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Old 03-31-2012, 06:15 AM   #1
davidgsmit
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Default Recirculating active fermentation... has anybody done it?

Gents (and ladies),

I recently spoke to a brewer concerning the process behind making one of my favorite barley wines and he brought up something that seems to be a bit of a foreign concept to home brewers;

He mentioned that it took a lot of work to get to the final gravity (13.5% abv) and to do so they "recirculated active fermentation" for a number of days while adding measured amounts of both oxygen and nutrient charges.

I'm assuming he literally means pumping the wort while the yeast is in the active fermentation stage to keep it suspended, thus increasing its effectiveness especially while adding more oxygen and nutrients. Does anybody here have experience doing this?

I'm guessing many here would say "YOU CAN'T DO THAT!" without ever having tried it, so I'm looking for some evidence that this does indeed work and serves a meaningful purpose with regards to attenuating big beers sufficiently.

Any feedback is appreciated! Especially with regards to how it's done! I'd hate to reinvent the wheel on this if it's been done successfully on a small scale before. I did a number of searches on the web for this, but so far I've only come up with articles on Burton Unions (which I now must try as well!).

Thanks!

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Old 03-31-2012, 06:29 AM   #2
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My main concern would be oxidation... interesting.

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Old 03-31-2012, 06:37 AM   #3
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And that's exactly what I was expecting to hear!
But if you consider that the purpose of this is to add enough oxygen to feed the yeast, but not too much to oxidize it it makes sense. I know the magic number is 8ppm, but how you figure out how much oxygen you can add and at what interval without overdoing it, that I would love to have somebody lay out in more detail, especially for a 5-6 gal batch.

I was told that oxygen was added every six hours (automated I would assume) which raises another question; can this be automated in a rather cost effective and precise manner for the home brewer?

Looking forward to this thread...

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Old 03-31-2012, 09:36 AM   #4
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No idea how you'd do it on a homebrew scale but commercially you can get conical fermenters with agitators in them that keep things moving, then hit it with oxygen and measure how much on an oxygen meter.

As long as you've still got a bit of fermentation to go the yeast will deal with oxygen.

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Old 03-31-2012, 03:56 PM   #5
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This sounds like what Sam Smith does when they "rouse" the yeast. I'd check their site for info.

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Old 03-31-2012, 04:27 PM   #6
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I think it could be done but if you are only dealing with a 5 gallon carboy why not just shake it up? It would keep the yeast in suspension which is what you need. As far as O2 levels...you would need a meter....anything else would just be a guess.

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Old 03-31-2012, 09:24 PM   #7
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Indeed I would definitely use an oxygen meter to apply an extra burst every so many hours.

I'm thinking an occasional shake of the carboy wouldn't be enough, but I'll have to look into this and will probably try it in the near future to see how quick things settle again.

So the key question here is: Does anybody know how to calculate how much oxygen would be needed to create optimal fermentation without oxidizing the beer? Seems there's a way to do it as some people ARE doing it.

One other consideration... how about an over sized stir plate to keep things moving? Seems like that would be the obvious solution to the recirculation issue in a carboy.

Off to brew a pale ale! Cheers!

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Old 03-31-2012, 09:35 PM   #8
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B.A.S.P. (Big Ass Stir Plate)

I've always been led to believe that any oxygen during active fermentation is a bad thing. Is this a misnomer?
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Old 03-31-2012, 10:32 PM   #9
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During fermentation, especially for a big beer, the yeast need the oxygen. I have heard of brewers adding O2 during fermentation, especially the first 24 hours. The problem arises when you have no way of measuring how much O2 is in the wort to begin with. I would play it safe and not add O2 during active fermentation unless you had a dissolved O2 meter.

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Old 03-31-2012, 11:12 PM   #10
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Here's some food for thought:

- you can over do the oxygen and get too much yeast growth (crabtree effect iirc)

- doing it after first 24 hours may not be used up and increase staling (oxidation takes a while, but the more oxygenated your beer, the more it'll oxidate)

- a lot of aromatics are pretty volatile, the more you agitate, the more you'll lose

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