What if I added more yeast? Intentionally high OG, yeast may not have been able to handle it, fermentation slowed.

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Daniel B

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I've made a batch of "Winter Bock" which I based on a simple extract recipe kit. Everything went well and all the sugar I dumped in there did its job in terms of OG.

The yeast I used was two slap-packs of Wyeast 1007 in one can of Propper Starter and water for 24 hours on a stir plate. Aerated with air for an hour after pitching.

I'm fermenting in a good ol' bucket with maybe less headroom than intended (lotta foam in the airlock hose those first two days). The bucket is in a chest freezer with an inkbird controlling the cool side. I haven't sprung for a heater yet, but perhaps I should.

So now to the question: my fermentation seems to be stuck at 1.050, should I sanitarily pitch some yeast to finish off the sugar? I think those poor ale yeast were unprepared for such a high OG or something (just pure speculation).

Here's my options as I see them:
  1. Do nothing, wait another week (will happen regardless), and hope the beer isn't a sugary mess (the wort tasted awesome, so it can't be that bad).
  2. Get some high-abv tolerant belgian yeast and see if they can chew through the rest of those sugars.
  3. Pitch some champagne yeast (is sucrose too complex for them?) and see if they can drive the OG down.
I'm leaning toward 1 or 2. I don't mind the extra cost and labor and I'm open to other tips (should I just shake/swirl the trub cake up and see what happens?).

Below (spoilered for size) is the progress over time. Those temperature spikes are me noticing the ambient temp going down below 62 and placing a container of hot water in the freezer with it to slowly warm the whole system.

1669060172596-png.792350

Bonus questions so I can always learn more and do better:
  1. Do you lose a lot of yeast in foam to lack of headroom and is it enough to materially affect the fermentation?
  2. Does high sugar hurt the yeast at all or just high alcohol?
  3. Should I have used two cans of starter to make my double starter?
  4. Is there ever any benefit in adding extra yeast? I read a thread where posters here claimed that they would be outcompeted by existing yeast in there but it seems like if the existing ones were dormant the new ones would seize the opportunity.
  5. Should I be worried about carbonation in bottling if I've accidentally hammered my yeast population?
  6. General feedback?
 

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olie

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I would pitch more yeast. It never really hurts, and your (1) bonus question may be what happened; ale yeast floats on top.

Per bonus(2), the point of a starter is to "get the yeast going", which helps with high OG, but modern yeast typically comes pretty strong and with a bunch of yeast nutrient to guarantee success (an advantage of brewing in the 21st century: we know more science and things are less mysterious than, say, in the 80s and prior).


Bonus(4) sounds whack to me, but I'm not an expert.

Bonus(5): just make sure primary fermentation is complete before you bottle. That's kind of always the case.

Bonus(6): Go, Daniel, go! :D

(And please take a minute to report what you learn/think when it's all over.)
 

IslandLizard

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Is there still fermentation activity?
You brewed this on 11/14? So it's been fermenting for only 7 days. I seriously doubt it's done, it's a big beer.

But I do think your Tilt may be on permanent tilt, could be embedded in krausen, judging by the flat line the past 4 days.

Can you measure the current gravity with a hydrometer? That's the only instrument I would trust in cases like this.
For that, a suck-siphon through the airlock hole, leaving the lid on, would be best to obtain a 4-6 oz sample, without disturbing the beer/headspace only minimally.

You should not need to add more yeast, and adding it now may not help. Your WY1007 yeast should be fine up to 11% (possibly higher).
 
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Daniel B

Daniel B

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Bonus(5): just make sure primary fermentation is complete before you bottle. That's kind of always the case.
I'll definitely wait for no action to bottle. Maybe

Is there still fermentation activity?
You brewed this on 11/14? So it's been fermenting for only 7 days. I seriously doubt it's done, it's a big beer.
There's been a bit of bubbles around the hose in the sanitizer each time I check, so maybe?

I just shifted the fermenter a little to clean up some condensation pooling in the freezer so maybe the tilt will un-tilt. If not I'll take a real measurement when next Monday.
You should not need to add more yeast, and adding it now may not help. Your WY1007 yeast should be fine up to 11% (possibly higher).
I have a poor intuition about how those yeast specs stack up to reality. Are they often low given good fermentation conditions, just for the manufacturer to be on the safe side, or are they accurate for the average so brewers know what to expect in terms of final product?

(And please take a minute to report what you learn/think when it's all over.)
Will do.
 

dmtaylor

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This is a big beer. The yeast is probably very tired, might be close to its alcohol tolerance.

You're apparently using a Tilt. When yeast schmutz is stuck to it, the gravity reads higher than it really is. You should check gravity via a sample and traditional hydrometer to see how far off it is.

