what are the telltale signs of fermentation?

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greg75

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Sorry for the extremely newbie question, but I couldn't find a definitive answer on this. I brewed my first batch of beer this afternoon, and it's been in a plastic fermentation bucket for about five hours now. I filled the airlock with about 2 inches of sanitized water solution, and put the cap in.

What should I expect when fermentation takes off? Will there be a lot of activity in the airlock? As of right now, there are bubbles present in the water in the airlock, but I expected more volatile (for lack of a better word) activity to be taking place. Also, how long before fermentation really gets going?

One concern of mine is I hydrated the yeast in some pretty warm water (95-100 degrees Fahrenheit) before pitching it, which is what I read in the Papazian book. I'm now reading on various sites I've been perusing tonight that 70 degrees F is more appropriate. Did I possibly kill the yeast??? :confused:

Please, someone tell me I'm just being impatient and everything will be fine...
 

Orpheus

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Hey Greg,

Yeast hydration generally calls for warm water temperatures. 100 degrees will be fine. I know the packets of Muntons yeast I've used suggested rehydrating around 40 C (100-110 F.)

I've had fermentations take off in as little as four hours before, but you can expect anywhere from a couple hours to a couple of days depending on circumstances.

Right now you've got nothing to worry about. It sounds like you've done everything right and are well on your way to a great beer.

Once fermentation gets going, the airlock will go a little crazy. You can expect CO2 to vent out of there once every few seconds. It really is quite a sight to behold.:mug:
 
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greg75

greg75

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Thanks for the reassurances! :D I needed that.

If you don't mind answering another silly question of mine, I'd be much obliged. I'm a little embarassed to ask, but I'm new at this, and if I don't ask I'll never learn, so here goes : how does an airlock work? I mean, I understand how CO2 gas will vent out of the bucket through the airlock. I'm basically confused about the function of the water in the airlock. The stem where the CO2 vents through is well above the level of the water in the airlock. I guess I just don't understand the purpose of putting the water in the lock at all. :confused:
 

Orpheus

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The water basically acts as a barrier between your beer and the outside air. The outside air is full of bacteria, oxygen, wild yeast, and all sorts of other nasties that would love to get into your beer and drink it before you could ever get the chance!

Once your beer starts fermenting, CO2 is produced which forces the air that was in your carboy to begin with out through the airlock. The CO2 pushes the water up until it gets to the square little windows in the inside piece of the airlock. Then when there's enough pressure, a bubble of CO2 bubbles up through the water and out into the air. The water makes sure nothing bad comes back in at the same time. After a short while, there is no air left in your carboy and it's a nice bed of CO2 that rests on top of your beer.

Once you see it happening in your airlock, it should become clear.

I hope this makes sense!:drunk:
 
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greg75

greg75

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Ok, I see what you're saying. Being more of a visual learner, I'm sure it will all become crystal clear when I see it.

See, I didn't know there were little holes along the stem. I thought the only opening was the top of the stem itself.

Thanks for the info! :mug:
 

chillHayze

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greg75 said:
Ok, I see what you're saying. Being more of a visual learner, I'm sure it will all become crystal clear when I see it.

See, I didn't know there were little holes along the stem. I thought the only opening was the top of the stem itself.

Thanks for the info! :mug:
Hmmm, there are no holes in the stem itself. The holes are in a little "hat" that rests on top of the stem. Keep in mind we are talking about a 3 piece airlock here. A one piece airlock looks like an S.

For clarification, a 3 piece is on the right and a 1 piece is on the left.

If you have the one on the right but there is no cap piece (with the square holes) then the airlock is not doing anything.

fermentation-locks.jpg
 

Bernie Brewer

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The water serves the same purpose as the water in the trap in your sink or toilet drain. It keeps the outside air out and the inside air in.
 

Exo

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My last recipe, my Wasp Bitten IPA, I pitched nearly 1/2gallon of yeast/trub and had airlock activity within one hour. 8hrs later the airlock wasn't bubbling...it was gushing air...just an almost solid "whoosh". Should have gotten some video--it was a sight!

