Author Topic: What to do with a slow fermenting beer  (Read 1613 times)

Offline benamcg

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What to do with a slow fermenting beer
« on: February 17, 2013, 08:41:25 AM »
I made a larger beer a couple of weeks ago (1.075) and in haste (and in hindsight) did not pitch enough yeast (1 vial Yorkshire Square) nor did I make a starter.  The beer never really took off in fermentation.  Fermentation was visible within 24 hours, but never really develop the thick krausen I am used to.  The fermentation has been temperature controlled and monitored (69 degrees F) throughout. 

2 days post brewing, I left for a week, and when I returned home, saw about the same, thin layer of activity on the surface. At this time, I checked the gravity with the refractometer (did the conversions for gravity on fermented beer) and found it around 1.055.  At this time, I decided to add the only yeast I had on hand - 1 vial of White Labs Cal Ale yeast.  After aeration and another week (2 weeks from brew day), the gravity (refractometer reading) is now around 1.044, still have some activity in the airlock of about a bubble per 10 secs, uniform but very thin "head" or bubbles on the surface of the beer, but again, no healthy krausen.

Another variable that may help troubleshoot this issue are:
The recipe had 1 lb of brown sugar added to the kettle, which should have been pretty easy for the yeast to chew through.

My question is: Should I:
1. Dump it: 2+ weeks in primary scares me.  I should have been transferring to secondary by now.  I can tie up a fermenter for another couple of weeks, but I dont know what this monster is going to do, or taste like. 
2.transfer it to secondary and keg it later (is it worth kegging at 1.044)
3.or just keep taking gravities, praying that it will come down into at least the 20s.  I am doubting that it will at this point.

Any help is greatly appreciated.
-Ben

Offline erockrph

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Re: What to do with a slow fermenting beer
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2013, 09:15:34 AM »
I've left BW's and Quads in primary for 6+ weeks with no ill effects. 2 weeks is no issue.

Did you get a starter going of the vial of yeast, or did you just pitch it straight in? I don't know how much extra help you'll get by just pitching a vial of yeast. If it were me at this point, I'd either pitch a pack of US-05 or get a small starter going of liquid yeast and pitch it at high krausen.

Just to check, are you correcting for alcohol content in your refractometer reading? An uncorrected FG reading of 1.044 corrects down to about 1.024ish, methinks.
Eric B.

Finally got around to starting a homebrewing blog: The Hop Whisperer

Offline corkybstewart

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Re: What to do with a slow fermenting beer
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2013, 09:21:42 AM »
First of all 2 weeks in primary is really nothing at all.
I would make a starter with some new yeast and add it at high krausen, just dumping more yeast in probably won't help.
Try swirling the fermenter around to get the yeast up off the bottom, that may get some of them off vacation status and back to work.
Be patient, that's not a really high gravity beer but high enough to be finicky.  Any beer I brew over 1.060 gets a dose of pure oxygen before I pitch the yeast, normal shaking and stirring aeration methods are not enough.
I'd really just rather be brewing in sunny Carlsbad New Mexico

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: What to do with a slow fermenting beer
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2013, 09:30:39 AM »
Don't rack it!  Just add some yeast energizer, swirl the yeast cake into the beer every couple of days, and everything should be fine.  By this time you have plenty of yeast in there, so adding more yeast is pretty much a waste of money and effort.  But swirling up the yeast that has already settled out can help, especially if you also feed them some nutrition.
Dave

"This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our Maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about... BEER!" - Friar Tuck (Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves)

Offline benamcg

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Re: What to do with a slow fermenting beer
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2013, 09:49:40 AM »
Just to check, are you correcting for alcohol content in your refractometer reading? An uncorrected FG reading of 1.044 corrects down to about 1.024ish, methinks.

You are correct- and eerily close. I get (1.075 = 19 Brix to 1.044 = 11.5 Brix) = 1.026 using Sean Terrill's refractometer calculator (http://seanterrill.com/2012/01/06/refractometer-calculator/).  I used it when it was at 1.055, but not at this new reading (1.044)- makes it not seem as dire now.

Thanks for the replies so far - I will continue to wait. 

Offline dcbc

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Re: What to do with a slow fermenting beer
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2013, 11:33:27 AM »
Just leave it alone and let it finish up.  I have had a Bohemian Pilsner take 5 weeks to finish up.  WLP 800 is ridiculously slow.  No ill effects from patience, unless you consider a delicious beer an ill effect.  Save for two, all of my less than good beers have been a result of my rushing things.
I've consumed all of my home brew and still can't relax!  Now what!