liquid condensing in airlock?

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seven77

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I'm new to this brewing thing but I'm a little puzzled at what's going on. Here's the situation. I brewed up another batch a week ago, today I noticed the airlock had quit bubbling. So I pry off my lid and to take a taste of the brew and a hydrometer reading. First of all, the brew tastes.... strange... it defiantly has a high alcohol content. It tastes so strange I'm not sure if I like it or not. The first thing I noticed after I took of the lid to my fermentor was the smell. I was almost knocked off my feet with the strong alcohol smell and something else that just didn't smell very good. So.... not sure what I should do, I racked to a secondary to get it off that yeast cake. (I was thinking that not-so-good smell was from the yeast eating each other and producing off-flavors.) I put the brew in the secondary about an hour ago. The air lock isn't bubbling, but once every 2 seconds a drop of some liquid forms and drips back down into the brew. I gave this a thought for a second or two and I'm guessing it's alcohol vapors condensing at the top of the airlock and dripping back down.

I brewed this batch with an intention of making a strong beer. I put about 9 lbs of fermentables in the brew.

Does anyone have any thoughts on my situation? I'm mainly curious at to what this liquid is. It's strange how it forms at the top of the fermentor. There is no mist or haze from multiple drops of liquid. It forms in one spot, builds up and drips. It's very consistent, 1 drip every 2 seconds.
 
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seven77

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Ok, sorry for double-posting... but the situation has devoloped a little. I noticted that the liquid was actually collecting inside my airlock (I use a 3-piece airlock which has vent holes on the sides), so I realized that the end of the airlock wasn't fully extruding from my rubber stopper. I tasted the liquid, and it was water.

I still don't know how water could condensate so quickly inside that airlock, as it's only 69F in here... AND I still don't know how the water could get into that position in the first place. I'm also worried about the taste of the brew a little too--which I'm hoping will mellow out after aging a little.
 

homebrewer_99

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Did you keep notes while brewing? If so, what's the recipe and what notes did you take?

Just cut and paste them into this thread so we can all see it and come up with an answer for you.

In the meantime, don't do anything with it. Let's try to save it if something really is wrong.
 
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seven77

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homebrewer_99 said:
Did you keep notes while brewing? If so, what's the recipe and what notes did you take?

Just cut and paste them into this thread so we can all see it and come up with an answer for you.

In the meantime, don't do anything with it. Let's try to save it if something really is wrong.

Ya, I took notes. Here's the ingredients I used.

6lbs "American Amber Liquid Malt"
2.5lbs "Laaglander gold DME"
1lbs clover honey
1st flavoring hops 1.5oz perle
2nd flavoring (after 30 minutes) 1oz cascade
aromatic - 3/4oz cascade
(all pellet hops)

and "Saflager" dried lager yeast (hydrated 2 hours before pitching)

... lets see here.... in my notes I wrote: massive boilovers, lost lots of malts. Pitched yeast at 70F. Starting Gravity 1.055 @ 75F. Active fermentation in less than 18hours.

... then I wrote some temps down between 68F and 71F were recorded of the temperatures on various days.


The recipe is a variation of a steam style beer recipe that I tried and enjoyed immensely. This one I added more DME (1.5lbs extra), the honey, and a dash more hops.
 

Tophe

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Im pretty new to this too, but I wouldnt worry about the condensation. When the yeast is fermenting it creates a little heat and you will get liquids to condense. I know when i opened my fermenter the first time, there was condensed water on the lid. Im pretty sure thats normal.

The smell and taste im not real sure about b/c of lack of experience but the taste could be a little funny just because its not matured yet, or possible infection. But then again im brewin my 3rd batch right now and haven't had an infected batch yet...hopefully i never do, but it happens.
 
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seven77

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Tophe96 said:
Im pretty new to this too, but I wouldnt worry about the condensation. When the yeast is fermenting it creates a little heat and you will get liquids to condense. I know when i opened my fermenter the first time, there was condensed water on the lid. Im pretty sure thats normal.

