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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > Racked into secondary, think my yeast died.
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Old 02-09-2013, 06:36 AM   #1
Jablestein
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Default Racked into secondary, think my yeast died.

Hey all,

Currently have a Bourbon Vanilla Porter batch going in the carboy. It's been in for two weeks now. Last week I transferred it into a secondary carboy, racking it on top of the vanilla beans for flavor. When I took the gravity reading last week it was at 1.04-1.05 range. Since the transfer, there's been little to no activity in the carboy, and it appears as if there's almost 0 trub at the bottom even after a week. I took another sampling today and the gravity hasn't changed at all. I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should re-pitch another yeast to get it going again or if maybe I should just let it sit and condition. The initial flavor tastings I've done are pretty good, but I'm a little afraid of the end, post carbonated beverage having an off, highly sweetened flavor due to lack of fermentables actually...well...fermenting.

As a side note, we ended up using a British Ale Yeast instead of of the originally suggested American Ale yeast, which apparently has a higher tolerance for alcohol content. Not sure if this caused the issue or not. My post boil gravity was about 1.09, so I was guessing it would be a pretty high alcohol content beer when it was all said and done. I also soaked the vanilla beans with a single miniature bottle of vanilla vodka to sterilize and for flavor.


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Old 02-09-2013, 08:09 AM   #2
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First: are you sure your measurements are correct? My Irish Red Ale from Midwest had an OG of 1.053 (Midwest estimated 1.043) and a FG of 1.010 (Midwest estimated 1.009-1.011). I measured my FG 3 days in a row after I saw the airlock activity stop. When I saw no drop below the 1.010, I racked to secondary. I left mine in primary for 10 days, secondary for 14 days, and just bottled on the 2nd. I haven't done any high-gravity brews, but 1.09 seems really high.

Second: secondary shouldn't have very much activity at all. Based on my experience and understanding, secondary fermentation isn't really fermentation at all. When you rack to secondary, you are removing the beer from the yeast and other sediment that has fallen out of solution. The yeast fall out of solution when they are done consuming sugar, which means no more alcohol or Co2 can be produced. By removing the yeast, there will be no more activity in the airlock since it is the active yeast that provides the airlock activity.

Anyway, secondary is more about clarity and flavor development than alcohol production. Most folks on here recommend only using secondary for dry-hopping ,fruiting, or some other complex flavor additive--just do a search and you'll find 100's of opinions on it. Personally I do it for clarity on some of my lighter-colored beers. My Irish Red is copper-red and just as clear as anything commercially available. My vanilla porter was all in primary because I didn't see any reason to clear a porter, but that's just me.


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Old 02-09-2013, 10:56 AM   #3
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A few more details are needed:

Are you using a hydrometer or refractometer to take gravity readings?
Extract or all-grain?
Yeast starter?
Recipe?

If I am reading you correctly, you fermented the beer for a week and then transferred to secondary? At that time the gravity was only 1.040-1.050? If so, you definitely moved to beer too soon - especially given the high starting gravity.
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Old 02-09-2013, 03:34 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JLem View Post
A few more details are needed:

Are you using a hydrometer or refractometer to take gravity readings?
I had the same question in mind.

I wonder how many folks have tried to get an FG reading using a refractometer and went "oh no! my fermentation stopped at 1.040!"

If the OP was using a refractometer, get a hydrometer reading before doing anything else.
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Old 02-09-2013, 03:48 PM   #5
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+1 to using a hydrometer. Did you put the recipe in beersmith or some other software? What was your expected FG? Also, when you transfer to secondary, you are removing the beer from the yeast. So there shouldn't be any activity in the secondary. It may be possible that you transferred too soon. But then again it may be possible that you were using a refractometer and we are misunderstanding you.
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Old 02-09-2013, 07:05 PM   #6
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Hey all, my apologies for the lack of information.

Yes, I did use a yeast starter, 800ml tap water to 1 cup of DME. Boiled, let it sit until it was under 80degrees and pitched 1 vial White Labs WLP005 British Ale Yeast. Let it sit a day at room temp before pitching it.

It's an all grain brew. The Recipes Post Boil Gravity was 1.078 but mine ended up being 1.090.

I took all reading with a Hydrometer.

The actual recipe states that primary fermentation is only 4 days before racking onto the vanilla beans. I thought that seemed a little quick and my friends shared the concern so I decided to wait until the activity in the carboy died down a bit and gave it a week instead.

I moved the beer based on the recipe noting to do so in order to add the vanilla beans for flavor. Was this the wrong step? Is there something I can do to correct this now?
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Old 02-09-2013, 07:53 PM   #7
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The general rule of thumb is not to rack until it hits FG. It may not have enough yeast to finish the job at this point.
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:19 PM   #8
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I would be concerned that racking it so soon may have stalled your fermentation. It might be worth pitching in some rehydrated dry yeast (ok option) or a pint of active yeast starter (better option). The problem now is that your beer is not particularly hospitable to yeast at this point, so you really need a healthy, active pitch if things are going to be jumpstarted.
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:58 PM   #9
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Since this was an AG recipe we need to mash temp as well as the grain bill to determine how much fermentable wort you had

I would expect this to finish around 1.027 but if you mashed too high it probably won't get there as well as if there were a lot of specialty grains that are less fermentable

In addition, what temp did you ferment at. 005 is a high floc yeast so if you did nota age temps properly it may have dropped prematurely prevent adequate attenuation
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Old 02-09-2013, 09:05 PM   #10
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I was under the impression the yeast was supposed to die/go dormant and settle in secondary. Racking to secondary should be after you have reached FG and none/little fermenting activity should be expected, not something to be concerned about.


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