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Hydrometer - Need help urgently

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jeffrideal

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I am brewing my first batch of beer, a Fuggles IPA kit. I forgot to use the hydrometer before I added my yeast and sealed the lid on the first stage plastic bucket fermenter. Should I open the fermenter and do a test or not worry about it?

Thanks!
 

smorris

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It should be ok to open it for a quick check, just make sure you keep everything clean and don't let the cat fall in. :D
 

rightwingnut

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I took a reading on my first batch today, but then with the stress of the rubber grommet for the airlock falling into the beer, and trying to fish it out with the spoon, I forgot the reading. Guess I should've written it down. I'm not worried about it, though. I see readings as only important if you want to hone a brew to specific specifications, or want immaculate records.
 

smorris

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The reading are useful to let you know when primary fermentation is done and to determine alcohol content.
 
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jeffrideal

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Thanks all! I did take a reading and figured I was pretty clean. Rightwing, you had me laughing on your story.

Next question, should I worry or just add a few more days if the beer temp is 64 (I am brewing an ale and they recommend 66 or higher for ales)? Thanks in advance.
 

richanne

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It will probably take a little longer to ferment than it would at a higher temperature. Just keep taking readings and when they stop dropping, you'll know it's done.
Has your yeast gotten started yet? Sometimes if the environment is too cold for your yeast, it may be slow getting started.
 
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jeffrideal

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Actually, I have the 3 piece fermenter lock and there are only tiny bubbles (a few) that I can see. When I looked this morning, it appears as though the inside piece (the inverted cup float) has risen from last night. So it seems as though the yeast has taken, but not much bubble activity. Should I see more activity (bubbles) in the fementer lock or will I just see the inside piece move higher above the stem? Also, in the first stage fermentation, should I use the lock or should I use the blow tube? Thanks again!

Jeff
 

Janx

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Just throw the darn thing away! When your beer stops bubbling, it's done. It'll go faster in hot, slower in cold, but it'll work, and taking tests won't change anything.

Hydrometers make people worry, and worrying is antithetical to homebrewing. I've made 40 gallons of beer this week, and I don't own a hydrometer. I bet I'll still know when it's time to keg ;)

Janx
 

Janx

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jeffrideal said:
Actually, I have the 3 piece fermenter lock and there are only tiny bubbles (a few) that I can see. When I looked this morning, it appears as though the inside piece (the inverted cup float) has risen from last night. So it seems as though the yeast has taken, but not much bubble activity. Should I see more activity (bubbles) in the fementer lock or will I just see the inside piece move higher above the stem? Also, in the first stage fermentation, should I use the lock or should I use the blow tube? Thanks again!

Jeff
I think you're overanalyzing it, as new brewers tend to do. If it's not bubbling, it hasn't started (but it most likely will) or it's done. If you aren't sure, wait a few days. The yeast will settle, the beer will clarify considerably, and your beer will be better having waited.

It's rare to let a beer sit for too long, but lots of new folks tend to jump the gun and drink beer green.

As for the airlock or blow tube, both get ruined if they get all full of sticky foam, so it's mostly a cost issue. Best thing is to ferment in a vessel large enough that you don't have blow-off, and then just use an airlock.

Janx
 
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jeffrideal

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Janx,

Thanks, it has started bubbling and you are right, I am over analyzing this. I am just going to tack a few extra days onto every stage and be patient.

Jeff

Meanwhile, I will settle for a Stoudt's Double IPA
 

richanne

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I'm glad it started bubbling. It was probably just a little slow to get started because of the lower temperature. While fretting is not good, I would urge you not to through away your hydrometer, as has been suggested here. It's a very valuable tool, although everyone may not want to use one. In addition to the advantages regarding knowing when fermentation is done, charting gravity tells you the alcohol percentage. Plus, if you ever want to enter contests some day, you'll need gravity readings.
 

Janx

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Contests - good point. You need gravity for that.

