carboy again after the foam subsides for a few minutes. That works as well as aeration. I think most people go to an aeration system for the convenience, not the necessity of it.

Also, you didn't mention if you are doing a full wort boil. If not, aeration is even less of an issue.

And aside from stuck ferments, poor aeration will also commonly lead to off flavours in the beer and poor attenuation. So if you don't have these problems now, you are probably doing something right!

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Old 05-24-2007, 02:14 PM   #5
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Here's what we've been doing.

Whirlpool the kettle while it's chilling in an ice bath.

Siphon wort into screen funnel, which flows into long nylon grain bag and then into our bottling bucket. It will be surprising how much of the hops will pile up in the middle of the kettle because of the whirlpool.

Once the bucket is full and all the wort is collected, we can take that opportunity to take a gravity reading and compensate for our concentrated boil by calculating the amount of water needed for our target and adding it.

Then we open the spigot and drain into the fermenter from about 1.5 feet above the top of the fermenter. If we're using a carboy, we use the screen funnel again. When using the funnel we set it so that the stream passes through the screen but hits the sloped part of the funnel underneath, so that it splashes around under the screen before dropping again into the carboy.

Dropping the wort this far causes pretty good aeration, and the wort should be pretty foamy when you're done.

With all of this said, we just bought a Mix-Stir (~$17, plus you need a drill), which worked great for a mead we just did, and with our next beer I figure we'll just use our normal method to get about half the wort in the fermenter, hit it with the Mix-Stir and then drain the rest in.

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Old 05-24-2007, 03:17 PM   #6
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Let me start by saying thanks for all the quick feedback. Now, to answer some of the questions and comments that came up….

Yes, I am doing full boils.

I haven’t had any truly “stuck” fermentations but I’ve had a couple oddballs. Two of the twelve batches have had very little carbonation. One was a holiday brew that I made back around Christmas and I had the last bottle of it just a week or so ago and while the carb had improved it still wasn’t nearly as good as some of my other batches that had spent far less time in the bottle. I had one that appeared to be finished with it’s blowoff without ever truly blowing off so I took off the blow off hose and put on an airlock. Then it proceeded to blowoff INTO my airlock, twice.

I think part of the reason I’m going to try this method is to see what more aeration will do for me, either good or bad. I have 12 batches under my belt in the current method and it’ll be interesting see how the next 12 turn out using this new one. Plus I have to think it will be a bit cleaner, I always seem to make a mess of the kitchen when it comes time to get the wort from the brew pot into the carboy.

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Old 05-24-2007, 04:48 PM   #7
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You might want to pick up a siphon sprayer. Northern Brewer has them, just scroll down to the bottom of the page. They're only 3.00, and if you local HBS has them, you can save the shipping. I haven't used one, but a while back I saw someone talking on this forum about how it worked for them. I think I'm going to get one, as my attenuation's always been at or a little below the bottom of the expected range and I don't want to spend much at this time.

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Old 05-24-2007, 04:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roterdrache
I haven’t had any truly “stuck” fermentations but I’ve had a couple oddballs. Two of the twelve batches have had very little carbonation. One was a holiday brew that I made back around Christmas and I had the last bottle of it just a week or so ago and while the carb had improved it still wasn’t nearly as good as some of my other batches that had spent far less time in the bottle. I had one that appeared to be finished with it’s blowoff without ever truly blowing off so I took off the blow off hose and put on an airlock. Then it proceeded to blowoff INTO my airlock, twice.

I think part of the reason I’m going to try this method is to see what more aeration will do for me, either good or bad. I have 12 batches under my belt in the current method and it’ll be interesting see how the next 12 turn out using this new one. Plus I have to think it will be a bit cleaner, I always seem to make a mess of the kitchen when it comes time to get the wort from the brew pot into the carboy.
I seriously doubt your oddballs are due to underaeration. If you are getting to your yeasts attenuation range in a timely manner, they are happy. If you are leaving your brews secondary for a long time, your yeast will eventually not be up to the task of finalizing carbonation when you prime. Always add a pinch of Lager yeast to the secondary a few hours before priming and bottling if your beer has been in the secondary for a long time (~ over 3 wks?).

I use an aluminum strainer, but then again it is going into a 6.5 gallon plastic primary which gives me plenty of headroom. That device mentioned above might be the type of thing you are looking for.
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Old 05-27-2007, 02:29 PM   #9
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Well, I tried this out last night. Brewed a Belgian Tripple, mixed it with enough water to make 5 gallons in my bottling bucket and then stirred. Still ended up making a bit of a mess and I'm at about 9 hours in the fermenter and still zero activity.

Oh well, now I can say I tried and I know for sure it didn't help any.

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Old 05-27-2007, 04:55 PM   #10
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With good aeration, you can sometimes get LONGER lag times because the yeast spend a prolonged time in the adaptive (reproductive) phase. Besides, nine hours is REALLY soon to expect yeast activity. 24 hours is more realistic, and even at that, sometimes it takes even longer depending on the yeast strain, pitching temperature and ambient temperature. Just relax -- it will eventually go.



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