Homebrewers Association | AHA Forum

General Category => Equipment and Software => Topic started by: flbrewer on April 23, 2013, 12:17:25 PM

Title: Primary without an airlock
Post by: flbrewer on April 23, 2013, 12:17:25 PM
Is it ok to not use an airlock or blow off tube for my primary? The reason I'm asking is because I may be using a swamp cooler (Igloo 70 quart) that fits a 6.5 gallon carboy with only mm to spare at the top with the lid on.
My other option is to use the ole' rubbermaid bucket. Thoughts? Thank you all.

Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: donsmitty on April 23, 2013, 12:38:24 PM
The primary reason for an airlock or blow-off tube is to prevent contamination.  Not sure how you do that without using one or the other.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: Jimmy K on April 23, 2013, 12:38:58 PM
Shouldn't be a problem. I'd probably put foil over the top to keep anything airborne from landing in it - at least until fermentation takes off. But there are a few pictures of completely open fermenters around this forum too.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: jeffy on April 23, 2013, 01:49:52 PM
I put a piece of aluminum foil on my carboys until the kreusen drops, then switch to an air lock.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: morticaixavier on April 23, 2013, 03:44:56 PM
You also don't really need to keep the lid on the swamp cooler. I never did.

Just one note of caution (very very minor caution) if you are using those stick on Liquid crystal thermo strips they do not like to be submerged in water. they will freak out and never work again. Given that they cost all of 3 bucks this is not the end of the world but can be annoying. So if you use those and a swamp cooler the water should be far enough below the top level of the beer that you can put a strip on horizontally above the water level but below the beer level.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: klickitat jim on April 23, 2013, 04:38:24 PM
Could get your DIY hat on and drill a hole in the cooler lid for the blowoff tube...

"Friends don't let friends drink bad beer"

Title: Primary without an airlock
Post by: flbrewer on April 23, 2013, 04:59:25 PM
Some people have replied that you don't want a lid on a swamp cooler, so I'm confused. I would assume an igloo with a lid would stay more constant than an open bin of cold water, t shirt etc.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: HydraulicSammich on April 23, 2013, 05:07:14 PM
Not to worry.  The thermalmass of the liquid keeps the temp from changing rapidly.  I used Igloo Ice Coolers, somewhat of a square cooler, and cut a hole in the top for the lock.  I used one liter frozen bottles and a floating thermometer.  Of course all this is before freezers and temp controllers.  You would be good with the foil on the carboy if you choose that route 
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: morticaixavier on April 23, 2013, 05:07:54 PM
Some people have replied that you don't want a lid on a swamp cooler, so I'm confused. I would assume an igloo with a lid would stay more constant than an open bin of cold water, t shirt etc.

ahh I mis-understood.

If you are using a big cooler you can despense with the water all together! cover the hole where the airlock would go with foil and put the frozen bottles right in there with it.
Title: Primary without an airlock
Post by: flbrewer on April 23, 2013, 05:24:30 PM
Thank you for the replies. Whatever I do I think I will bypass the airlock for a blowoff tube. Seems to be the consensus here. Maybe a blowoff tube into a bucket of sani? One explosion inside the house and this hobby will become much more difficult!
Title: Primary without an airlock
Post by: flbrewer on April 23, 2013, 05:53:58 PM
Can't I completely avoid the blow off tube by brewing less beer (forgive me)?
I'll only be using primary (6.5 gallon carboy) and if I brew a smaller batch, maybe 2-4 gallons vs the 5 that the kit came with, wouldn't this eliminate any chance of an explosion or stuff coming out of a blow off tube?
While this may be sacrilegious, there is no way I can reasonably drink 5 gallons of beer is short order. I also like the idea of smaller batches for less bottles to clean out, brewing more often, etc.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: morticaixavier on April 23, 2013, 05:56:44 PM
Can't I completely avoid the blow off tube by brewing less beer (forgive me)?
I'll only be using primary (6.5 gallon carboy) and if I brew a smaller batch, maybe 2-4 gallons vs the 5 that the kit came with, wouldn't this eliminate any chance of an explosion or stuff coming out of a blow off tube?
While this may be sacrilegious, there is no way I can reasonably drink 5 gallons of beer is short order. I also like the idea of smaller batches for less bottles to clean out, brewing more often, etc.

