Underpitching

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businesstime

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As a first-time brewer, I'm obviously nervous about the wrongs and rights I've done and how my first batch will come out. I know what you'll say- relax, have a homebrew :)

My latest concern comes from reading the website of the yeast I purchased (actually given by a friend, whom normally does not brew high-gravity beers). It's wyeast Laboratories "Activator": Wyeast Laboratories. Activator™

The package said enough yeast to innoculate 5 gallons of wort. However, the web site further explains for SG 1.034-1.06. My SG was ~1.075. I've also read that under pitching can lead to slow/incomplete fermentation (mine didn't start until 40 hours and lasted about 2 days). And can also lead to fusel alcohols (my wort tasted "hot" when moving it to my secondary). So, should I worry/wait or is there anything I can really do at this point?

Thanks!
 

beersydoesit

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I don't think there is anything to do at this point.
Don't put much stock in how it tasted on the way to yhe secondary, its flavor will change as it clarifies and ages. It will probably turn out tasty.

Under pitching will more likely lead to fruity esters than incomplete fermentation I think.

Let it work a long time, watch your hydrometer and if your fermentation stops before you reach the desired FG you can try to restart it. There are threads for stuck fermentations.

Big beers need time though so be patient.

And for next time, starters are easy. Refer to Mr Malty For information.
To make a starter I have used 2 liter bottles or even better an empty apple juice bottle after I made Ed Wort's apfelwein.

Good luck.
 
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businesstime

businesstime

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Thanks for the advice. I wyeast came in a "smack pack", which I thought was the equivalent of a starter. Am I wrong?
 

david_42

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a "smack pack", which I thought was the equivalent of a starter.
An Activator is equivalent to a small starter. You needed a bigger one.
 

VTBrewer

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hmm. it's really not a small starter, when thinking of a starter as being boiled, cooled, and oxygenated wort that yeast can be dumped into and multiply in. It's just got some yeast food in it to wake them up and puff up, proving viability.

The activator is "supposed" to be enough to pitch to a 1.060 and below brew. A propagator def needs a starter. I make a starter with both, after smacking and proving yeast viability by seeing it swell. But swelling isn't increasing yeast counts...that's what a starter does.
 

VTBrewer

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And...since I hijacked the thread, let me get back on topic to the OP. :)

+1 to giving it time and watching your hydrometer. Proper temperature and time can go a long way in saving you money compared to what Mr Malty Pitching Rate Calculator says to spend. That being said, that calc is a great tool/basis to start with.

What did you make, not that there's much to do now anyway...but if you used a belgian strain I am guessing you're totally fine. If not, you're still going to have a good brew I bet. Did you take a reading when you went to secondary?

And welcome! :)
 
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businesstime

businesstime

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I'm making an IPA. Gravity going into the secondary was 1.03 (down from 1.075). I believe I made the mistake of splashing a bit in my first attempt at racking. For the first few hours in the secondary, bubbles re-appeared to once every 5 seconds, which lead me to believe there was still a little fermentation to be had. It continued to slow back down for about 48 more hours, until it eventually slowed to once per minute.
 

beersydoesit

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+1 An Activator is not a starter. It is just yeast and a little food to proof it.

Many, perhaps most, here on this site will tell you that an Activator needs a starter always, as will MrMalty. Even Wyeast says you need it for a big beer.

I often use an Activator w/o a starter for ales at 1.06 or lower, just like it says on the label.

Bigger starters will result in dryer, less fruity beers.

Remember MrMalty is good practice but not the only way to make good beer.

Brewing is art as well as science. Try things and see what works.
Soon you'll have some experience to draw on.

Good luck.
 

beersydoesit

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The splashing when you tried to rack won't hurt anything. Don't worry about it.

Don't trust the airlock for fermentation advice.
When you racked to secondary some CO2 came out of suspension. That is good, it will protect your beer in the secondary.
You don't know about fermentation unless you ask the hydrometer.

Be patient.
Your beer didn't taste infected when you transferred so you're on the right track.

Good luck
 
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businesstime

businesstime

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Thank you. Proper aeration and a good starter are the top two items I will recall for next time. Hopefully time will heal the "alcohol" taste in this batch, and if not, I will know better for next time.
 

VTBrewer

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I often use an Activator w/o a starter for ales at 1.06 or lower, just like it says on the label.
I OFTEN whimsically run to the LHBS on a Saturday morning when I wasn't planning to brew and pick up a recipe for that day. If it needs a special (ie: dry won't get it done) yeast I get the right Activator (and mine usually start with a 3 :) , smack it on my way home, and pitch it 4 hours later. Never a problem.
 
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