I don't mean to sound critical, BTW. I just want you folks who are new to this to understand that the books will make you feel like there is LOTS of stuff to worry about. There isn't, unless you want to. Focus on sanitation and you'll be in good shape. When the bubbles stop, it's done.

I don't enter contests. I don't use a hydrometer. I ALWAYS know when my beer is done ;)

And I usually have a good idea of the alcohol content, too...there's a more fun way to test that than a hydrometer :D

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Janx said:
Hydrometers make people worry, and worrying is antithetical to homebrewing. I've made 40 gallons of beer this week, and I don't own a hydrometer. I bet I'll still know when it's time to keg ;)

Janx
40g, I aspire to reach your level! :cool: but not with bottles... :mad:
 

smorris

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Hydrometers make people worry, and worrying is antithetical to homebrewing.
I don't think it makes them worry, or it shouldn't. It is just another tool in the box to gather data about your brewing process. I never worry about whether to use a screwdriver or hammer, I just grab the right tool for the job and get it done. Same with brewing.
 

Janx

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smorris said:
I don't think it makes them worry, or it shouldn't. It is just another tool in the box to gather data about your brewing process. I never worry about whether to use a screwdriver or hammer, I just grab the right tool for the job and get it done. Same with brewing.
I'll agree it shouldn't make people worry. But since brewing is much less intuitively transparent to most people than, say, pounding in a nail, new brewers often stress and want to make sure they're doing everything right. At first, brewing is very task-intensive, and prioritizing which tasks are important to making good beer is difficult for new brewers.

Which is why I say, if it stresses you out, don't use the hydrometer. And certainly don't go pulling tons of samples worrying whether the beer is done. It'll finish. Just wait. Remember, there is no need to bottle or keg the instant it is done fermenting. Waiting a little longer after fermentation visibly stops will make your beer better-tasting in every way and ensure that it is actually done so no bottle grenades

In my opinion, patience eliminates the need for a hydrometer and improves your beer quality besides. Taking hydrometer readings doesn't add to the fun for me personally so I don't do it. YMMV :D

Janx
 

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i got a hydrometer with the kit my brother sent me. i used it once but it really is a bit technical for my tastes.

i'm in janx corner on this one :)

beer ain't all that complicated...

A barrel of malt, a bushel of hops, you stir it around with a stick
The kind of lubrication to make your engine tick
 

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I ferment 5 gallons in 6 1/2 gallon carboys. I like to get an idea of what the starting gravity is to help me decide whether I'll need a blow off tube or whether an air lock will suffice. If the reading is 1.050 or above I use a blow off tube... below that I usually don't bother.
 
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jeffrideal

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I tried to clean and sterilize my fermenter lock after the explosion and actually melted the inside piece. I do have the blow off tube now, is it ok to continue using this for the rest of the fementation?

Thanks!
 

Witbier

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jeffrideal said:
I tried to clean and sterilize my fermenter lock after the explosion and actually melted the inside piece. I do have the blow off tube now, is it ok to continue using this for the rest of the fementation?

Thanks!
Sure if you have the end of the tube submerged in an antiseptic solution of some kind.
 
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jeffrideal

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Since I originally started this post on Jan. 9th, I am still waiting on the secondary fermentation to finish. I have yet to bottle, but am hoping my patience will pay off. JANX, what do you think, have I waited to long, (over a month in fermentation)?
 

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I think all you brewers who DO NOT use a hydrometer are doing a disservice to all the newbies by telling them to NOT to use one either.

Just because you don't enter your beers in contests means nothing. I've only ever entered one HB contest and won Best of Show and Best of Style and beat out over 100 other beers. Can I duplicate my recipe? You betcha!

Just because the bubbles "go away" doesn't mean your beer is ready for bottling. I've had a batch of lager in the secondary for 2 months and its gravity has decreased from 1.020 to 1.016 in that time.

The purpose of a hydrometer is to measure and record the fermentation so you can repeat it.