If you keep the temp under control (mid 60s) and you put only 5 gallons in a 6.5 gallon bucket you are likely golden on the blow off front. Most out of control blow off situations come from too high fermentation temps. you might get a little krausen (the foam on fermenting beer) out the top of the fermenter or thorugh the blow off tube/airlock but it will easily be contained by the cooler.

smaller batches are great, a lot of folks on here brew 2-4 gallon batches. However, I think you will be surprised at how quickly 5 gallons of beer can disappear when you brewed it yourself. and if you keep it cool it's good for months (depending on style) or years even. I have about 2.5 gallons of a barley wine I brewed in early 2011 still in the closet and it just keeps getting better.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: tschmidlin on April 23, 2013, 06:31:07 PM
Some people have replied that you don't want a lid on a swamp cooler, so I'm confused. I would assume an igloo with a lid would stay more constant than an open bin of cold water, t shirt etc.
If you are relying on evaporative cooling to maintain your temp, which is what a swamp cooler does, you need to leave the lid off for it to do its work.

If you are using ice water bottles then you are relying on that to cool your fermentation and it is not a swamp cooler.  It's just a cooler.  Keep the lid on.
Title: Primary without an airlock
Post by: flbrewer on April 23, 2013, 06:33:13 PM
Which works better?
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: Pi on April 23, 2013, 06:44:27 PM
Just made me think. What if you just took a brand new cooler, lathered the whole thing with StarSan, and pitched directly in the cooler.
...Hmmmm(the sound of wheels turning)... what if i could make my chest freezer a sanitary watertight/beertight, temperature controlled  lagering tank?
Any ideas?
Seriously though, I have a 15 gallon glass wine carboy-type vessel which is just a wee wider than my chest freezer. I like to occasionally do 10+ G. batches and i don't like having to split batches into 2 or more fermenters (carboys).     
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: morticaixavier on April 23, 2013, 07:07:25 PM
Which works better?

depends, evaporative cooling works better in (check me on this) drier climates as they rely on the atmospheres ability to take on more moisture thus cooling whatever the moisture evaporated from.

Using ice bottles means you are relying on the electricity in your freezer and it's effectiveness is reduced by high ambient temps, poor insulation, and unaffected by humidity (I think  ;))
Title: Primary without an airlock
Post by: flbrewer on April 23, 2013, 07:14:58 PM
Freezer? I'm debating a big bucket of water and ice bottles with a sealed igloo cooler.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: denny on April 23, 2013, 07:17:05 PM
Freezer? I'm debating a big bucket of water and ice bottles with a sealed igloo cooler.

He's talking about using your freezer to freeze the bottles.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: morticaixavier on April 23, 2013, 07:34:05 PM
Freezer? I'm debating a big bucket of water and ice bottles with a sealed igloo cooler.

He's talking about using your freezer to freeze the bottles.

yuppers.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: flbrewer on April 23, 2013, 07:42:00 PM
That settles it! We're going to have to move somewhere that stays in the mid 60's and has a cool basement. Should work.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: blatz on April 23, 2013, 07:48:59 PM
swapping out ice bottles is really not that bad.  seems like you're making a bigger deal out of it than necessary.

Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: aschecte on April 23, 2013, 07:57:50 PM
I don't think it would be a huge issue.... what you are kind of describing is like open fermentation like they do in a lot of English breweries ie. Samuel Smith's ....I would imagine during active fermentation enough co2 would be pushing out that no bugs would get in though the risk is there during the non fermenting times...... then you have a Plambic  :)
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: tonyp on April 23, 2013, 08:00:37 PM
Is it ok to not use an airlock or blow off tube for my primary? The reason I'm asking is because I may be using a swamp cooler (Igloo 70 quart) that fits a 6.5 gallon carboy with only mm to spare at the top with the lid on.
My other option is to use the ole' rubbermaid bucket. Thoughts? Thank you all.

You could always use something like this Vented Silicon Stopper (http://www.williamsbrewing.com/7-VENTED-SILICONE-STOPPER-USA-P2666C94.aspx). I use these on my fermentation buckets because they won't fit into my fermentation chamber with a regular airlock installed.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: tonyp on April 23, 2013, 08:09:29 PM
swapping out ice bottles is really not that bad.  seems like you're making a bigger deal out of it than necessary.

I use the ice bottle method as well and its really easy. I have 1 gal milk jugs, 1/2 gal milk jugs and 12oz bottles that I keep frozen at all times in the freezer in my garage. Depending on how much temp I need to drop over a specific amount of time determines which size bottles I use. I also tend to use the smaller bottles during the day to hold temps and the larger for overnight since they obviously take longer to thaw. After a few days you get really good at choosing which ones are appropriate.

