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Old 08-30-2009, 04:32 PM   #1
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Default Pretty sure the beer is OK, but what did I do?

Hi All -

Third batch in the primary. First two were great... everything as expected.

This one, an amber... brewed on Wednesday, and there was no airlock activity up to when I left town on Thursday about 26 hours later. I called my wife to have her check it on Friday night... still nothing. I was concerned for my precious beer. This morning I went down so I could take a gravity reading, etc., and to my surprise the room smelled like eggs and it was bubbling away. Whew!

So I know airlock activity shouldn't be used as the end all, be all indicator of what's going on in there, but limited experience tells me I should have seen something sooner than almost 4 days.

So I'm comfortable that my beer is OK, I'm just curious what might have caused it to take so long to start up... here are the relevant stats:

- Wort temp when pitched was about 75
- Temp in the fermenting room is about 69
- Aerated more than I have in the past

The only thing that had me worried is the ship time on the yeast. It's a White Labs California Ale WLP051. Timing on the order had it ship on Thursday, sit over the weekend, deliver on Tues. Had a cold pack with it, but everything was warm when it got here. Went right into the fridge. Could this be the culprit?

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Old 08-30-2009, 04:36 PM   #2
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Heck yes that could easily have been the culprit. You're right you are almost certainly fine but what most likely happened is that most of the yeast that was in the vial probably died in transport so you were pitching a small quantity. It took almost four days to rebuild a population sufficient to get fermentation rolling.

All is well for this batch but I have learned my lesson and now I do not use liquid yeast without at least doing a quick 24 hour starter.

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Old 08-30-2009, 04:47 PM   #3
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I think the biggest issue is that your swmbo are using "airlock activity" as any sort of accurate fermentage gauge...

airlock bubbling, lack of airlock bubbling, stopped airlock bubbling, fast airlock bubbling, slow airlcok bubbling, heavy metal airlcok bubbling, or disco airlock bubbling really is not an indicator of what is happening to your beer, really isn't important, and it is NOT an accurate gauge of fermentation.

If your airlock was bubbling and stopped---It doesn't mean fermentation has stopped.

If you airlock isn't bubbling, it doesn't mean your fermentation hasn't started....

If your airlock starts bubbling, it really doesn't matter.

The only "activity" that matters is a decrease in the numbers of your hydrometer.

Your airlock is not a fermentation gauge, it is a VALVE to release excess co2.

Fermentation is not always "dynamic," just because you don't SEE anything happening, doesn't mean that anything's wrong, and also doesn't mean that the yeast are still not working dilligantly away, doing what they've been doing for over 4,000 years....

I have 9 different fermenters and have been brewing for a few years, and OVER HALF OF MY BEERS NEVER HAVE ANY BUBBLING IN THE AIRLOCK AND THEY ALL TURN OUT FINE!

If you've oxygentated, and pitched plenty of yeast, then you SHOULD reach your yeast attenuation, and get close to the final gravity.....that is all that is important...NOT whether or not you airlock goes "blip" or "Rattattattatta!!!!"

An airlock is a vent for excess co2, nothing more, it's to keep your beer off the ceiling, and is designed to vent and still keep stuff out of your beer....that's really it...

In fact many no longer use airlocks at all, just cover the hole with a piece of tinfoil, or use a piece of plexiglass instead of a lid.

The only way to truly know what is going on in your fermenter is with your hydrometer. Like I said here in my blog, which I encourage you to read, Think evaluation before action you sure as HELL wouldn't want a doctor to start cutting on you unless he used the proper diagnostic instuments like x-rays first, right? You wouldn't want him to just take a look in your eyes briefly and say "I'm cutting into your chest first thing in the morning." You would want them to use the right diagnostic tools before the slice and dice, right? You'd cry malpractice, I would hope, if they didn't say they were sending you for an MRI and other things before going in.....

In the future, just remember that even "normal" fermentations can take 72 hours to begin. If you've underpitched or not made a starter which the yeast has come out of a dormant period, then when it find it self surrounded by 5 gallons of food, before it starts truly diving in the yeastit has start growing an army to best eat it, so they have a wild orgy and then make a bunch of yeast babies. Then they get to work.

So that is why it can take a few days before the really get going..the first part of it is called lag time, the waking up part, lag time, then the sex part is obviously called the reproductive phase....

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Old 08-30-2009, 04:53 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revvy View Post
I think the biggest issue is that your swmbo are using "airlock activity" as any sort of accurate fermentage gauge...

airlock bubbling, lack of airlock bubbling, stopped airlock bubbling, fast airlock bubbling, slow airlcok bubbling, heavy metal airlcok bubbling, or disco airlock bubbling really is not an indicator of what is happening to your beer, really isn't important, and it is NOT an accurate gauge of fermentation.

