When is fermentation done? Issue

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Kzang

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I have had my oktoberfest ale in the primary fermenter for 8 days now, and I still have activity in the air lock.

My problem is that I don't have a cylinder container to use my hydrometer. I never took a gravity of the wort before I pitched the yeast either. I don't have a thief. I am using a 6.5 gallon carboy.

I have been keeping my house at 68F. I'm just not exactly sure to bottle it now. Any ideas? Should I just wait til there is no activity for 2-3 days then bottle it?


Also I know oxygenation is bad. How do you check gravity on consecutive days using a thief without aerating it? Once you pop the top and let all the CO2 out, and recap it, and if it is really done, you will have all that oxygen sitting on top of it while you wait to another reading the next day?
 

prpromin

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Airlock activity is not a definitive sign of fermentation. It can tell you when it is going on, but a leak, off-gassing, change in pressure, etc. can give you a false sense of what's happening. The only way to be sure is by hydrometer reading. An alternative to the three days in a row rule is two reading several days apart. At 8 days, you might take a reading now and then check it again in four to six days. A lot of people (myself included) don't even crack open the fermentor for two or three weeks.

Depending on the yeast you used, your pitch rate, and fermentation temp, it may well be done, but it's probably a bad idea to bottle unless you are sure. I'd suggest running to your LHBS and grabbing a cylinder. You may also be able to use the tube your hydrometer came in as a test tube.

EDIT: Missed the oxygen question - when I take a reading, I crack the lid halfway and get in and out as fast as possible. I can take a sample in well under a minute, so it isn't like the beer is hanging out in the open air for very long. Never had a problem with oxidized beer from taking samples.

:mug:
 

kh54s10

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Wait for at least 3 days after all signs of activity have stopped. But, you can go for a month or more with no ill effects.

Leave it be until you get your thief and test jar, then take a sample, wait 2 days and take another if they are the same it is safe to bottle.

Co2 is heavier than air. Opening the fermenter will not "let the co2 out. It will not come out unless you remove it somehow.

Just don't have a fan blowing into the fermenter and don't splash. Most homebrewers take gravity readings and do not oxygenate their beers.

Longer fermentations are almost always better than one that is too short, especially when going to bottle from primary.
 

fartinmartin

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Initial fermentation may well appear to be done, BUT, you need to wait for the rest of the action to take place, that's the stuff we can't see. Leave it alone for three weeks, in that time get yourself a hydrometer and tube, then be prepared to leave it another week. The longer you leave it the cleaner the beer will be. Be extremely sanitary when taking your samples, don't want to mess up now. The best way to be absolutely sanitary about samples is not to do them, until in your head you know it is ready, that means the bung only ever comes out once !
 
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Kzang

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I thought if you leave it too long in the primary fermenter, it increases the chance of autolysis?
 

WildTim

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That is true, but "to long" is several weeks, and its not like there is a point where you will all of a sudden have problems, they creep in slowly over time once they begin to be observable at all.

You have a couple of weeks or even more before you have to worry. That should be plenty of time to get a cylinder so you can take a couple readings.
 

kh54s10

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I thought if you leave it too long in the primary fermenter, it increases the chance of autolysis?
That is true, but "to long" is several weeks, and its not like there is a point where you will all of a sudden have problems, they creep in slowly over time once they begin to be observable at all.

You have a couple of weeks or even more before you have to worry. That should be plenty of time to get a cylinder so you can take a couple readings.
Too long and a risk of autolysis is more like many months. There is a large amount of brewers who leave their beers in primary for a month or longer every time.
I routinely go 3 weeks or longer and always go 14 days.
 

andy6026

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If your temps stay like that and you have no signs of an infect then I'd feel confident to go ahead and lager it after 3 weeks fermentation. You're your pitch rate was good then even 2 weeks would probably be fine (although I'd feel much less comfortable). Ideally you want a hydrometer, but I'd guess that most people here use a combination of time and 1 hydro reading before bottling/lagering. I.e. they give it around 3 weeks, take a reading and if it's in the expected range then they go to the next step. I'd venture to guess that only a small portion of the community follow the actual "3 readings 3 days in a row" litany. As a caveat, I'd also venture to guess that most of us will at some point have bottle bombs too - although it has yet to happen to me. Knock on wood.


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