Fermenting Issue! Help! (Time is of the essence)

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MSUCatBrewer

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Hi all,

I did my first AG batch on Saturday -- a Sunshine Wheat clone -- and all seemed to go fairly smooth. By Sunday, there wasn't much going on fermentation wise, but I wasn't deterred by that. Monday morning, same; I moved my fermenter from my basement to my guest bathroom tub in hopes the higher temp would get it started. Sure enough, I came home to an airlock full of krausen...minutes away from a blowout that would have precipitated my divorce...

I moved the fermenter down to my basement, attached a blowoff tube, and now fermentation has become slllloooowwww. I think the issue is my basement is between 64-65 degrees in the summer due to our AC being on.

There is no way my wife will let me ferment upstairs in the house she meticulously keeps (Can't say I blame her)...so I need to course correct--quickly--before I lose this batch.

Will a heat lamp be an over correction? I'm thinking so...I only need to raise the temp a few degrees. I'd like to be able to brew during the summer...but this may be a problem.

Thanks so much!
 

flars

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Most ale yeasts will do well at an ambient temperature of 64° to 65°F. Yeast produces heat as it ferments the wort. An average OG beer would have a temperature increase of about 3°F. Fermentation will be slow but an overly aggressive fermentation can produce off flavors.

Problem with low ambient temperatures is holding the warmer fermentation temperature to for the beer to finish at. I use an aquarium heater to warm a water bath that the fermentor sits in. The temperature is controlled with a STC-1000.

Perhaps your wife will allow this one upstairs if you attach a blow off tube. This will give you time to put together a system for keeping the fermentor warm in the downstairs.

A large box with a 40 watt light bulb inside will also provide heat. You would need to evaluate the fire risk though.
 

jrgtr42

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If you have a 64 - 65 degree ambient, that should be prefect for ffermenting most beers. Also keep in mind that the wort temp will be a few degrees higher.
There could have been other reasons for the delayed start - how much yeast did you pitch? Did you make a starter?
My basement is in the lower 60s and my fermentations are usually pretty spot on, if a bit slower than average sometimes (I have all the time in the world, though.)
 
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MSUCatBrewer

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Most ale yeasts will do well at an ambient temperature of 64° to 65°F. Yeast produces heat as it ferments the wort. An average OG beer would have a temperature increase of about 3°F. Fermentation will be slow but an overly aggressive fermentation can produce off flavors.

Problem with low ambient temperatures is holding the warmer fermentation temperature to for the beer to finish at. I use an aquarium heater to warm a water bath that the fermentor sits in. The temperature is controlled with a STC-1000.

Perhaps your wife will allow this one upstairs if you attach a blow off tube. This will give you time to put together a system for keeping the fermentor warm in the downstairs.

A large box with a 40 watt light bulb inside will also provide heat. You would need to evaluate the fire risk though.

I'm encouraged by what you guys are saying!

So I shouldn't be alarmed by the fact that my airlock was full of krausen in the 70 degree bathroom(showing hard fermentation) and now I'm seen slow bubbling and no krausen through the blow-off tube in the 64 degree basement?

It would be awesome if I didn't actually have a problem! Thanks for your help!
 

mglicini

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Most ale yeasts will do well at an ambient temperature of 64° to 65°F. Yeast produces heat as it ferments the wort. An average OG beer would have a temperature increase of about 3°F. Fermentation will be slow but an overly aggressive fermentation can produce .
I have to agree.. when you say now it has slowed how long was it upstairs for?
It may be possible it made it through the primary fermentation while upstairs.
How long did it take to slow down once downstairs for the second time? If you had that much activity in the fermenter to need a blowoff the yeast definitely did some work
 
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MSUCatBrewer

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I have to agree.. when you say now it has slowed how long was it upstairs for?
It may be possible it made it through the primary fermentation while upstairs.
How long did it take to slow down once downstairs for the second time? If you had that much activity in the fermenter to need a blowoff the yeast definitely did some work

Upstairs for about 10 hours
 

mongoose33

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I'm going to offer a minority opinion here. I believe fermentation temperature control is an important part of producing excellent beer, and just fermenting a beer at 68* ambient is likely to get you into the 70s.

OP hasn't indicated what yeast he used, so it's hard to tell if it's just slower or what's going on. I just brewed using rehydrated S-04; pitched at noon on Saturday, dropped ferm temp to 63 degrees, going to town on Sunday morning. Krausen fell by Tuesday evening. So the lower temp shouldn't necessarily have a negative impact.

OP doesn't say how he handled the yeast. Dry or liquid? Rehydrated or not? Made a starter or not? I'm guessing none of the above.