Adding more yeast might help... but usually not. Especially if most of the easy sugars are gone already and the alcohol is high, like in this case.

Definitely check gravity the old fashioned way. It might help ease your concerns a bit.

You might.... also want to consider simply diluting the beer down with water. This would reduce both the effective OG, and the FG, as well as the ABV of course. AND give you more beer to enjoy. It's an option.
 

olie

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Oh yeah -- I missed the Tilt part on first read.

Concur with the others: schmutz, foam, hops, yeast, bubbles -- all screw with the Tilt (because it tilts wrong. :\ ) Use a traditional "old school" hydrometer to double-check readings.

(Tilt is still fun for general progress, but not-great for exact readings.)
 

IslandLizard

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I have a poor intuition about how those yeast specs stack up to reality. Are they often low given good fermentation conditions, just for the manufacturer to be on the safe side, or are they accurate for the average so brewers know what to expect in terms of final product?
They're a guide, of course.
Yeasts' alcohol tolerances have been empirically determined by the yeast labs that produce them. I would take their word for it.

Of course we should expect there'll be a margin around that listed %ABV tolerance number. Actual performance will depend on the fermentation environment such as availability of needed nutrients. Under the right circumstances those limits can be pushed upward from the listed value, and by quite a bit. :yes:

I'm curious to read about the actual gravity, from a hydrometer. So keep us posted.
As I already mentioned try a "suck siphon." use a 2' piece skinny 1/8"-3/16" ID vinyl tubing, through the airlock hole in the lid, after temporarily removing the airlock. Train yourself using a bucket of water to get the method down, without any beer flowing back into the fermenter. It can be easily done, and in a complete sanitary fashion.
 

IslandLizard

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6. General feedback?
Keep her warmish, 68-70F and as constant as you can. Even a small sudden temp drop could make her stall, and foregood.
Your Tilt's reported temps are not reliable either, judging from the graph.

1. Do you lose a lot of yeast in foam to lack of headroom and is it enough to materially affect the fermentation?
How much foam (krausen actually) did she lose through the blow off tube/jar?
Krausen is/contains the most active yeast in your fermenter.
 
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Daniel B

Daniel B

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Update:
Measured just now, still exactly 1.050. I measured with a hydrometer and a digital refractometer corrected for the alcohol. No change since the OP. The beer is also pretty sweet still. I'm still considering giving a new batch of yeast a go. Don't think that means I'm disregarding the advice so far, it's more that I wouldn't want to drink the beer as is, so why not mess with it.

Answering some questions since my last post:
You might.... also want to consider simply diluting the beer down with water. This would reduce both the effective OG, and the FG, as well as the ABV of course. AND give you more beer to enjoy. It's an option.
If I liked the existing sweetness I would, but it's too much for me (a big belgian lover, if that's any indication of just how sweet it is).

Keep her warmish, 68-70F and as constant as you can. Even a small sudden temp drop could make her stall, and foregood.
Your Tilt's reported temps are not reliable either, judging from the graph.
Those spikes were me heating the area the fermenter was in. I'll be getting a heating pad in the future rather than just setting hot water in a bucket next to the fermenter.

How much foam (krausen actually) did she lose through the blow off tube/jar?
Krausen is/contains the most active yeast in your fermenter.
Once it stopped being foam and was liquid in the jar? Maybe 6 cups. I think this might have not helped.

So now it's time to make some choices.
  • Does adding Fermaid K at this stage do anything (we're past 1/3 sugar depletion)?
  • Should I just rack it into a clean fermenter and pitch a fresh batch so they have a chance?
I'm leaning toward the 2nd one.
 

IslandLizard

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So now it's time to make some choices.
  • Does adding Fermaid K at this stage do anything (we're past 1/3 sugar depletion)?
  • Should I just rack it into a clean fermenter and pitch a fresh batch so they have a chance?
I'm leaning toward the 2nd one.

I seriously doubt Fermaid K is going to do anything for you here.
Don't rack. You'll be oxidizing your beer.
The yeast/trub cake (on the bottom) won't harm your beer at this point, even when repitching.

Although I've never used Glucoamylase enzyme in super big beers, like yours, adding some may help break down both dextrins and larger sugars into more fermentable ones.* But it's hard to predict how far down it will take it at this point. The amount of alcohol already present will not help the enzymes, either.

If you want to try to pitch new yeast, it has to be from a big (2 liter minimal) actively fermenting starter, say 400 billion cells (wild estimate) and all in tip-top condition, along with some good yeast nutrient.

Maybe others can chime in with other ideas and what yeast strains would be most promising.

* BTW, at what temperature did you mash? For how long?
 
