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Old 03-20-2009, 01:42 PM   #1
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I brewed a 5 gal batch of an Irish Red Ale (AG) yesterday, breaking in the new single tier rig I built. The yeast I requested (Wyeast Activator Pack of American Ale 1056) was left out of the order. I have a vial of White Labs California Ale 001 in the fridge from a previously screwed up order. I pitched the 001 and set the batch aside to ferment. After 14 hrs, there is still no evidence of active fermentation. I know the smack pack of 1056 is on the way, it should be here this afternoon. If by that time, i have no activity.....would it be okay to pitch the 1056 on top of the 001?


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Old 03-20-2009, 01:46 PM   #2
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And yet, I give the same answer....to your typical "no activity" question...


ctrl-v

You should never rely on the bubbling or lack of on a cheap plastic airlock as a "fermentation Gauge," it's not...It's an airlock, nothing more, a VALVE to release excess CO2, to keep from blowing the lid off the fermentor...

If it's not bubbling that just means that there's not enough CO2 to climb out of the airlock, or the CO2 is just forming a nice cushion on top of the beer like it's supposed to, or the airlock is askew, or it is leaking out the cheap rubber grommet, or you have a leak in the bucket seal, or around the carboy grommet...all those are fine...if CO2 is getting out then nothing's getting in....

Over half of my beers have had no airlock activity...AND that is spread out among carboys, buckets. water bottles, and anything else I may ferment in, and regardless of the type of airlock...I have 9 different fermenters...

That's why I and many others say repeatedly that the only gauge of fermentaion is your hydrometer (or refractometer) . Those are precision calibrated instruments...

More than likely your fermentation is going nicely at it's own pace but for a dozen possible reasons your airlock isn't bubbling...simple as that. Get out of the habit of thinking it is a precision instrument and you will find you are less worried...The only precise methid of gauging fermentation is taking gravity readings.

Back in the bad old days, the predominant airlock was an s type...and often they were made of glass and sat relatively heavy in the grommet, and that's where people like papazain and those who influenced him got into the habit of counting bubbles...but now adays with 3 piecers being the norm, and most things being made crappy these days...it's just not a reliable means anymore.


The trouble is, that even the authors for the most part have been brewing so long that they don't pay attention to the airlock, yet the perpetuate the myth from the old days of bubbles meaning anything....though I figure, as a writer myself, they have long moved past the basic methodology that they wrote about...it's easy to do...to "preach" something very basic, while doing a process somewhat more complex...or like most of us who have been brewing awhile, taking shortcuts.

Co2 is heavier than air...there can be plenty of co2 going on, plenty of active fermentation happenning but there is not enough excess co2 rising or venting out to actually lift the plastic bubbler

The 3 piece airlock is the most fallable of them all, often there is simply not a strong enough escape of co2 to lift the bubbler. Or they can be weighted down with co2 bubbles, ir hteir is a leak in the grommet or the bucket seal, anynumber of factors.

If you push down on your bucket lid often you will suddenly get a huge amount of bubbling as you off gass the co2 that is there present but no needing to vent on it's own.

I find that the older S type airlocks, even plastic are much more reliable...in face I have started to use those old school ones exclusively. Not to use them as a gauge of fermentation...but because I like to watch the bubbles..

But even those don't always bubble..BUT you can tell theres CO2 pushing out because the liquid will be on the farthest side away from the grommet or bung hole.


Even not bubbling. you can see that something has pushed the water to the other side...


There's quite a few people on here who do not use an airlock at all, they simply loosely place their lids on the bucket, or cover with saran wrap, or tinfoil or pieces of plexigalss, these just sit on the top and if the CO2 needs to void out it doess...Because as I said before if the co2 is pushing out, then NOTHING is getting in.

If you look around on here at all the supposed "stuck" fermentation panic thread are not true Stuck fermentations, or deads yeasts, but are simply people like you using treating the vent like some precision instrument...And they, just like you use the words "Signs of fermentation." And that is our clue that you are going by arilocks.

And 90% or more come back and say they took a hydro reading...and everything was fine...

Rarely do yeasts these days get stuck...this isn't like the 70's when there was one or two strains of yeast, and they came from Europe in dried out cakes, and nowadays with our hobby so popular, even most tinned kits with the yeast under the lid trun over so fast that they are relatvely fresh most of the time.

So nowadays the only way our yeast "dies" or poops out is 1)If we pitch it into boiling wort 2) There is a big temp drop and the yeasts go dormant and flocculate out, or 3) if there is a high grav wort and the yeast maxes out in it's ability to eat all the sugar...and even then the yeast may poop out at either 1.030 or 1.020...But other than that most fermentations take....

AND this is regardless of any airlock bubbling...

Seriously, many of us pitch our yeast, walk away for a month and then bottle, and our beers have turned out great...The yeasts have been doing this for 5,000 years...they know what they're doing,

Like I sad 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.....

When brewers use the airlock like it is some calibrated "dial" to show them "signs of fermentation" (The only true sign is the numbers on a hydrometer) they are in a sense preforming malpractice on their beer....




Does that answer your question???



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Old 03-20-2009, 01:58 PM   #4
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My question was spurred by the fact all other batches brewed (8 so far this year), have started visible and violent fermentation within 5-8 hrs. Half of those batches needed a blow off. I use a carboy for primary because i like to be able to see the wort itself, not just the air lock. The batch in question is demonstating absolutely none of the visible cues I have become used to seeing.
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Old 03-20-2009, 02:00 PM   #5
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Well, fermentation can take up to 72 hours to start if you pitched just one vial of yeast. Even using a starter, sometimes it takes a while for fermentation to get going. You may have seen some signs of fermentation early in the past, but that's definitely not the norm.
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Old 03-20-2009, 02:02 PM   #6
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Something to remember is that with yeasties, you are dealing with living creatures...every fermentation is different...you can split a batch in half put them in 2 identical carboys, and pitch equal amounts of yeast from the same starter...and have them act completely differently...for some reason on a subatomic level...think about it...yeasties are small...1 degree difference in temp to us, could be a 50 degree difference to them...one fermenter can be a couple degrees warmer because it's closer to a vent all the way across the room and the yeasties take off...

Someone, Grinder I think posted a pic once of 2 carboys touching each other, and one one of the carboys the krausen had formed only on the side that touched the other carboy...probably reacting to the heat of the first fermentation....

I've found that you should never assume anything where the yeasties are concerned except that they are in charge...not us...and they've been doing this beer making stuff for 5, 000 years...so basicially we just need to trust them, and not bug them...and give them plenty of time, and they will make us very very happy.


Just because 5 behaved one way, and one behaved differently doesn't necessarily mean there is anything wrong with number 6.....It just means that before doing anything else you should wait 72 hours, and then use your hydrometer, before considering re-pitching.
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Old 03-20-2009, 02:10 PM   #7
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thanks guys
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Old 03-20-2009, 05:30 PM   #8
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Every batch is different. Sometimes, the same recipe takes off like a shot for me; other times it doesn't. I'm not sure why, I just wait it out. I've never had a dead batch (though I admit I'm not as experienced as a lot of guys here are).


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