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Old 03-01-2011, 07:14 PM   #1
london1o1
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Default no fermentation w/ 1st AG batch...? [very long post]

I brewed my first all-grain batch about a week ago. We (I brew with a couple other guys) had a couple of major problems. This post is mostly looking for an answer to the second one, but I'd might as well throw the first one in here as well.

Problem 1: We were making a wheat wine, so we had a huge grain bill. We were told we needed a set amount of mash water and of sparge water for every pound of grain we used. This ended up being far more than we had space for in our 10 gal coolers or 15 gal brew kettle, so we lowered the quantities of grain (and lowered the quantity of hops in the boil), figuring we'd just brew a smaller batch of wheat wine. When we did our final sparge, we did as we had seen in multiple homebrewing videos we watched and sparged until all the sparge water was gone from the coolers. This didn't seem quite right, but we had been drinking during the whole process, and figured we'd better just stick to doing what they did in the videos. So we ended up with a 11+ gallon batch of a wheat beer of ~1.06 OG instead of like 5 gallons of a wheat wine of ~1.098 OG.

[short version of problem 1:]
I assume we were supposed to just sparge until we had reached the quantity of wort we were looking for (~6 gallons), and that in the videos, they were making smaller OG beer which ended up using all the sparge water to reach the intended wort size. Is this right?



Anyway, we did the boil, and the post-boil wort looked and smelled awesome, so we pitched some yeast and tossed it all in some fermention buckets. Well before this point, of course, we realized we weren't going to end up with a wheat wine, but we had made our peace with the idea of just having a lot more of a tasty wheat beer. Cue problem 2...

Problem 2: It never fermented. The fermentation buckets are at my friend's house, but he says the water in the air lock never bubbled. We used two vials of Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007). We had removed the vials from the fridge a few hours prior to pitching, shook thoroughly, pitched them both into the brew kettle of post-boil wort, stirred, and poured the wort into two separate plastic buckets. He says they started out in a part of the house where the temperature was ~68F, but after the air locks weren't bubbling for a few days, he moved them near a register and raised the heat to ~74F, trying to jump start the yeast. I don't know if any of this was a horrible idea, but I can't figure out why it wouldn't have started fermenting in the first few days. Does AG beer take longer to start to ferment than extract? Or is AG more inclined to need a big yeast starter than extract? We've always used 1 yeast vial for each 5 gallon batch of extract in the past, and never had a problem.

I was planning on picking up another vial and some DME, and making a big starter to repitch, hoping to save the batch. Is this a bad idea? Is there something else we should do instead? Is this batch just ruined?

Please help.

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Old 03-01-2011, 07:21 PM   #2
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We had removed the vials from the fridge a few hours prior to pitching, shook thoroughly, pitched them both into the brew kettle of post-boil wort, stirred, and poured the wort into two separate plastic buckets.
You did cool it first right? You are going to have to take a gravity reading to be sure. If it is a high gravity, try to make a yeast starter with another vial AND wort from the fermenter. If that takes off, pour it in.
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Old 03-01-2011, 07:27 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by BendBrewer View Post
You did cool it first right? You are going to have to take a gravity reading to be sure. If it is a high gravity, try to make a yeast starter with another vial AND wort from the fermenter. If that takes off, pour it in.
Took gravity reading directly after putting in fermentation buckets. Gravity was about 1.06. Do you mean I need to take another one now to see if it's fermenting without the airlock bubbling?

If I'm making a starter using wort from the fermenter, do I use ONLY wort from the fermenter, or do I make it with water and DME AND wort from the fermenter? Also, quantities would be helpful. I keep piecing together instructions for various things from random internet forums and videos and recipes, so I'm afraid I'm misinterpreting some steps or quantities, resulting in problems with the beer.
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Old 03-01-2011, 07:29 PM   #4
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Took gravity reading directly after putting in fermentation buckets. Gravity was about 1.06. Do you mean I need to take another one now to see if it's fermenting without the airlock bubbling?
Yes.

You want to just use the wort. You might have a high gravity reading but that won't tell you if there are fermentable sugars left. If you take 2 cups of that wort and toss a vial of yeast into it, you'll find out if there are fermentabales left. The starter will take off if so.

I would start by taking a gravity reading. If that is high, try to make a starter.
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Old 03-01-2011, 07:40 PM   #5
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We were making a wheat wine, so we had a huge grain bill.
Can you post the recipe?


Quote:
I assume we were supposed to just sparge until we had reached the quantity of wort we were looking for (~6 gallons)
Yup, you want to figure out how much water you need to sparge so that you finish sparging and have your total pre-boil volume without leaving water in the mash tun. It was your first all-grain recipe so you're still dialing in you system but after a few batches you'll figure it out.

Quote:
Problem 2: It never fermented. The fermentation buckets are at my friend's
Did you cool your wort down before putting it in the buckets?
Possible poor/dead yeast?
I would recommend a starter. They are incredibly easy to make and have a long list of benefits that go

Quote:
Does AG beer take longer to start to ferment than extract? Or is AG more inclined to need a big yeast starter than extract? We've always used 1 yeast vial for each 5 gallon batch of extract in the past, and never had a problem.
I believe lag time depends on several factors such as aeration, amount of yeast you are pitching and several other things? The larger the beer the more you need a starter.
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Old 03-01-2011, 09:26 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by MRbutlertron View Post
Can you post the recipe?
Original Recipe:

5 gallon batch
1.098 SG
88 IBU
Mash 122F/30, 150F/90

8 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) (3.0 SRM) 48.57 %
8 lbs Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM) 45.71 %
8.0 oz Caramel Wheat (66.0 SRM) 2.86 %
8.0 oz Honey Malt (25.0 SRM) 2.86 %
1.25 oz Northern Brewer [9.30 %] (60 min) 41.6 IBU
0.75 oz Magnum [11.50 %] (60 min) 30.9 IBU
2.00 oz Fuggles [3.50 %] (30 min) 12.8 IBU
1.50 oz Fuggles [3.50 %] (5 min) 3.1 IBU
1 Pkg Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007)


What we actually did:
11 Gallon batch

11 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row)
10 lbs Wheat Malt
10 oz Caramel Wheat
10 oz Honey Malt
1.5 oz NB (60 min)
1 oz Magnum (60 min)
2 oz Fuggles (30 min)
2 oz Fuggles (5 min)

(a couple of the hop figures in the "what we actually did" recipe are from memory and might be slightly off -- my buddy's emailing me the official log when he gets home in a couple hours)


Quote:
Originally Posted by MRbutlertron View Post
Yup, you want to figure out how much water you need to sparge so that you finish sparging and have your total pre-boil volume without leaving water in the mash tun. It was your first all-grain recipe so you're still dialing in you system but after a few batches you'll figure it out.
So you don't miss out on getting a lot of the fermentable sugars out of the grain by having like 25 lbs of grain and only sparging with like 6 gallons of water?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MRbutlertron View Post
Did you cool your wort down before putting it in the buckets?
Possible poor/dead yeast?
I would recommend a starter. They are incredibly easy to make and have a long list of benefits that go
We used an immersion chiller for like 45 minutes to get the temp down to ~72F.
And yeah, from everything I've read since this happened, it sounds like starters are definitely the way to go. I'm just hoping we can save this batch.


Quote:
Originally Posted by MRbutlertron View Post
I believe lag time depends on several factors such as aeration, amount of yeast you are pitching and several other things? The larger the beer the more you need a starter.
Larger meaning OG or larger meaning gallons? (or both?)
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Old 03-01-2011, 09:28 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by BendBrewer View Post
Yes.

You want to just use the wort. You might have a high gravity reading but that won't tell you if there are fermentable sugars left. If you take 2 cups of that wort and toss a vial of yeast into it, you'll find out if there are fermentabales left. The starter will take off if so.

I would start by taking a gravity reading. If that is high, try to make a starter.
I'll get new yeast from the homebrew shop tomorrow and do all of this. I'll update the thread with new info when I have it.

Thanks for your help.
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Old 03-03-2011, 04:24 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by BendBrewer View Post
Yes.

I would start by taking a gravity reading. If that is high, try to make a starter.
I went to the homebrew store and got another vial of WP007 and some DME. Went to my buddy's house where we keep the fermenting beer and took a reading with the hydrometer. It was about 1.060 OG, and when I just checked again it was about 1.020. But my friends swears the airlock never bubbled.

We made a starter using the DME (the homebrew shop guy said that using the wort would be too high a gravity for the starter, but now I'm realizing that using the wort for the starter would be the only sure-fire way to find out if it still had fermentables left (and if it does have a gravity of 1.020 now, that's certainly not too high (although it might already contain more alcohol than would be good for a starter -- don't know if that makes a difference))), and are letting it sit for a couple days before pitching again.

Sorry for the crazy parentheticals above. I've been drinking. I hope you can still follow that sentence.
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Old 03-03-2011, 06:01 AM   #9
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You don't need to see air bubbles in the airlock for fermentation. Air bubbles are a novelty, fun to watch. As for sparging, you used way too much water. Do you fly sparge or batch sparge? Fly sparging volume = sparge until you hit your preboil volume. Batch sparge volume takes a bit more calculation. You need to figure out the water loss in your cooler (dead space) and how much water the grains absorb. Subtract that from your mash volume. You'll have that volume in the run off. Then, your sparge volume is the preboil volume - run off volume.

Here's an example batch sparge calculation. Let's say the following variables. 16 pounds of grain. Preboil volume 6 gallons. Mash tun dead space 0.5 gallons (figure it out for your own mash tun), mash water ratio: 1.25 quarts per pound.

1. Mash water volume: 20 quarts (5 gallons)
2. Water absorbed by the grain (absorbs it's weight in water) = 16 pounds water = 1.9 gallons (8.35 pounds per gallon).
3. Dead space = 0.5 gallons
4. Total run off volume: 5 - 1.9 - 0.5 = 2.6 gallons
5. Total sparge water to get a preboil volume of 6 gallons: 6-2.6 - 3.4 gallons total sparge.

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Old 03-03-2011, 05:00 PM   #10
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Get a refractometer, it can save your @ss in a new situation. Imagine being able to get a specific gravity of your wort with just a few drops without worrying about temperature.

You can take a SG of the wort as you first start draining the MLT to see what is happening. You can do the same thing to your entire kettle full of wort to see what the total SG is. You can do the same thing to the sparge later on to see what sugars are being added to the wort near the end. Depending on what you are looking for you can stop sparging when the SG of the entire wort is going in the wrong direction.

Another thing you could have done was just boil the over sparged wort as long as need be boil off the wort until you get to the OG you want. The only down side is you have to stare at a watched pot for 3 or more hours and stay sober enough to deal with it in the end.

Doesn't sound like you need to pitch any more yeast to your last brew its already fermenting. Save the starter, once it has fermented, you can put it in a fridge and let the yeast fall to the bottom. As long as you use it in a month or so, you can think of it as a huge test tube worth of yeast. Or just brew this weekend with it.

Last suggestion: Wait till the kettles is boiling before starting to drink. The brew day will not be as fun but the results will more predictable.

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