The smell and taste im not real sure about b/c of lack of experience but the taste could be a little funny just because its not matured yet, or possible infection. But then again im brewin my 3rd batch right now and haven't had an infected batch yet...hopefully i never do, but it happens.


Ya, I noticed the condensation before too.. yet I was concerned about the rate of the liquid buildup and the manner it was condensing. You throw in the strange taste and smell... well the whole thing is fishy.
 

rightwingnut

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The airlock...and the bucket itself..is like a little greenhouse. Anything that evaporates cannot escape easily, and can condense...
 

homebrewer_99

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OK, the subject is condensation. I thought you were concerned about an off smell or something like that.

To quote a fellow brewer, "Relax, have a homebrew!"

There's no need to worry about condensation. It's just water from the brew. How could it hurt itself?

On the subject of the overboils...when the wort starts boiling and the water level rises in the pot you need to turn the heat down half way and slide the pot half way off of the burner. Let it subside for a minute (a figure of speech, not an actual time) and return it to the heat. It will begin to boil again with the lower flame. Chances are you will be alright after that.

Question: How much water are you boiling and what is the size of your pot?

With 9.5 lbs of sugar your OG should read closer to 1.075 than 55. You're still going to end up with a good beer (about 4.5%) so don't sweat it. Just stay by your pot during the first 10 minutes until you get to the hot break. After that you can even go to the store without worrying about another boil over. Of course when you add more hops at, let's say 30 minutes, you're going to get the same reaction and another high boil.

The point is you have to watch the pot whenever you add something to it.

You have to change your thought on measuring your hops by the oz. I recommend you start measuring the AA's instead. This measurement is more precise.

Judging from what you told me you really do not have anything to worry about.

Just let nature take its course and don't try to rush it.

Listen to the comments of the other long time brewers and they all (sooner or later) will say things like "I tried this or that and it was good, but 2 months later it was "fantastic"" or something to that effect.

Now, let's translate that into simple English. For several months this brewer has been "sampling" his batch every other night. Now 2 months later it tastes great! That means you should also slow down on the sampling. The result is 2 months down the road you will have a case to drink where they only had 3 beers left. Fermentation and carbonation are natural processes that you can not speed up. So don't worry about what you know you can't change. Just accept the fact that if you waited just a little bit your reward will be greater.

I'm still drinking beer that I bottled in Sep and Oct. I have 8 cases of beers (that are going to disappear during the Super Bowl party in my theater room with my 65" HDTV) in the garage. I have another 2 batches in the garage that are lagering in the winter cold. I have another 2 batches (I just finished another Czech Bud that I call "Billvar") in the primary.

Last January I spent a long weekend in the Czech Republic in Prague and the town of Ceske Budejuvice ("Budweis" in German) where the original Budweiser comes from. I've been there several times (first time in 1991) just to drink REAL Bud for 53 cents a half liter glass! I moved back to the States from Germany last Feb. I used to live 1.5 hours from CR and another 1.5 hours to Prague. Budweis was just another 1.5 hour drive.



EDIT: OK, I re-read your thread and see what the problem is. I'm certain you fermented at too warm a temp. Not to worry though.

Let your batch sit for another week in the secondary and take a gravity reading. I use the plastic tube on a stand for my hydrometer and taste the "sample" used to measure the gravity. If you still have an intense alcohol smell then you will probably need to do some dry hopping to balance out the flavor.

Let us know what the reading and flavor is like in a week from now.

I think your beer will be OK so don't worry.
 

ChrisKoivu

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When you have a lot of fermentables, you got to let the yeast do its job. I wouldnt have taken the lid off during the primary fermentation. I would have left it alone, because it could take at least 10 days to ferment with that many fermentables. Then, if I wanted to clear things up, then I would put it in my secondary. Are you using a fresh batch of yeast with this brew? If you are, then the off flavors are not from the yeast. When you mentioned that you had smelled an alcohol smell, it indicates to me that you are still early in the fermentation process, as yeast produces alcohol first, then mellows out to produce the yeasty beer taste. You also have to take in account that if you are using a lager yeast, what temperatures you are fermenting at. If it aint cold, the yeast is sleeping. You might want to use an ale yeast in the future.
 
