Things I ought to know about yeast but don't.

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clarenancy

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I'm sort of new to brewing and have been relatively successful with my beginner extract kits. At least I've gotten beer that I like to drink :)

Now I'm getting a little experimental, and experienced my 1st flat bottling job. This brings up some questions that I'm sure mean that I don't really understand the yeast. Like most cooks, you follow the recipe and hope you like it. Until you learn a little more.

So here I am.

I'm using dry yeast. I like the Belgian styles so SafAle BE-134 or 256 have been the main ones that have come with the kits I've used.

1. The BE-256 says ideal temps lower than 68° but acceptable up to 77°. I've used this one a few times on a Leffe clone and I've enjoyed the flavor and the ABV. And the carbonation in the bottle. I live in the deep south and don't cool my house anywhere near 67°, but if I did, how would this alter the outcome of my beer?

2. As I understand it, there is unspent yeast in the brew that the dextrose using while in the bottle. So, if I add honey for instance, at the end of the primary fermentation, am I going to tax or use up the yeast activity I need for bottle conditioning?

3. The one that came out a lot flatter than I'd like (not completely flat but disappointingly flat) was a golden strong. It taste good and is very high, maybe too high ABV. This recipe asked for 2 yeast packets and a very long 2ndary fermentation. Did I leave it too long and thus over use the yeast or is this likely a case of Clare didn't use enough dextrose when she bottled?


Thanks in advance for your knowledge.

Clare
 

hotbeer

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3) The one bottle or one batch?

If bottle, and you prime the beer before you bottle, which is what I do, then maybe you didn't mix it thoroughly. Fears of aeration probably have us not mixing well. But I've found that using pot with a shiny inside, I can see the refraction differences when light shines into it. So then I can be relatively assured it's mixed. Maybe not so sure if I aerated it, but one less worry.

If the batch, then I'd think the priming sugar calculation was off. How did you figure it?
 
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clarenancy

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Thanks for responding.

I haven't drank the whole batch, but so far, every bottle is flatter than I want. Not entirely flat but almost.

The instructions say 2/3 cup of corn sugar. I have a scoop that size and use it. Sometimes I add a little extra sucrose (about an ouce) but I'm not sure that I did that this time.
 

hotbeer

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I like to use a kitchen scale. Weighing ends most doubts about how much was really used for most anything.

Did you perhaps have more beer that you bottled than what was expected? That will leave you with not enough carbonation. Couple batches ago I did my priming solution for a 120 fl. oz but only bottled about 84 fl. oz. Every one a volcano.

Interestingly the over carb'd beers seem to go flat almost as soon as the foam subsides. Not sure if that's the nature of over carb'd beer or if that indicates I may have an another issue. Maybe the same as your issue.

I'm too noob to have an idea for anything else. But I'm sure someone will come along soon with some ideas.
 

MaxStout

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Hi Clare, and welcome to HBT!

A few thoughts on your questions:

1. Ferm temps can greatly alter the outcome, some good, some bad. If you're having trouble maintaining temps you could set the fermenter in what's called a swamp cooler. Just a big bucket or plastic bin, filled with water. You can add ice (or better yet, freeze water in plastic pop bottles and drop in a few throughout the day). Put an old t-shirt or towel over the fermenter and let the water wick upwards, and run a small fan on it. The evaporation, plus the cool water, will keep the temps down. I'm not overly familiar with BE-134 or 256, but many Belgian yeasts do well if you pitch on the cool end of their range, then let the temp naturally float upwards after a few days.

2. Usually, there is a fairly large population of yeast remaining after primary fermentation is done. If you add the honey (or any fermentable sugar) later in ferm, the yeast will ferment that as well. After that there will generally be enough viable yeast remaining for bottle-conditioning, unless the alcohol level is so high that it's died off. Check the yeast's alcohol tolerance, if your beer is close to that maximum, you might want to repitch some yeast at bottling time. Most any neutral yeast will do, like US-05, Nottingham, or CBC-1.

3. If your Belgian strong is under-carbed, it may be that the yeast pooped out on you, due to the high alcohol. Next time, you could repitch some fresh yeast before bottling, as mentioned in #2.
 