If your airlock was bubbling and stopped---It doesn't mean fermentation has stopped.

If you airlock isn't bubbling, it doesn't mean your fermentation hasn't started....

If your airlock starts bubbling, it really doesn't matter.

The only "activity" that matters is a decrease in the numbers of your hydrometer.

Your airlock is not a fermentation gauge, it is a VALVE to release excess co2.

Fermentation is not always "dynamic," just because you don't SEE anything happening, doesn't mean that anything's wrong, and also doesn't mean that the yeast are still not working dilligantly away, doing what they've been doing for over 4,000 years....

I have 9 different fermenters and have been brewing for a few years, and OVER HALF OF MY BEERS NEVER HAVE ANY BUBBLING IN THE AIRLOCK AND THEY ALL TURN OUT FINE!

If you've oxygentated, and pitched plenty of yeast, then you SHOULD reach your yeast attenuation, and get close to the final gravity.....that is all that is important...NOT whether or not you airlock goes "blip" or "Rattattattatta!!!!"

An airlock is a vent for excess co2, nothing more, it's to keep your beer off the ceiling, and is designed to vent and still keep stuff out of your beer....that's really it...

In fact many no longer use airlocks at all, just cover the hole with a piece of tinfoil, or use a piece of plexiglass instead of a lid.

The only way to truly know what is going on in your fermenter is with your hydrometer. Like I said here in my blog, which I encourage you to read, Think evaluation before action you sure as HELL wouldn't want a doctor to start cutting on you unless he used the proper diagnostic instuments like x-rays first, right? You wouldn't want him to just take a look in your eyes briefly and say "I'm cutting into your chest first thing in the morning." You would want them to use the right diagnostic tools before the slice and dice, right? You'd cry malpractice, I would hope, if they didn't say they were sending you for an MRI and other things before going in.....

In the future, just remember that even "normal" fermentations can take 72 hours to begin. If you've underpitched or not made a starter which the yeast has come out of a dormant period, then when it find it self surrounded by 5 gallons of food, before it starts truly diving in the yeastit has start growing an army to best eat it, so they have a wild orgy and then make a bunch of yeast babies. Then they get to work.

So that is why it can take a few days before the really get going..the first part of it is called lag time, the waking up part, lag time, then the sex part is obviously called the reproductive phase....


Just listen to Revvy and other guys on here that airlocks are just a valve, rely on your trusty hydrometer! It will let you ferment more completely and know for a fact when the beer is done, also preventing exploding bottles.
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Old 08-30-2009, 04:53 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dontman View Post
Heck yes that could easily have been the culprit. You're right you are almost certainly fine but what most likely happened is that most of the yeast that was in the vial probably died in transport so you were pitching a small quantity. It took almost four days to rebuild a population sufficient to get fermentation rolling.

All is well for this batch but I have learned my lesson and now I do not use liquid yeast without at least doing a quick 24 hour starter.
Thanks dontman, for that explanation. For some reason I had it in my head that once yeast started being killed off that we were dead in the water, but that's not the case.
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Old 08-30-2009, 04:57 PM   #6
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Seriously Revvy, do you write male enhancement cream advertisements part time?

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Old 08-30-2009, 05:02 PM   #7
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Despite not knowing wtf Kingbrian means by his post, I am going to give you my standard rant about how the idea of "bad yeast" is really bogus....

Of a dozen or more starters and yeasts harvests, I have only had one that ever krauzened, and NONE that never took off, given enough time and patience.

Of god knows how many batches of beer I have made....I have never had fermentation not start, or a beer not ferment, and I have never ever ever had to add more yeast to a beer.

Except for infecting a starter due to poor sanitization, it really really is hard for yeast NOT to do what they do naturally.

That's how we can make a huge starter from the dregs of a bottle of beer...we let the viable (living) cells reproduce, and we feed them incrementally, and they continue to reproduce.

Next time don't be so "paranoid" about the yeast. And don't be so quick to count it out.

Seriously most LHBS know enough about what they are doing in terms of proper yeast storage, same with suppliers, it doesn't take a genius these days to know how to stick liquid (and dry yeasts usually) in a fridge, and ship in bulk in a styrofoam cooler.

We're talking billion dollar corporations (the yeast labs, and that's what they are LABS) and they aren't going to risk their rep by letting their suppliers and stores that carry their stuff , handle it improperly.

Besides...Yeast IS hardier than most newish brewers wanna give them props for...I mean You can't say that THIS YEAST was stored "properly" and yet, they managed to make a batch of beer with it.

45 million year old yeast ferments amber ale

If we can make beer with that....even the tiniest viable glop in a barely smacked pack, is going to work as well.

Gang I can't say this enough;

Unless you bought liguid yeast through the mail in the heat of summer, or added your yeast into boiling wort. your fermentation will happnen.