Believe it or not, brewing is a CONTROLLED EXPERIMENT. Without records of readings and temperatures you WILL NEVER be able to duplicate your recipes. Close is not good enough. I do not invest all my hard earned $$$ into this hobby just to throw it away on a failed recipe. Maybe some of you do, but I don't.

And, in answering this thread, once you put yeast into your wort and it starts fermenting you will get a false OG reading.

Be sure to check your FG though. You want to make sure your beer is done (for the style).

No offense to either one of you guys, but Jeffrideal, how do you think Janx can you tell if your beer is done? His "crystal ball" or years of experience, maybe? Only you should be able to tell. If you took your readings as recommended in ALL of the brewing books then you may find that you didn't need to wait an extra month.

Your knowledge of and the proper use of all the tools (for any hobby) takes ALL the guess work out of the equation.

Good luck.
 

Janx

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homebrewer_99 said:
I think all you brewers who DO NOT use a hydrometer are doing a disservice to all the newbies by telling them to NOT to use one either.
I assume you mean me. I have never told people not to use one, but rather to use one only if it adds to the enjoyment of brewing. If it does not, my suggestion was to stop using a hydrometer, since it is not neceessary to use one to brew beer. I stand by that assertion completely. Unless the hydrometer readings add to the experience and fun, don't use it. A lot of brewers on this board agree.

homebrewer_99 said:
Just because the bubbles "go away" doesn't mean your beer is ready for bottling. I've had a batch of lager in the secondary for 2 months and its gravity has decreased from 1.020 to 1.016 in that time.
Then there were bubbles :D

homebrewer_99 said:
The purpose of a hydrometer is to measure and record the fermentation so you can repeat it.
I really don't know what you mean by this. I can replicate my recipes by using the same ingredients, following the same mash schedule, adding hops at the same time, and fermenting in the same conditions. Where does a hydrometer enter the picture?

For example, you brew a batch and take an OG and a FG. Now you want to replicate it. If you use the same malts, you can assume the OG will be in the same ballpark. But what if it isn't? In other words, at the end of your mash, the gravity is too low. Do you augment with DME? Because that will certainly change the beer. I just don't see how you can say that taking gravity readings helps you replicate a recipe. I'll agree that it helps you know how closely you have replicated a recipe, but you still have to figure out how to correct any discrepancies. A hydrometer certainly doesn't help you do that. Personally, I wouldn't be concerned about a little difference in gravity (if I bothered to check), wouldn't try to correct it, so I don't care what the gravity was in the first place.

More importantly, there are not discrepancies. Same ingredients, same mash and you get the same OG.

homebrewer_99 said:
Believe it or not, brewing is a CONTROLLED EXPERIMENT.
I believe it. Do you? You're acting as though using a hydrometer takes the experimental aspect out of it. All it does is show you what happened. It does not help you make it happen.

homebrewer_99 said:
Without records of readings and temperatures you WILL NEVER be able to duplicate your recipes.
Utter nonsense. I don't use a hydrometer and can easily and often do duplicate recipes.

homebrewer_99 said:
Close is not good enough. I do not invest all my hard earned $$$ into this hobby just to throw it away on a failed recipe. Maybe some of you do, but I don't.
LOL. This is really amusing. Why is close not good enough? As you say, it's an experiment, and most of us do it for fun. Sometimes a batch that is close to another batch you have made will be a great improvement. You act as if we should have the attitude of commercial breweries who MUST replicate brews exactly. As homebrewers we are not shackled by such constraints. Close is good enough. Far is good enough. Way out into left field is good enough.

And now you have somehow tried to link the failure to use a hydrometer to this bizarre disaster scenario of "failed recipes". You never made that point for sure. What about the first time you try a recipe? It's exactly this stressed-out attitude that a lot of us don't need in our brewing. It's exactly that attitude that I want to point out is unnecessary to the newer brewers, unless that's how they have fun with this hobby. Newer brewers tend to have enough to stress over, and I'm trying to help them prioritize by putting hydrometer readings at the bottom of the list.