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seven77

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homebrewer_99 said:
EDIT: OK, I re-read your thread and see what the problem is. I'm certain you fermented at too warm a temp. Not to worry though.

Let your batch sit for another week in the secondary and take a gravity reading. I use the plastic tube on a stand for my hydrometer and taste the "sample" used to measure the gravity. If you still have an intense alcohol smell then you will probably need to do some dry hopping to balance out the flavor.

Let us know what the reading and flavor is like in a week from now.

I think your beer will be OK so don't worry.


OK. I'll do that. My hydrometer reading yesterday was 1.021
 

Janx

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Was it definitely condensation? Was the beer moved to a cooler location and was pulling water backwards through the airlock?

Just a thought. Either way, sounds like all you need is a little patience and relaxin :D
 

homebrewer_99

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I agree with Janx. When you move the carboy from a warmer area to a cooler area the pressure inside can draw (suck) the water from the airlock into the carboy.

Either way, I wouldn't worry about a litlle bit of water.

At 1.021 your gravity is still a bit high. Leave it alone for another week and recheck it then.
 
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seven77

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I bottled that questionable batch today. The gravity was 1.014. That "strange" taste is completely gone now. It tastes good (hoppy, but that's how I wanted it), but a little raw. I plan on aging it for a month.

The "condensation" wasn't actually condensation at all. Like I said in my earlier post, it was water from the airlock being sucked into the inner-tube of the airlock. Apparently somehow I created a vacuum within the tube and it was sucking the water from the chamber around it. I have a few theorys of why this was happening, but I don't have a physics degree.... so I don't know for sure.

Anyhow, just following up on this like I said I would.

Laters.
 

homebrewer_99

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That "sucking action" is actually cause by a change and equilization in atmospheric pressure between inside and outside of the bottle.

1.014 is a good gravity for mead, but the lower the better. You want to ferment all the fermentables as possible.

Other than that it all sounds like it is on track and you should have nothing to worry about.

I do recommend you put some kind of labels on (some of) your bottles just in case you do save a few for a couple of years.
 

Garrett_McT

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I'm new to this brewing thing but I'm a little puzzled at what's going on. Here's the situation. I brewed up another batch a week ago, today I noticed the airlock had quit bubbling. So I pry off my lid and to take a taste of the brew and a hydrometer reading. First of all, the brew tastes.... strange... it defiantly has a high alcohol content. It tastes so strange I'm not sure if I like it or not. The first thing I noticed after I took of the lid to my fermentor was the smell. I was almost knocked off my feet with the strong alcohol smell and something else that just didn't smell very good. So.... not sure what I should do, I racked to a secondary to get it off that yeast cake. (I was thinking that not-so-good smell was from the yeast eating each other and producing off-flavors.) I put the brew in the secondary about an hour ago. The air lock isn't bubbling, but once every 2 seconds a drop of some liquid forms and drips back down into the brew. I gave this a thought for a second or two and I'm guessing it's alcohol vapors condensing at the top of the airlock and dripping back down.

I brewed this batch with an intention of making a strong beer. I put about 9 lbs of fermentables in the brew.

Does anyone have any thoughts on my situation? I'm mainly curious at to what this liquid is. It's strange how it forms at the top of the fermentor. There is no mist or haze from multiple drops of liquid. It forms in one spot, builds up and drips. It's very consistent, 1 drip every 2 seconds.
It seems as though most people touched upon the original question of this thread, with some other detours along the way.

Seven77, you said that your pitching temperature was 70 degrees F, and some of your temperature readings during fermentation were at times as low as 68 degrees F. I hope my education in civil engineering can help here. There are two ways that could have attributed to the airlock situation. One the pressure of the room (or fridge, or cooler or whatever your fermentation vessel is stored in) is of a higher pressure than the inside of the fermentation vessel, or the pitching temperature inside your fermentation vessel (when you sealed the fermentation vessel) was higher than the temperature at the time that the airlock situation presented itself. You were correct in the fact that you created a vacuum in your fermentation vessel. In either scenario, pressure or temperature differences, you essentially condensed the air in the headspace of your fermentation vessel, and a very low aspect the liquid as well (but its so low in the liquid condensing it is negligible). That is what is causing the liquid in your airlock (you put water, I always put sanitizer to keep a clean seal) to be sucked into the bucket itself. Regardless if you noticed condensation on the bottom of the lid of your fermentation vessel or not, since you are condensing the air in the headspace of the fermentation vessel you are as well condensing the liquid which is in the air of the headspace, this is due to a change in the vapor pressure (the pressure at which gaseous water becomes liquid).