Yeast just don't not work anymore, that is an idea that came from the bad old days before homebrewing was legalized in 1978 when yeast came in hard cakes that travelled in hot cargo holds of ships ...And then sat under the lid of blue ribbon malt extract for god knows how long on grocery stores shelves.

But since 1978 yeast science has been ongoing and the yeasts of today, wet OR dry are going to work in 99.9% of the situations we have, if you give them the time to do so.

But every noob who starts an "my yeast is dead thread" just really pertpetuates a fear that has come from way back then, they got it from Papazain and other brew books written Thirty or more years ago, and were told horror stories of those yeasts, and it influenced their writing, which influence nervous noob brewers as well.

And then, most of the time, you new brewers then freak each other out!!!! You see an "infection" or "Not fermenting" thread title, or 10 on a given day and most of you don't even read the story behind it...you just see a dozen yeast is f-d up threads...and then believe my yeast has the potential to be f-d up.

But as the guy who answers those questions on a daily basis and finds out that no hydro reading was taken, nor has it been 72 hours, and THEY (not you) ARE going by airlock bubbling- AND when they do take a hydro reading or pop the bucket lid, they see that there was a krausen....and most of the time they actually post back, to say they were being paranoid, and fermentation DID happen.

But to someone who actually doesn't follow up on those threads, they think that yeast is so damn fragile....when it is the brewer's nerves that are.

But Unless you bought yeast through the mail in the heat of summer, or dumped it in boiling wort 99% of the time your yeast will do it's job...no matter what the title of many threads APPEAR to say.

Yeast handling and growing is a science, AND a BUSINESS[EVEN DRY YEAST GANG, they are all grown in labs, not fly by night operations (that's why the whole argument about dry being sub-par to liquid is really idiotic)..and with the internet, and books, and magazines, including this months BYO btw, even the most inbred LHBS employee SHOULD and probably does know how to properly handle and store yeast prior to selling it to you.



So Even if you don't pitch into the batch you planned and go with another yeast, don't toss out that starter. Give it a couple more feedings, wash it and either slant or mason jar it and store it for later use.

Yeast are really tenacious critters, except in the rarest and most extreme circumstances, they will survive, reproduce and work for you. If they can harvest 4500 year old yeast from a hunk of amber, then even a deflated smack pack, or properly stored outdated tube, will more than likely still have enough viable cells to reproduce into a starter.

Bobby M recently did a test on year old store yeast here; http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f13/test...bility-126707/

And my LHBS cells outdated tubes and packs of yeast dirt cheap 2-3 dollars each and I usually grab a couple tubes of belgian or other interesting yeast when I am there and shove it in my fridge. and I have never had a problem with one of those tubes. I usually make a starter but I once pitched a year old tube of Belgian High Gravity yeast directly into a 2.5 gallon batch of a Belgian Dark Strong, and after about 4 days it took off beautifully.

I don't know if you know the story of Charlie Papazian's yeast (White Labs "Cry Havoc") or not. He talked about it on basic brewing. The recipes in both Papazian's books, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing and The Homebrewers Companion, were originally developed and brewed with this yeast. Papazian had "Cry Havoc" in his yeast stable since 1983.

He has used it nearly continuously since 83, sometimes pitching multiple batches on top of a cake, sometimes washing or not washing, etc. In a basic brewing podcast iirc last year he talked about how a batch of the yeast after a lot of uses picked up a wild mutation, and he noticed an off flavor in a couple batches.

Now most of us would prolly dump that yeast. Instead he washed it, slanted or jarred it (I can't recall which,)marked it, and cold stored it, and pretty much forgot about it for 10-15 years. He had plenty other slants of the yeast strain, so he left it alone.

Well evidently he came across that container of yeast, and for sh!ts and giggles made a beer with it. Evidently after all those years in storage, the wild or mutated yeast died out leaving behind a few viable cells of the "pure" culture, which he grew back into a pretty hardy strain...which iirc is the culture that White Labs actually used for their cry havoc...because of it's tenacity and survivability.

It really to me, just goes to show once again how really hard it is to f up this beermaking, and that to give the yeast the props they deserve.

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Old 08-30-2009, 05:04 PM   #8
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To quote myself, but certainly useful info in there Revvy. Thanks!

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...

So I know airlock activity shouldn't be used as the end all, be all indicator of what's going on in there...This morning I went down so I could take a gravity reading
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Old 08-30-2009, 05:37 PM   #9
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45 million year old yeast ferments amber ale

If we can make beer with that....even the tiniest viable glop in a barely smacked pack, is going to work as well.
Be interesting to see if they sell that yeast for home brew use.
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Old 08-30-2009, 05:40 PM   #10
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Be interesting to see if they sell that yeast for home brew use.
Yeah I know.....that and that "space yeast" that was in the news last year.
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