I'm always making up new recipes, and I find out what it tastes like when it's done. A hydrometer would not help make that more perfect beer. I never have a "failed recipe" whatever that is...like a batch you dump because you don't like it? Never happens. Figure the style you want to make. Use a calculator to get bitterness/color/gravity right, and you'll be in good shape every time.

homebrewer_99 said:
Be sure to check your FG though. You want to make sure your beer is done (for the style).
See here's the thing. How does taking a FG tell you it's done? Because it matches some recipe in a book? Well, in the real world, your beer may not have read the book. It may ferment more or less dry. You may spend eternity waiting for it to reach a FG that will never happen, or you may bottle at your expected FG only to find you did it too early because it wants to ferment drier. I prefer to use my senses I can trust...sight, smell, taste. To each his own.

homebrewer_99 said:
Your knowledge of and the proper use of all the tools (for any hobby) takes ALL the guess work out of the equation.
Sorry, but that statement is utterly untrue. There are always a lot of variables, and you can't quantify them all with a SG number.

You and I just have different attitudes towards brewing and different things we want to get out of it. I have no need for a hydrometer yet can still replicate brews no problem. Go figure. My only broader point about hydrometers is that you don't need them to brew, so don't use one if you don't want to. Your primary reason for using one, that it is necessary for replicating recipes, is something I disagree with absolutely. Even if you were correct in that assertion, though, a hydrometer would still not be neccessary to brew.

And why would I want all the guesswork out of brewing? I guess I'm just a more laid back brewer than you are, but guesswork and playing around is a big reason I like doing this. If I wanted a known quantity, I'd buy a commercial six-pack.

No offense intended and to each his own, but I did want to clarify my position on hydrometers. Use them if you like and it adds to the enjoyment, but they are not necessary to brew great beer or repeat recipes.
 

Janx

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jeffrideal said:
Since I originally started this post on Jan. 9th, I am still waiting on the secondary fermentation to finish. I have yet to bottle, but am hoping my patience will pay off. JANX, what do you think, have I waited to long, (over a month in fermentation)?
Is the airlock still bubbling? Has the yeast settled out? Why are you still waiting?

A month definitely seems like a long time if the temperature range was good. But if it's still bubbling, then it's still fermenting. I have a bock still fermenting after 2 months. This crazy new lager yeast I'm trying is taking forever.
 

homebrewer_99

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Janx said:
I assume you mean me. I have never told people not to use one, but rather to use one only if it adds to the enjoyment of brewing. If it does not, my suggestion was to stop using a hydrometer, since it is not neceessary to use one to brew beer. I stand by that assertion completely. Unless the hydrometer readings add to the experience and fun, don't use it. A lot of brewers on this board agree.

Sorry, but I think the hydrometer is as necessary a tool as a spoon to stir your wort. Without one you will never know (only GUESS) if your beer is ready (and "no bubbles for 3 days" is not an indicator...).

Then there were bubbles :D

None that I could see. But then again, I wasn't going to stand around for 20 minutes to see if one popped up.

I really don't know what you mean by this. I can replicate my recipes by using the same ingredients, following the same mash schedule, adding hops at the same time, and fermenting in the same conditions. Where does a hydrometer enter the picture?

You, my friend are only assuming every variable is the same. The point here is to try to duplicate them as closely as you can have control over the situation.

For example, you brew a batch and take an OG and a FG. Now you want to replicate it. If you use the same malts, you can assume the OG will be in the same ballpark. But what if it isn't? In other words, at the end of your mash, the gravity is too low. Do you augment with DME? Because that will certainly change the beer. I just don't see how you can say that taking gravity readings helps you replicate a recipe. I'll agree that it helps you know how closely you have replicated a recipe, but you still have to figure out how to correct any discrepancies. A hydrometer certainly doesn't help you do that. Personally, I wouldn't be concerned about a little difference in gravity (if I bothered to check), wouldn't try to correct it, so I don't care what the gravity was in the first place.

