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Old 10-22-2007, 03:47 PM   #1
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Default First batch: Is something wrong?

After months of reading, preparing, planning, the big day finally came. This past Saturday, I along with my brew partner in crime took on the task of making our first batch. Using just a simple Witbier recipe kit from Northern Brewer.

Unfortunately I think something may have gone wrong. Here was our step by step:

1) Filled our pot with 5 gallons of water. Brought it to a boil.

2) Removed pot from burner. Stirred in malted extract.

3) Returned pot to burner and brought to a slow boil. Nothing aggressive.

This leads me to my first question. When boiling, how aggressive should the boil be? Should it be a rough, tumbling boil that easily whips up foam to the top? Or a light boil that is just enough to show steady movement, but doesn't threaten any boil over?

4) Filled hops bag, inserted bag into water.

Constantly stirring.

5) At proper time, tossed in orange peel and ground up coriander seed, as well as a 2nd bag of hops.

During the entire 60 minute boil session, no foam ever threatened rising to the top.

6) After boiling for 60 minutes, we place pot into a tub full of ice water. Using a wort chiller, we were able to get the temperature down from around 185-190 to 75 in about 25-30 minutes.

I've only seen someone do this in person one time, and I recall them having quite a thick bit of foam at the top while jamming the chiller into the liquid. Other than a little bit of bubbles, we had no real foam.

7) Once at 73-75 degrees, we dump it into our 8 gallon sized plastic fermenter conical.

8) Pour in liquid yeast.

9) Seal the top.

And here is my next question. Am I right to assume that within 1-2 hours you should see some type of bubbling gas action in your air lock? After two days, we still have no action.

Do certain recipes vary in how they react one in the fermenter? Or did we screw up somewhere?

Any help is greatly appreciated.

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Old 10-22-2007, 04:01 PM   #2
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A good rolling boil is what to shoot for, to allow good hops utlization. Sounds like you had a simmer but not real boil. If it doesn't seem like it's going to boil over, you never got a hot break. Not worries, though, it'll be fine.

It can take up to three days or so for liquid yeast to take off if you didn't make a yeast starter. Definitely not an hour or two! Are you sure it never started? Airlock activity isn't always an indicator of lack of fermentation. Wait another day or two, and then check the sg. If it hasn't moved, then you can repitch some yeast (probably dry yeast at this point). In an 8 gallon fermenter, you have alot of headspace in there, so maybe you also have a little bit of an airleak, too, and you might never see airlock activity but the beer can beer fermenting just fine! If you can peak in there, see if there is a krausen (foamy head) or a yucky ring of stuff around the top of the beer. Those indicate fermentation, too.

Next time, make sure you aggressively pour your wort into the fermenter, too. You boiled off all the oxygen, and for good yeast health, you need some aeration. I pour it through a strainer and then use an aquariam air pump to aerate the wort. Don't worry about it now, but next time try that.

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Old 10-22-2007, 04:05 PM   #3
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sounds like your boil was a little on the light side. it should try to boil over at least once, when the 'hot break' occurs.
after that you just need a rolling boil to drive off the DMS. as long as you didn't put a lid on your pot during the boil, it should be OK this time.

as for the other question, it varies A LOT. dry yeast often seems to work faster because you get a lot more yeast in them, compared to a liquid smack pack or vial.
however, if you make a starter for a liquid strain, you can bump it up to optimal levels.
Also, aerating the wort by splashing/stirring, using an air pump or pure oxygen helps the yeast take off.

generally you shouldn't 'worry' until 72 hours after pitching. also if the fermenter isn't tightly sealed, the airlock may never bubble. you can carefully peek inside to see if any krausen has formed.

and temps below 68F (for ale yeast) can make it take a little while to get going. some yeast strains will state to hold 70-72F until fermentation starts, then kick it down a few degrees to 'optimal' range.

most ale strains won't produce off flavors til the mid to upper 70's.

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Old 10-22-2007, 04:12 PM   #4
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Wow. Great info. Thanks a ton, guys. You just gave me hope.

So things I should add in next time to help out are yeast starter, and a more aggressive boil.

How pricey are these air pumps you mention?

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Old 10-23-2007, 07:43 PM   #5
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They aren't too pricey to buy. http://www.northernbrewer.com/aeration.html
Or you could try to make your own.

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