You'll know it when it starts. Stick your nose onto the top of your airlock and sniff...beer :)
 

desiderata

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In Papazian's book on page 81, he explains rehydrating, but doesn't, IMO, do as well as the explanation on www.howtobrew.com:
"Preparing Dry Yeast
Dry yeast should be re-hydrated in water before pitching. Often the concentration of sugars in wort is high enough that the yeast can not draw enough water across the cell membranes to restart their metabolism. For best results, re-hydrate 2 packets of dry yeast in warm water (95-105°F) and then proof the yeast by adding some sugar to see if they are still alive after de-hydration and storage.

If it's not showing signs of life (churning, foaming) after a half hour, your yeast may be too old or dead. Unfortunately, this can be a common problem with dry yeast packets, especially if they are the non-name brand packets taped to the top of malt extract beer kits. Using name brand brewers yeasts like those mentioned previously usually prevents this problem. Have a third packet available as back-up.

Re-hydrating Dry Yeast
1. Put 1 cup of warm (95-105F, 35-40C) boiled water into a sanitized jar and stir in the yeast. Cover with Saran Wrap and wait 15 minutes.
2. "Proof" the yeast by adding one teaspoon of extract or sugar that has been boiled in a small amount of water. Allow the sugar solution to cool before adding it to the jar.
3. Cover and place in a warm area out of direct sunlight.
4. After 30 minutes or so the yeast should be visibly churning and/or foaming, and is ready to pitch."

So, after you hydrate the yeast and before you pitch, you should be able to see the activity and tell if your yeast is working.
Also, check your seal on the bucket lid. My first batch fermented just fine without any airlock activity. I later found out that you have to really push the lid on tight until it "clicks" around the edge. If this is the case, it's no big deal, the air is just escaping through the lid and not the airlock.
Good luck! :mug:
 
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greg75

greg75

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There's still no activity in the airlock, but I can definitely smell yeast (or the smell associated with brewing...anyone who's driven through downtown Milwaukee knows what I'm talking about). I'll have to check to see if the lid isn't on completely tight. I'm pretty sure it is, though.

Basically, I'm pretty confident that the yeast is starting to metabolize the sugars. I mean, it certainly smells like fermentation is going on. If I could actually see CO2 bubbles escaping via the airlock, however, it would truly ease my mind.
 

Exo

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Buckets have a hard time forming a tight seal. If your smelling yeast then I think your definitely getting decent fermentation.
 
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greg75

greg75

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Exo said:
Buckets have a hard time forming a tight seal. If your smelling yeast then I think your definitely getting decent fermentation.
Excellent news, then! :rockin: I do have a 5 gallon glass carboy that came with my equipment kit. Is it even worth my trouble to transfer to the carboy? If so, how long should I wait? The reason I ask is because I used just extracts. I didn't use any hops, or grains, or anything. Just a can of Muntons hopped extract, and a container of Breiss unhopped malt extract.
 

desiderata

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I think you will still benefit from transfering to the carboy after about a week in the bucket. the extract itself will have trub (even without hops, grains, etc.), as well as the yeast that falls. so, you should be able to get a cleaner product with secondary.
If you can't wait the full week before transfering, then at least use a blow off tube.
:D
 
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greg75

greg75

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I'll wait it out..I guess. :mad:

I think I'm going to invest in a 6.5 gallon carboy for primary fermentation in the near future. I'd really like to see it, rather than just smell it!
 

Catfish

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To answer your original question; the tell tale signs of fermentation (or some of them).
Small bubbles form on hte surface of hte beer. First at the edge of the container.
Visible flow of particles inside the fermentor (clear glass or plastic only).
Smell of fermentation.
Out ward pressure on the airlock, turning to bubbles. (if you're using and airlock)

Also you can easily check the seal on hte bucket by gently pressing down on the lid, airlock level goes up, you have a seal.
Also I'd recommend a better bottle if you're getting a 6.5 gallon carboy. The plasic is less slippery and far more drop-friendly.
 

Bernie Brewer

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greg75 said:
I'll wait it out..I guess. :mad:

I think I'm going to invest in a 6.5 gallon carboy for primary fermentation in the near future. I'd really like to see it, rather than just smell it!
LOL it's starting already! More toys.....must have more toys..........

There's lots more of that to come, too!:ban:
 
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