First batch-SG stuck after moving to secondary

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ak47clown

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Hey guys-got a complete kit from midwest brewing supplies for my b-day that came with an irish red ale kit. I brewed it a little over 2 weeks now and my SG seemed to be reasonable on track at 1.040 but after a week in the primary and some definite action through the airlock i took at reading at 1.020. At that point i transferred to the secondary and after a week and a half in the secondary i'm still reading the same. A few things to note that may or may not have an affect:

-area where i stored primary was 55-60 degrees

-I was a moron when transferring with the auto siphon and defintely had some issues where air got through (though i'm hoping since the hose wasn't submerged in the brew that it didn't have a HUGE affect on it) wishful thinking?

-After a week in the secondary I carefully transferred the carboy to a slightly warmer area but that was on friday and I've seen no change between now and then.

-From what i've read, with a relatively low ABV like this i would have a more sweeter than normal beer which I would love to avoid if at all possible.

-I purchased an additional packet of dry yeast from a local home brew shop before I started so i do have that on hand.

Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
 

Blender

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You moved it off the majority of the yeast before it was finished fermenting and coupled with the cooler temp what yeast was left dropped. I would add some fresh yeast and warm it up to 72 degrees or so and see if will finish out. 1.020 is a bit high. Good Luck and try to be patient.
 
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ak47clown

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Thanks for the reply!

yeah... in all my excitement when i took my hydrometer i thought 1.020 was right where it was supposed to be and didn't go back and double check the recipe.

In regards to adding more yeast, would i make another starter or just pitch it and give it a swirl?
 

BrianP

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If you could do it all over again, I would have suggested keeping it in primary until it's done with active fermentation (since the secondary is for the yeast to settle out), or better yet, skip the secondary completely and rack to your bottling bucket or keg at 2-3 (or more weeks).

Your primary fermentation temperature is a little low for ales. Most ale yeasts like it a little warmer (64-70). They also don't like sudden drops in temperature as this causes them to shut down and drop out of suspension.

The lack of activity witnessed after racking could be due to it just being complete. Take a hydrometer sample and check the gravity. If it's 65-75% attenuated, it's probably going to be ok. Check the gravity a couple more days in a row and if there's no change, it's good to go.

Generally the sweetness of the finished beer is a function of the yeast used, the unfermentable sugars in the wort (which is determined by the mash temperature), and the amount of hop bitterness which balances the sweetness. The sweetness isn't necessarily a function of the ABV, since it's quite possible to make a fairly high ABV beer that has a dry finish.

Adding dry yeast at this point probably won't do much. If you determine your fermentation has stalled (by taking a gravity reading and determining how much attenuation you have), you could make a small yeast starter and pitch the whole thing when it is actively fermenting. The yeast at that point will be active and will look for additional sugars to consume (in your wort). If you just pitch the yeast without a starter, there probably isn't much easily digestable sugars available to consume in your wort, and the yeast won't get started.

To summarize:
- longer primary (maybe do away with secondary)
- ferment a little warmer and aim for consistent temperatures (no sudden drops)
- check gravity with a hydrometer and determine if you've met your FG
- if repitching, make a small starter and pitch the actively fermenting starter

I hope this helps. Oh, and welcome to HBT.
 

davesrose

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Don't rack to your secondary until you start reaching your target gravity (unless it was some high gravity beer, I'd never rack with a 1.02 reading). I would think the main reason it was so slow at fermenting was that you were using an ale yeast (which most do well around 65-70 degrees). When you're following Blender's suggestion, also check your yeast manufacturer's directions (most yeasties do have an optimal temperature printed on there). It probably will attenuate more (even though you've racked, there still are yeast cultures in suspension....just will take longer). I think a less confusing term for "2nd stage" fermenting is "conditioning"....as ideally, you do all your fermenting during the 1st stage.....2nd stage/ conditioning is for clearing out your beer and aging it.
 

graphicgeek80

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I am new to this so one of the more experienced brewers can correct me if I am on the wrong track…

When checking your FG are you accounting for the temperature of the wort? It sounds like there may be a fifteen degree difference from when you pitched to when you checked your FG. I suck at the math thing, and don't know if that would affect your numbers as much as it did.
 
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ak47clown

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Thanks so much for all the info guys. I guess this batch will be a learning experience. Attenuation is defintely low at around 49% so I'll be adding some more yeast and hoping for the best. Unfortunately I do not have the materials necessary to make a starter at this point so I understand I probably won't have optimal results by just throwing in some rehyrdated yeast but I suppose at this point, with what defintely seems like a stalled batch, it won't get worse...


I did try and do a decent amount of reading before diving into all this but guess I just missed a few key things. What was said here makes a lot more sense to me as I was under the impression that transferring to the secondary was still part of the fermentation process. (i guess it is technically but not in the way i had envisioned it-calling it a conditioning phase defintely makes more sense IMO)

Had I A: paid attention to the recommended FG and B: been more patient, I would have kept it in the primary for a few days longer. As far as temperatures go, guess i'll keep the next batch out of the basement. Our house stays between 68-72 upstairs so I'll stick the bucket in my room somewhere next time.

Thanks again for all the advice and I look forward to learning more as i continue. Next step is figuring out what time make for my 2nd batch!
 

BrianP

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Making a starter isn't terribly hard. Just make a liter or two of 1.040 wort using malt extract, pitch your yeast, shake it / stir it frequently. Within 12 hours or less it should be going. You'd pitch the whole thing at this point to unstick your fermentation. This assumes you follow good sanitation, etc.

For typical use of a starter you would generally wait longer (up to 36 hours), let the yeast settle, decant the starter beer, and pitch just the yeast slurry. Stir plates make the process even easier but aren't needed if you don't have one yet. There's much better info about this in the forum which you should be able to find easily enough. The wiki section probably spells out the process well, as would howtobrew.com.

You'd never generally make a starter for dry yeast, but in this case you want to pitch the entire starter at active fermentation, since pitching the yeast alone won't give you the results you want.
 

Flattop

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Note, for dry yeast it is common practice to re-hydrate it first, put it in a small jug of tepid water, after a while there should be a bit of activity as the yeast wakes up. Activity being a little foamy.

Some then add a small amount of dex or dme to increase the cell count before pitching but i just look for activity. One of my yeasts dropped to the bottom like a stone and did nothing and that was the only one that never worked.
 
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ak47clown

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Thanks Brian but it's not that I didn't understand how to make a starter-my kit came with dry yeast and I had read you can't really make a starter with dry yeast and as far as making one to try and revive my present brew-I didn't have the the necessary container and airlock to make a starter in so i figured rather than do nothing i might as well try the second package of dry yeast and see where it goes. Worse comes to worse, I'll consider this all a valuable learning experience and hopefully come up with something much better next time. In the meantime i'll continue to read and explore this forum as I've found a wealth of knowledge already in the past few days...
 
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ak47clown

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Well it appears all is not lost. 2 days after pitching some more yeast and having it in a warmer area for almost a week now and my FG looks like it is down to 1.012! Since i picked up a beer thief today at my LHBS, I couldn't help but sample the goods and surprisingly enough IT TASTES LIKE BEER! It's defintely a little on the hoppy side but I imagine that will mellow out a little in the bottling process but even if it were to stay like this I wouldn't mind! My next beer is gonna be an IPA anyway! I'm going to wait until Sat. now and take another reading and if all looks well i'm gonna bottle...
 

Blender

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A story with a good ending. Good work. The beer should mellow real nice in the bottle.

You had better make that IPA soon to get your stock up. I learned that early on in my beer making.:)
 
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