If you don't care about correctly replicating your recipe then I agree with you and your comments. But with a hydrometer you can "better guess" as to what you do need to do to better reach that goal. :D

More importantly, there are not discrepancies. Same ingredients, same mash and you get the same OG.

I believe it. Do you? You're acting as though using a hydrometer takes the experimental aspect out of it. All it does is show you what happened. It does not help you make it happen.

Utter nonsense. I don't use a hydrometer and can easily and often do duplicate recipes.

No, but a hydrometer will PROVE OUT (or CONFIRM) your procedures and amounts of ingredients for your experiment.

LOL. This is really amusing. Why is close not good enough? As you say, it's an experiment, and most of us do it for fun. Sometimes a batch that is close to another batch you have made will be a great improvement. You act as if we should have the attitude of commercial breweries who MUST replicate brews exactly. As homebrewers we are not shackled by such constraints. Close is good enough. Far is good enough. Way out into left field is good enough.

I agree. This whole experiment we call "homebrewing" should be fun for everyone involved. I am not stifling anyone's creativity in any way. Far from it. I am simply stating that a lot of these new brewers want to duplicate something they drank in a bar. The BEST way to do that is by using PROVEN brewing procedures and measured ingredients. The hydrometer is a tool that confirms that you have attained the prescribed level of fermentables.

And now you have somehow tried to link the failure to use a hydrometer to this bizarre disaster scenario of "failed recipes". You never made that point for sure. What about the first time you try a recipe? It's exactly this stressed-out attitude that a lot of us don't need in our brewing. It's exactly that attitude that I want to point out is unnecessary to the newer brewers, unless that's how they have fun with this hobby. Newer brewers tend to have enough to stress over, and I'm trying to help them prioritize by putting hydrometer readings at the bottom of the list.

I agree with the "stressed out" part, but what we call "stress" is something we internalize and put on ourselves because we are not sure of what we are doing. By using gages to measure "what should be" takes stress out of the equation. I mentioned in an earlier thread that even I called my son-in-law to assist me with my first batch. Was I uncertain of what I was doing and didn't want to ruin it? You betcha. Was I stressed? You betcha. Am I stressed whenever I start brewing? No way. I know how to control the situation.

I'm always making up new recipes, and I find out what it tastes like when it's done. A hydrometer would not help make that more perfect beer. I never have a "failed recipe" whatever that is...like a batch you dump because you don't like it? Never happens. Figure the style you want to make. Use a calculator to get bitterness/color/gravity right, and you'll be in good shape every time.

I've experimented with new flavors, malts and such myself. I've had beers come out too bitter, or should I say more bitter than I expected, as well as sweet beer. None of this has to do with the hydrometer. It's all in the hops, or lack of them balanced against the malts. Agreed. But I never threw any of it out. In the case of one too sweet and one too bitter it was an experiment of blending the 2 to get one good flavored beer. In homebrewing, 2 wrongs can make a right.

See here's the thing. How does taking a FG tell you it's done? Because it matches some recipe in a book? Well, in the real world, your beer may not have read the book. It may ferment more or less dry. You may spend eternity waiting for it to reach a FG that will never happen, or you may bottle at your expected FG only to find you did it too early because it wants to ferment drier. I prefer to use my senses I can trust...sight, smell, taste. To each his own.

Sorry, but that statement is utterly untrue. There are always a lot of variables, and you can't quantify them all with a SG number.

True, not all of them, but you can do your best to control what you can. In your case what works best for you may not be best for somone else. :D

You and I just have different attitudes towards brewing and different things we want to get out of it. I have no need for a hydrometer yet can still replicate brews no problem. Go figure. My only broader point about hydrometers is that you don't need them to brew, so don't use one if you don't want to. Your primary reason for using one, that it is necessary for replicating recipes, is something I disagree with absolutely. Even if you were correct in that assertion, though, a hydrometer would still not be neccessary to brew.

