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Old 09-10-2012, 02:14 PM   #1
hernlui
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Default First brew - Stuck fermentation?

Hi guys,
This is my very first batch and I am very confused. I have done many hours of search and reading and I haven't found a case like mine so bear with me. Here it goes.

Ingredients:

5.6 lbs DME Pilsen light
1 lb Crystal II L65 specialty grains
0.5 Galena @ 60 min
0.5 Cascade @ 10 min
1 tsp irish moss @ 10 min
Safbrew T-58

3 gal boil.

Pitched at 78F. OG = 1.052

Sanitized obsessively, aerated obsessively.

Airlock activity started about an hour later and wort temp started to climb until it went off the strip thermometer which has a max temp of 78. I did the wet t shirt thing and next morning it was at around 78 and bubbling like crazy, about 5 bubbles per second, about an inch kreuzen, and lots of movement of particles within the wort. I considered the temp was still to high so I moved it to a place with a nice draft so I could get more evaporation on the wet and the temp started to come down. Later in the day I checked and the wort temp had reached 74 degrees and activity started to go down. By the afternoon, activity virtually stopped and the kreuzen dropped back into the wort. I read that fermentation could finish in as little as 24 hours so I wasn't worried. I left it in primary two full weeks and I decided to open it up to measure gravity and to add some dry hopping. Gravity was 1.020 and something interesting is that it was completely cloudy. It tasted great though. No off flavors what so ever.
I read that some extract brews do stop @ 1.020 so I added my dry hopping pellets and put the airlock back on to give it another week for a total of 3 before bottling.
The next day after measuring gravity and dry hopping, the airlock was producing a bubble every 14 seconds, and there was a 1/4 inch of foam (don't know if you could call it kreuzen). The next day (today, two days after measuring and dry hopping) the airlock is doing a bubble every 4 seconds.

I read in a few posts that airlock activity has nothing to do with actual yeast activity (fermentation) and that it is only releasing excess CO2. At first I thought it kinda sounded reasonable, having moved the carboy and adding hop pellets, but having the airlock pick up this much after two days makes me think that there is definitely some fermentation going on.

Has anybody ever had fermentation stuck after two weeks in primary? Can anybody confirm that I might be having more fermentation at the time (no I am not going to open it up and take a gravity measurement and risk infecting my first batch of beer). I plan to give it one more week, for a total of 3 weeks primary and bottle.

Thoughts?


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Old 09-10-2012, 03:55 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hernlui View Post
Hi guys,
This is my very first batch and I am very confused. I have done many hours of search and reading and I haven't found a case like mine so bear with me. Here it goes.

Ingredients:

5.6 lbs DME Pilsen light
1 lb Crystal II L65 specialty grains
0.5 Galena @ 60 min
0.5 Cascade @ 10 min
1 tsp irish moss @ 10 min
Safbrew T-58

3 gal boil.

Pitched at 78F. OG = 1.052

Sanitized obsessively, aerated obsessively.

Airlock activity started about an hour later and wort temp started to climb until it went off the strip thermometer which has a max temp of 78. I did the wet t shirt thing and next morning it was at around 78 and bubbling like crazy, about 5 bubbles per second, about an inch kreuzen, and lots of movement of particles within the wort. I considered the temp was still to high so I moved it to a place with a nice draft so I could get more evaporation on the wet and the temp started to come down. Later in the day I checked and the wort temp had reached 74 degrees and activity started to go down. By the afternoon, activity virtually stopped and the kreuzen dropped back into the wort. I read that fermentation could finish in as little as 24 hours so I wasn't worried. I left it in primary two full weeks and I decided to open it up to measure gravity and to add some dry hopping. Gravity was 1.020 and something interesting is that it was completely cloudy. It tasted great though. No off flavors what so ever.
I read that some extract brews do stop @ 1.020 so I added my dry hopping pellets and put the airlock back on to give it another week for a total of 3 before bottling.
The next day after measuring gravity and dry hopping, the airlock was producing a bubble every 14 seconds, and there was a 1/4 inch of foam (don't know if you could call it kreuzen). The next day (today, two days after measuring and dry hopping) the airlock is doing a bubble every 4 seconds.

I read in a few posts that airlock activity has nothing to do with actual yeast activity (fermentation) and that it is only releasing excess CO2. At first I thought it kinda sounded reasonable, having moved the carboy and adding hop pellets, but having the airlock pick up this much after two days makes me think that there is definitely some fermentation going on.

Has anybody ever had fermentation stuck after two weeks in primary? Can anybody confirm that I might be having more fermentation at the time (no I am not going to open it up and take a gravity measurement and risk infecting my first batch of beer). I plan to give it one more week, for a total of 3 weeks primary and bottle.

Thoughts?
I think all experienced brewers here have had at least 1 stuck fermentation. I had one with the notorious belgian saison yeast from WYEAST.