I also suspect the increase in temp correlated with the increase in activity is spurious. If the yeast was stressed, it may have taken 36 hours to get going. A common concern of new brewers is "my yeast hasn't taken off yet" and the common reply is "just wait." I think just waiting would have resulted in a similar result.
 

ericbw

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Most of us (I think) are fighting to keep temps lower during the summer. Low 60s is perfect for most ales, and even a Belgian in the mid-60s is fine.

If anything, it got warmer than necessary in the bathroom.

Is it sitting on the basement floor? That will suck heat out of it, so maybe a towel on the floor. Or put it on a table. But like someone said, ambient temp is lower than the wort temperature.

This will be fine.
 
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MSUCatBrewer

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I'm going to offer a minority opinion here. I believe fermentation temperature control is an important part of producing excellent beer, and just fermenting a beer at 68* ambient is likely to get you into the 70s.

OP hasn't indicated what yeast he used, so it's hard to tell if it's just slower or what's going on. I just brewed using rehydrated S-04; pitched at noon on Saturday, dropped ferm temp to 63 degrees, going to town on Sunday morning. Krausen fell by Tuesday evening. So the lower temp shouldn't necessarily have a negative impact.

OP doesn't say how he handled the yeast. Dry or liquid? Rehydrated or not? Made a starter or not? I'm guessing none of the above.

I also suspect the increase in temp correlated with the increase in activity is spurious. If the yeast was stressed, it may have taken 36 hours to get going. A common concern of new brewers is "my yeast hasn't taken off yet" and the common reply is "just wait." I think just waiting would have resulted in a similar result.

Hi. Thanks for your response! I used a Wyeast Smackpack. 100b, dated March 17th. No starter as it recommended not to based on my SG. I think from now on I'll use a Whitelabs bike with a starter 100% of the time.
 
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MSUCatBrewer

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Most of us (I think) are fighting to keep temps lower during the summer. Low 60s is perfect for most ales, and even a Belgian in the mid-60s is fine.

If anything, it got warmer than necessary in the bathroom.

Is it sitting on the basement floor? That will suck heat out of it, so maybe a towel on the floor. Or put it on a table. But like someone said, ambient temp is lower than the wort temperature.

This will be fine.

It is indeed on the basement floor. I'll try a towel. Thanks!
 

BlueHouseBrewhaus

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Before I had a heat wrap and controller, I would occasionally use a small space heater aimed at the fermenter about 12-18" away if I needed to bump up the temp a bit. As long as I kept a close eye on it, it did surprisingly well. I just monitored the wort temp and adjusted the heater thermostat to get a stable temp. That said, a temp controller and ferm chamber (even the aforementioned "box with a light bulb") is a worthwhile investment.
 

mongoose33

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Hi. Thanks for your response! I used a Wyeast Smackpack. 100b, dated March 17th. No starter as it recommended not to based on my SG. I think from now on I'll use a Whitelabs bike with a starter 100% of the time.
The type of yeast using Wyeast's nomenclature is a 4-digit number. 100b is the number of cells, i.e., 100 billion.

What type of yeast was it?

And as far as not needing a starter based on your SG, from where did that come? And what was the SG of your beer? Grain bill?

With these kinds of issues/concerns/problems, best to supply as much information as possible so we can zero-in on the problem. It saves questions such as these. :)
 

seatazzz

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I would loooooove to have a 60-65 degree basement to ferment in. As it is I have my garage which can get pretty warm. Our house is on a concrete slab so it gets stinky hot in the summer. +1 on placing your fermenter on a towel or a table; I would also suggest setting it in a tub with water. Even if you don't use a heat lamp or a fan (that's what I do) the temperature should stay more stable. Ales like to be at 65-70 (as mentioned above) so I am willing to bet if you had left it a day or two longer it would have been fine. Bubbles in the airlock are not finite proof of fermenting; I've made some good beers where I never saw airlock activity because the little buggers did their best work when I wasn't around. Kinda like how horses and dogs (and women, like myself) will go into labor in the wee sma's when you least expect it.
 
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MSUCatBrewer

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I would loooooove to have a 60-65 degree basement to ferment in. As it is I have my garage which can get pretty warm. Our house is on a concrete slab so it gets stinky hot in the summer. +1 on placing your fermenter on a towel or a table; I would also suggest setting it in a tub with water. Even if you don't use a heat lamp or a fan (that's what I do) the temperature should stay more stable. Ales like to be at 65-70 (as mentioned above) so I am willing to bet if you had left it a day or two longer it would have been fine. Bubbles in the airlock are not finite proof of fermenting; I've made some good beers where I never saw airlock activity because the little buggers did their best work when I wasn't around. Kinda like how horses and dogs (and women, like myself) will go into labor in the wee sma's when you least expect it.

So does the group consensus seem to be my beer is fine?
 

kh54s10

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I agree that the temperature of your basement is about ideal for fermenting ales. It might be a bit cooler on the floor.