If you do use this method one thing I would suggest is also using a beach towel or something similar at the bottom of your chamber to soak up the moisture from the thawing bottles. I have never had a problem with mold this way and when you feel the towel is alittle too damp, swap it out with a fresh dry one.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: Jimmy K on April 23, 2013, 08:20:53 PM
Just made me think. What if you just took a brand new cooler, lathered the whole thing with StarSan, and pitched directly in the cooler.
...Hmmmm(the sound of wheels turning)... what if i could make my chest freezer a sanitary watertight/beertight, temperature controlled  lagering tank?
Any ideas?
Seriously though, I have a 15 gallon glass wine carboy-type vessel which is just a wee wider than my chest freezer. I like to occasionally do 10+ G. batches and i don't like having to split batches into 2 or more fermenters (carboys).   
Fermentation generates heat, so I'd think fermenting in an insulated container wouldn't work out well. The temp would just keep going up.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: flbrewer on April 23, 2013, 08:31:49 PM
swapping out ice bottles is really not that bad.  seems like you're making a bigger deal out of it than necessary.

I use the ice bottle method as well and its really easy. I have 1 gal milk jugs, 1/2 gal milk jugs and 12oz bottles that I keep frozen at all times in the freezer in my garage. Depending on how much temp I need to drop over a specific amount of time determines which size bottles I use. I also tend to use the smaller bottles during the day to hold temps and the larger for overnight since they obviously take longer to thaw. After a few days you get really good at choosing which ones are appropriate.

If you do use this method one thing I would suggest is also using a beach towel or something similar at the bottom of your chamber to soak up the moisture from the thawing bottles. I have never had a problem with mold this way and when you feel the towel is alittle too damp, swap it out with a fresh dry one.

So you don't use water, just the ice bottles?
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: dzlater on April 23, 2013, 08:38:10 PM
I've used, tin foil, saran wrap, sandwich bags.
Never had a problem.
If I am leaving it sit for a while after fermentation is done, or cold crashing , I'll throw on an airlock.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: morticaixavier on April 23, 2013, 09:02:30 PM
swapping out ice bottles is really not that bad.  seems like you're making a bigger deal out of it than necessary.

I use the ice bottle method as well and its really easy. I have 1 gal milk jugs, 1/2 gal milk jugs and 12oz bottles that I keep frozen at all times in the freezer in my garage. Depending on how much temp I need to drop over a specific amount of time determines which size bottles I use. I also tend to use the smaller bottles during the day to hold temps and the larger for overnight since they obviously take longer to thaw. After a few days you get really good at choosing which ones are appropriate.

If you do use this method one thing I would suggest is also using a beach towel or something similar at the bottom of your chamber to soak up the moisture from the thawing bottles. I have never had a problem with mold this way and when you feel the towel is alittle too damp, swap it out with a fresh dry one.

So you don't use water, just the ice bottles?

if you have an insulated container yeah. The water provides thermal mass so temp swings are moderated because it takes so much longer for all that water to change temp. The insulation in your cooler provides insulation instead so that moderates ambient temp swings by isolating your fermenter from them.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: weithman5 on April 23, 2013, 10:02:54 PM
i use frozen ice packs.  just switch them in and out periodically,
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: tonyp on April 23, 2013, 11:58:40 PM
So you don't use water, just the ice bottles?

yeah no water, just ice bottles. I made a fermentation chamber out of a rubbermaid tote using reflectix insulation (inside and out) and it holds temp within a few degrees for hours. I usually change out the bottles once in the morning and once at night but I check it a few times during the day as well but hardly ever have to add more bottles unless it is really scorching outside.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: tonyp on April 24, 2013, 12:02:20 AM
i use frozen ice packs.  just switch them in and out periodically,

Have you tried water bottles too or just the ice packs? I bought a bunch of ice packs from either lowes or walmart, really cheap like .50ยข each, but they don't stay cold very long at all. I stopped using them because the water bottles lasted atleast 4x longer.
Title: Re: Primary without an airlock
Post by: weithman5 on April 24, 2013, 07:02:49 PM
i just use ice packs, the foam gel ones. we get vaccines shipped with these and they would otherwise get thrown out. works very easy for me.  i just put them around the bucket in an insulated chamber and voila. depending on the outside temperature, but even in the summer, in my garage, i may change half of them every morning. some will stay longer, i just kind of gauge it. and i can keep temp at 50 degrees.