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IslandLizard

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You need to figure out controlling your ferm temps, keeping them steady at a set temperature, and not swing 10-20 degrees.

In my early brewing days I had a 5 gallon batch of a 1.096-some Old Ale stall at 1.034, using 2 packs of S-04 yeast. Nothing it did could budge it. Later I figured out it must have been a temp drop, overnight. I didn't use a temp controlled ferm chamber at the time. Lesson learned...

I then started using a large Igloo cooler* (it fits two 6.5 gallon brew bucket side by side). It's filled with just enough water (creating a water jacket), so that the filled brew bucket(s) just don't start to float.
The cooler is placed in my lower level bathroom (that part is underground) and temps are quite constant there around 64-67F year-round. Fermentation is exothermic, generates heat, so I dope the water jacket with 1-4 frozen water bottles once or twice a day, as needed, to keep temps at 65 or 66 degrees. An aquarium heater can keep them at 68-72F if necessary. In addition, the whole setup is wrapped in a sleeping bag or a few moving blankets, again, to help keep temps steady.

* I now use a dedicated, external temp controlled, fridge (or upright freezer) for most fermentations.
 
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Daniel B

Daniel B

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I seriously doubt Fermaid K is going to do anything for you here.
Don't rack. You'll be oxidizing your beer.
The yeast/trub cake (on the bottom) won't harm your beer at this point, even when repitching.
Got it. Oxidizing is no good so I will avoid that.
Although I've never used Glucoamylase enzyme in super big beers, like yours, adding some may help break down both dextrins and larger sugars into more fermentable ones.* But it's hard to predict how far down it will take it at this point. The amount of alcohol already present will not help the enzymes, either.
If/when this happens again, I will investigate this.

If you want to try to pitch new yeast, it has to be from a big (2 liter minimal) actively fermenting starter, say 400 billion cells (wild estimate) and all in tip-top condition, along with some good yeast nutrient.
See below.
* BTW, at what temperature did you mash? For how long?
This was an extract recipe, see the link in the OP.

You need to figure out controlling your ferm temps, keeping them steady at a set temperature, and not swing 10-20 degrees.

In my early brewing days I had a 5 gallon batch of a 1.096-some Old Ale stall at 1.034, using 2 packs of S-04 yeast. Nothing it did could budge it. Later I figured out it must have been a temp drop, overnight. I didn't use a temp controlled ferm chamber at the time. Lesson learned...

I then started using a large Igloo cooler* (it fits two 6.5 gallon brew bucket side by side). It's filled with just enough water (creating a water jacket), so that the filled brew bucket(s) just don't start to float.
The cooler is placed in my lower level bathroom (that part is underground) and temps are quite constant there around 64-67F year-round. Fermentation is exothermic, generates heat, so I dope the water jacket with 1-4 frozen water bottles once or twice a day, as needed, to keep temps at 65 or 66 degrees. An aquarium heater can keep them at 68-72F if necessary. In addition, the whole setup is wrapped in a sleeping bag or a few moving blankets, again, to help keep temps steady.

* I now use a dedicated, external temp controlled, fridge (or upright freezer) for most fermentations.
I now have a heating wrap plugged into the hot side of my InkBird. The cold side is a chest freezer in which the fermenter sits. Since I started using the freezer I've never had the temperature spike, but when the fermentation dies down a bit, it's prone to get too cold, especially in the fall/winter.

I went down to the homebrew store yesterday and had a chat with the guy there as well. He recommended me an interesting alternative to my "put in some high-gravity yeast" plan: OYL-071 (which is apparently very aggressive) and lager the beer for a couple of weeks. In the spirit of learning and experimentation, that's what I've done.

In the future I'm going to try to keep the head space adequate and probably going to BIAB from now on unless I make a huge mess the first time I try it (at which point it'll be time for an outdoor burner).

I'll keep the thread updated with the results and I appreciate all the input and info, every batch has been a learning process and each has been better than the last (well, except the time I doubled my special malts and made a bottle bomb more bitter than any IPA).
 

EarthwormJim

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This was an extract recipe, see the link in the OP.

The recipe in the link says it is an extract recipe, but 75% of the fermentables come from malt. There is only a half pound of extract and a couple pounds of different sugars. Did you replace some/all of the malt with extract? If not, what diid you do with the 13 pounds of grain?
 

IslandLizard

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This was an extract recipe, see the link in the OP.
As @EarthwormJim already said, in the previous post, the recipe you linked to in your OP is an all-grain recipe, based on MoreBeer's Extract Kit:

Winter Bock (based on Morebeer Double Bock Extract Kit)​

Can you tell us what ingredients you used?
 
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