Fast, vigorous fermentations is not always a good thing. In this case it was not the best.

Depending on how hot the beer got during the 10 hours you might have introduced some off flavors from being too hot.

Wyeast and White Labs packs start out with roughly the same cell counts. Some like one over the other but it is not true to say that one is better than the other.
IMO, any beer that has an OG of 1.040 or more should get a starter. I would probably do a starter for any beer unless I was sure the yeast was really fresh and had been well handled.
 
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MSUCatBrewer

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The type of yeast using Wyeast's nomenclature is a 4-digit number. 100b is the number of cells, i.e., 100 billion.

What type of yeast was it?

And as far as not needing a starter based on your SG, from where did that come? And what was the SG of your beer? Grain bill?

With these kinds of issues/concerns/problems, best to supply as much information as possible so we can zero-in on the problem. It saves questions such as these. :)
4-digit number is 1010.

It was Wyeast American Wheat

No need from a starter came from the yeast package: beers under 1.06 should be good to go w/out one. I've also read that on various sites (and frankly...on my first AG batch I really didn't want to fiddle with a starter...I wanted to get the mash, sparge, heating, etc. etc. right)

SG was 1.054

Grain bill was 10LB of the following: 0.5lb Cara-Pils, 4 lbs White Wheat, 5.5 lbs 2 Row

Thanks!
 
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MSUCatBrewer

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I say it will be fine. If it got into the 80s during the 10 hours it might not be the best it could have been, but it should be good.

Yeah...I don't see any way it could have gotten that hot. Even with the ambient heat increase due to fermenting...but we'll have to see. The nerves of my first AG batch got to me. Another lesson to add to the "learned" column.

Thanks for your reply!
 

seatazzz

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+1 to what kh54s10 said. You *may* wind up with some off flavors but since you "rescued" it from the higher temp it may not be too bad. Keep in mind that a "lag time" of up to 72 hours before you see (read: bubbles in the airlock) evidence of fermentation doesn't necessarily mean nothing is happening. The only true method of measuring fermentation is checking the gravity with a hydrometer. You didn't mention what you're using as a fermenter; if a carboy, it's easy to see the foam forming on the top. If a plastic bucket, shining a flashlight against the side while peeking (briefly!) through the airlock grommet will tell you what's up.

Here's my basic take: yeast only live to eat sugar and excrete c02 and alcohol. As long as you supply them with their basic needs (o2, sugar, time, in an environment that doesn't kill them, e.g. excessive heat) they are going to deliver. Whether or not the end result is drinkable, depends on your practices, but it will be beer.
 

Staylow

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No need from a starter came from the yeast package: beers under 1.06 should be good to go w/out one. I've also read that on various sites (and frankly...on my first AG batch I really didn't want to fiddle with a starter...I wanted to get the mash, sparge, heating, etc. etc. right)

Two things - you have to keep in mind that the older a package of yeast is, the less viable it is. Completely fresh, it contains 100 billion cells. At six months, it's pretty much guaranteed to be dead. A starter at the very least is insurance that your yeast is viable.

Second - making a starter shouldn't interfere with your brew day at all, as that's something that should be done 2-3 days BEFORE you brew, if not longer. The best practice is to make a starter, let it go 36-48 hours (or more), then cold crash it in the fridge for 24 or more. On brew day, you can remove it from the fridge and decant the nasty starter wort, then let it warm up.
 

mongoose33

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Two things - you have to keep in mind that the older a package of yeast is, the less viable it is. Completely fresh, it contains 100 billion cells. At six months, it's pretty much guaranteed to be dead. A starter at the very least is insurance that your yeast is viable.

Second - making a starter shouldn't interfere with your brew day at all, as that's something that should be done 2-3 days BEFORE you brew, if not longer. The best practice is to make a starter, let it go 36-48 hours (or more), then cold crash it in the fridge for 24 or more. On brew day, you can remove it from the fridge and decant the nasty starter wort, then let it warm up.
I do starters for 18-24 hours but the point is the same--it doesn't have to interfere with brew day.

I do appreciate OP's concern to simplify things the first time, I think simpler is better when one tries something new, whether it's brewing for the first time or switching to a new process or method.
 

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4-digit number is 1010.



It was Wyeast American Wheat



No need from a starter came from the yeast package: beers under 1.06 should be good to go w/out one. I've also read that on various sites (and frankly...on my first AG batch I really didn't want to fiddle with a starter...I wanted to get the mash, sparge, heating, etc. etc. right)



SG was 1.054



Grain bill was 10LB of the following: 0.5lb Cara-Pils, 4 lbs White Wheat, 5.5 lbs 2 Row



Thanks!

The yeast companies say that's fine. Everyone else will tell you to make a starter.
 
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MSUCatBrewer

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I really appreciate everybody's advice! Thanks! We'll see how it turns out!
 
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