And why would I want all the guesswork out of brewing? I guess I'm just a more laid back brewer than you are, but guesswork and playing around is a big reason I like doing this. If I wanted a known quantity, I'd buy a commercial six-pack.

No offense intended and to each his own, but I did want to clarify my position on hydrometers. Use them if you like and it adds to the enjoyment, but they are not necessary to brew great beer or repeat recipes.
You have the right to disagree with me. As I with you. It's been fun. I am certain some of the readers will be able to use both of our input. :D

I made my replies BOLD as to bring them to the forefront and be able to pick out of your comments. I don't know how this will work, but here goes.....
 

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Well said, homebrewer_99. I'm glad to see we can agree to disagree on this one, and, as you say, others can take or leave whatever parts of our thinking suit them. Cheers! :D
 

uglygoat

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i was just waiting for the scantily clad ladies with the carboard signs with round 4 on it to arrive....;)

seriously i think it is a good discussion and offers alot to us newb brewers and look forward to more. you guys are obviously mature enough to disagree and continue to present both arguments in a well thought out, reasoned dialouge.

cheers guys !

:)
 
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I'll agree to agree with both of you. When I first started (Dec, 04) I was panicked on when fermenting is complete. Am I reading this thing right, don't contaminate AHHH!! etc etc. I'm no longer worrying and would agree I can make "beer" just fine without one but I also am a wee bit anal so like to keep track of this stuff as well. I'm sitting with a batch in the secondary right now that the last check I did was when I racked it. Previous batches in the secondary I'd check gravity and wait 3 days and check again. If the same I'd bottle. Visually I know its done and will check it when I transfer to the bottling bucket but won't do two checks this go-around. Sometimes I will, sometimes I won't but I'm no longer freaking out about it...
 

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I agree with your logic, but I don't freak out about the readings. I just like to know where I am.

I do take notes, sometimes step-by-step, of my brewing process just in case someone would ask/like to know what I did. All I have to do is pull out the doc or bring up the file.

I never said a hydrometer was imperative, just a useful tool. :D
 
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jeffrideal

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Going back to my question, is that I am at almost 5 weeks in the secondary on my IPA and it still has activity. I am not worried about it as I think the longer it is in there, the better. My question is what possible reasons can this still be fermenting. I live in the Shenandoah Valley (I say this because I am not at high altitude) and the temperature of the room I keep it in is probably an avg. of 64 degrees, well within the desired temp to ferment ale. The carboy has been bumped a few times, which may have shaken up some of the yeast on the bottom, but other than that I have no idea. I used Wyeast activator http://www.midwestsupplies.com/products/wyeast.asp
Any one have experience with this particular yeast?

Thanks!
 

Janx

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Bumping/shaking etc DOES NOT START FERMENTATION AGAIN ;) Sorry, it's just one of those things that comes up. It keeps fermenting if there's something to ferment: sugar.

I imagine you just made a kind of big IPA or the yeast is a bit slow and it's still going. I'd just be patient and wait until the activity stops. I have a bock that has been fermenting for months and a stout I made a couple days ago that's about done. You never know.

And hey, I used to live in the Shenandoah Valley. Went to school at JMU, then lived in Luray for a while when I worked at Masanutten Ski Resort and Shenandoah National Park. Small world! :D
 
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jeffrideal

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Berryville, VA
I work with a bunch JMU folks. I work in Herndon and live in Berryville. Should have kept your place in the area, you would have made a fortune. Real estate is through the roof here, with no decline anytime soon.

Thanks for the info. I did finally bottle this weekend with no bottle explosions.
 

Janx

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Yeah I never owned a place there, but my folks do. I bought a place in Northern California, which is doing pretty well real-estate-wise too ;)
 
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