In a lot of situations people, books, and forums suggest pitching at a lower temperature than optimum for the yeast culture to allow the yeast to raise the temperature to be within the range. The yeast culture creates an exothermic reaction, meaning it produces energy in the form of heat and puts into the system it is surrounded by. The added benefit of pitching at a lower temperature is for the fact it allows a more effective lag phase, AKA growth phase, of the yeast. This in turn allows the yeast to create the appropriate by products to have a good healthy fermentation, avoiding production of precursors or actual compounds which contribute to off flavors and off aromas. You can do the opposite, pitch at a slightly higher than optimum temperature which allows the wort to cool further and has generally the same outcome as explained. The down side of this is the negative pressure which pulls the airlock back into the fermentation vessel, although this doesn't happen most of the time because it requires a drastic and large change in temperature. I did not do the calcs for the theoretical number, but I would have to say around 5-8 degrees difference/change in/delta. The reason I pitch over optimum temperature not lower than optimum is because of pure laziness and cheapness. I do not own a wort chiller and do not want to stand forever over top of an ice bath. Generally I have not had an issue with the over temp pitch, but if you are going for quality, and have money on the line, under temp pitch is the way to go.

As for the off flavor and aroma. The flavor is definitely due to green beer. I won't go into too much detail because this can just be found out through experience and tasting, but aging beer is generally good for most beers. Unless of course that style of beer is supposed to be consumed fresh, like hefeweizens or kolchs. But....what I think was the problem of the off aroma of the fermenting beer is CO2. This is something that I tend to forget when I am excited about the beer that I am fermenting and forget to turn my brain on when opening the fermentation vessel. CO2 is not good to breathe, especially in large quantities. I have had a few times over the past 3.5 years to 4 years of home brewing, I open the fermentor and immediately bury my face below the level of the top of the bucket to get that fresh smell, only to realize that it is 100% all CO2, my nostrils burn, I get a slight headache and don't want to open my eyes. CO2 weighs more than oxygen so while fermentation occurs it pushes all the oxygen out through the airlock and leaves behind all the CO2 that the yeast produce during fermentation. So essentially when I do that I am suffocating myself and also breathing in nothing more than CO2...yay me!
 

IslandLizard

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Holy necro, Batman! To the time machine! Set the controls for 2005!
We should all "Like" the reply by @Garrett_McT! Not just for his effort, more for the hints many homebrewers can learn from.

His reply surely deserves an entry on our necropost awards list. If we had one.
[Edit] Now we do:
 
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Garrett_McT

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We should all "Like" the reply by @Garrett_McT! Not just for his effort, more for the hints many homebrewers can learn from.

His reply surely deserves an entry on our necropost awards list. If we had one.
[Edit] Now we do:
lol! thats funny!

Honestly I was searching google for other people who had condensing problems. Mine is with a lager fermentation.

This is my first post and I did not know what this necropost was. Thats pretty funny! Hey theres no such thing as bad publicity!
 

bracconiere

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lol! thats funny!

Honestly I was searching google for other people who had condensing problems. Mine is with a lager fermentation.

This is my first post and I did not know what this necropost was. Thats pretty funny! Hey theres no such thing as bad publicity!

I remember my first post in the fridgid thread called "happiness is homemalting" ...was googling, thought i could add something to it....

a year after that i decided to start playing word games here....

/But, pouncing on a 16-year necro post is low-hanging fruit.

1626644194580.png
 

Garrett_McT

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I remember my first post in the fridgid thread called "happiness is homemalting" ...was googling, thought i could add something to it....

a year after that i decided to start playing word games here....



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