Some follow up questions to diagnose your issue:
1) Are you doing a partial boil and topping off with water? Perhaps you have very chlorinated water that could inhibit yeast. You could solve by moving off the stove-top and on to a turkey fryer with a bigger pot so you can do full volume boils. Most chlorine/temporary hardness can be driven off by the boil. There are many other benefits of doing a full-boil I won't cover here.

2) Are you adding any yeast nutrient like servomyces or the wyeast nutrient? If not, consider doing so next time.

3) Are you doing a secondary fermentation? I think it's unnecessary, but if you are, be careful not to rack the wort off of the yeast cake too soon. You said you waited 2 weeks, but depending on the number of healthy yeast cells (called pitching rate) you started by pitching into the fermenter, it may take longer than that. Yeast doesn't work on a set schedule. You can make generalizations, but you have to watch your wort and measure the gravity.

4) Did you make a yeast starter? I'm not familiar with that yeast, but if it's a dry inexpensive yeast, consider buying 2 additional packets to ensure you are getting the proper cell count (pitching rate) for a 1.05X beer. Underpitching (which leads to off flavors) is one of the biggest problems beginning brewers encounter.

The airlock activity you experienced while dry hopping was probably oxygen trapped inside the pellets being released—this is quite common. Another note: if your wort is cloudy, and the yeast you're using is "highly flocculent," (check the yeast manufacturer's website for that yeast's specifications), the fermentation is NOT done. Low flocculant yeasts stay in suspension almost indefinitely—think hefeweizen or kolsch—but highly flocculant yeasts drop out when they're done, leaving the beer somewhat clear.. I allow all my beers (except very low flocculant exceptions mentioned) to become fairly clear before I transfer my beer/fine it.


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Old 09-10-2012, 04:28 PM   #3
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Soviet,
Thanks for your reply:
1) Partial boil. I boiled 2 gallons ahead of time, I let them cool completely and poured them into the carboy (that took care of the chlorine and sanitation of the water). Then I boiled the ingredients in 4 additional gallons. Final volume when pitched into the fermenter was 5 gal on the dot.

2) I did not use any nutrients.

3) Not doing secondary. I'm leaving it in the primary fermenter for a total of 3 weeks.

4) I did not make a starter per se, but did rehydrate the yeast in cool boiled water for 1 hour as recommended. Pitched at @ 75F as recommended. I only added one pack, as I read that dry yeast has a much much higher cell count than liquid yeast, but you are right, maybe next time I'll use two packs. I think there were enough cells as vigorous activity started within one hour of pitching...

I just checked and the yeast I used is MEDIUM flocculation. So it is definitely possible the fermentation is still taking place.

I'm going to wait another week and see how it goes. Thanks for your comments.
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Old 09-10-2012, 06:01 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hernlui View Post
Soviet,
I only added one pack, as I read that dry yeast has a much much higher cell count than liquid yeast, but you are right, maybe next time I'll use two packs.
One can be enough for low gravity beers. The difficult thing to say is how many of those dry yeast cells are still viable. I think the quality of dry yeasts is much more variable than liquid yeast. Also, you're from the Florida, right? Why aren't you using the wonderful selection of liquid yeasts?


Consider transitioning off the stove top when you've got the coin—the benefits are huge.

1) No adding unsanitized water back into the fermenter (chlorine, temporary hardness).

2) partial boils will result in high kettle carmelization because you're boiling a very concentrated sugary solution and diluting down AFTER you boil. Great for a Ambers, bad for a lot of other styles of beer.

3)partial boils have a weaker boil, resulting in less flavor-impacting melanoiden compounds being formed (maillard reactions).

My advice is, buy the biggest stainless pot you can afford. (9+ gallons). This will allow you to do full 5 gallon boils (i.e. boiling 6-8 gallons DOWN to 5, depending on your evaporation rate).


As for restarting stuck fermentations, I've tried using dry champagne yeast, I've tried adding nutrient (in the middle of fermentations), and other methods. The only one that has worked for me is racking my stuck beer onto a healthy cake of yeast from another batch I did. Works like a charm.
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Old 09-14-2012, 01:56 PM   #5
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Update: Today, a week after I dry hopped and fermentation got going again, I measured gravity and it is 1.012. So it got stuck at 1.020 after two weeks and started again with the disturbance of the dry hopping and finally reached a level a tad below the FG target of 1.015.
The beer is still cloudy but it tastes great. I will be bottling tomorrow without the worries of uncomplete fermentation.
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Old 09-14-2012, 02:01 PM   #6
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Sounds like you should be good! Way to be patient and rock it on your first beer.
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Old 10-05-2012, 04:11 AM   #7
hernlui
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After 3 weeks in primary and 3 weeks in bottle conditioning, this beer turned out great. The cloudiness settled after a week in the bottle. Carbonation is just right.
Thanks for all the tips!


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