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clarenancy

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MaxStout,

Thanks. That's good info.

That swamp cooler method is how i chill after brewing. However, not with the tshirt. My groundwater is 80° out of the tap this time of year. This is why a wort chiller is no good for me. But I have a vast collection of those cooler blocks that ship with the vaccines given in our clinic. Using a galvanized washtub, I surround my kettle with those in water. Takes about 20 minutes. I'll try getting it cooler before pitching next time. But I couldn't maintain it more than a day or two. Work!

Your description of my uncarbed problem is what I suspected. How much yeast would you add? Would you bottle immediately? Would want exploding beer!

I'll buy some cheep yeast to mitigate that.
 
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Golddiggie

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For temperature control, during fermentation, you could build a fermentation chamber.

There's threads on that here. I built one last year, before I switched over to conicals and a glycol chiller to keep things under control. It also gives me more thermal flexibility with the batches (can have two fermenters at two different temperatures at the same time). The chamber uses a small fridge (usually under $200) as the cooling part. A PID controls when it turns on and off depending on the temperature in the chamber. Use 2x4 to make the frame, OSB for the skin (inside especially) and rigid foam insulation to keep it stable. Just be sure to make it narrow enough to go through any doors you have between where you make it and where it will live. I made that mistake at the start and had to take it apart, modify, put it back together and then wheel it into the room. Yes, DO put caster wheels (four) with at least two capable of being locked on it. That way you can easily move it around even when loaded with fermenters. Just be sure to get wheels that are rated for the weight going into it (don't cut it too close on those numbers).

Added benefit of the chamber is you can also set it up to be a warming chamber for winter times if you need to. Basically, you can better control the temperature your beer is fermenting at year round. Fermentation temperature control is one of the easy ways to improve the quality of your beer.

I will ask how you're oxygenating your wort before you pitch the yeast in? For higher OG batches, oxygenation is even more important. The yeast require O2 in order to make strong cell walls during their replication phase. I've been using pure O2 to oxygenate my wort for about a decade now. For a long time it was using a sintered stone on a stainless wand that I'd put into the chilled wort before pitching. Run the O2 through that into the beer and then pitch the yeast (1-2Lpm for anywhere from 1-3 minutes depending on batch size and OG). I've changed my method to be at my plate chiller wort out port before it runs into fermenter. Just one less thing to do post chill to the wort before pitching the yeast. Using pure O2 I've had yeast go beyond they're listed ABV tolerance.

Are you using any yeast nutrient in these batches. Again, higher OG batches benefit from this.
 

MaxStout

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For re-pitching just prior to bottling, about 1/4 of a packet of dry yeast is plenty for a 5 gal batch. Carefully stir the yeast in the beer just before bottling to evenly distribute it.

Repitching doesn't cause bottle-bombs. Having incomplete fermentarion and/or adding too much priming sugar is what can cause it. Make sure fermentation is done. Take a couple successive gravity readings a day or two apart. If they are the same, it's ready to bottle.

Use one of the online calculators to determine the right amount of sugar to use for the desired CO2 volumes. If you have an accurate kitchen scale, weigh the sugar--much more reliable than going by volume in cups.

A fermentation chamber is a big help in making better beer. A small chest freezer and a low-cost temp controller, like Inkbird, is all you need.
 

jrgtr42

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How long was the secondary on that flat beer?
Generally it'd take a couple months for enough yeast to die off to affect anything - though I did a cider a while back that I just never got around to secondary, and didn't repitch when bottling. It still ended up with plenty of carbonation, even after 6 months fermenting.
|And like the others said, fermentation temps are one of the biggest differences that you can make that will drastically improve your beer. You don't even need to spend a ton of money. Check the size of your fermenters (are you using ale pails or the like?) and keep tabs on Craigslist or FB Marketplace. Eventually you'll see a fridge or chest freezer for cheap or even free. Add in a temp controller, you can find Inkbirds for $30 or so on Amazon, and you're good to go. You don't need to keep the fridge plugged in unless you're actually using it, so old and energy inefficient doesn't really matter. If you want to get fancy, a 2-way controller, and a heating pad will allow pinpoint control of temps.
 
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