Author Topic: Help with fermenting  (Read 811 times)

Offline felixtrips

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Help with fermenting
« on: August 31, 2014, 01:41:35 AM »
I am in need of some desperate help with getting my wort to ferment right.  I have been brewing for about 2 years and mainly using extract only but recently trying to do speciality grains in a bag along with extract brewing.  Since doing this I don't know what I am doing wrong but I prep my dry yeast like normal with warm water letting it sit for 15-20 minutes before pitching.  I then pitch into my wort and put the lid on my fermenter. Within little while I can see my aerator bubbling away, only to have within a few hours looking like something vomited in it and having to clean it out.  I clean it out put it back in a watch it start bubbling again, only to have it finish making me think the 1st fermentation is finished, but when I move to the second fermenter I noticed no yeast cake witch has been happening as well. Can anyone tell me what I am doing wrong I just moved this last batch to the second fermenter yesterday and afraid this will be another batch that fizzled out and will not carbonate when I bottle and be flat beer at best.

Offline a10t2

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Re: Help with fermenting
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2014, 02:09:59 AM »
Do you check gravity before racking to another fermenter?

The stuff in the airlock is probably just krausen, which could mean the fermenter is too small, too warm, or both.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Help with fermenting
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2014, 12:18:34 PM »
First off, there's not really any need to rack to a second fermentor except in a few cases where a second fermentation (such as adding fruit) is actually needed. Most of us just leave our beer in the primary fermentor for the entirety of the fermentation/

For good beer, proper fermentation is the key. And I will give you a quick tutorial.

First you need enough yeast. Use a yeast calculator such as the one at to see how much yeast you need (or how big a starter you need) for any given batch. With liquid yeast it is always best to use a starter in almost every case - or at the very least you will need to pitch multiple vials/packs depending on gravity of wort. If you don't want to mess with starters stick with dry yeast as it does not require a starter (but you may need multiple packets depending on starting gravity).

Make sure you have plenty of head space in your fermentor. For a 5 gallon batch you need at least a 6.5 gallon fermentor or your krausen will clog your airlock. Alternatively you can fashion a "blow off tube" (google search it) and you may need one even with a larger head space depending on the krausen from the yeast.

Aeration is important. I recommend a diffusion stone and pure o2 (you can buy this stuff at any homebrew shop) but there are other cheaper alternatives. Shaking will work but you will need to shake the hell out of it for at least 20 minutes.

Temperature is key. If you ferment too warm you will have bad tasting beer. If you temperature fluctuates too much your fermentation will stall and start again. Different yeast ferment at different temps but for most ale yeasts you are probably better off fermenting in the low to mid 60s. Fermentation is exothermic and you fermentation temp will be 4-6+ degrees over ambient temp so if you are fermenting in a 68 degree room your temp is way too high. You need to find a way to keep the temp cool. Some use "swamp coolers" - do search on this.

You should always cool your wort down to the temp you plan on fermenting at - or preferably even a little cooler - before aerating and pitching yeast! So if you plant on fermenting at 66, lower the temp to 60-66 before pitching. For most ales it is important to never let the temp get over 68-70 degrees (72 at the very highest) during the first 48-72 hours to reduce fusel alcohols (the head ache, head retention killing, bad tasting stuff).

After holding the temp stead for the first couple of days you can slowly let the temp raise up to finish out. After 3 days you may even want to just let the temp raise up into the low 70s, but keep it steady. Large temp shifts will cause stalling.

You do all this and your fermentations will be very predictable and you will have much less surprises.

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Help with fermenting
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2014, 03:41:57 PM »
Based upon the way the OP is written I would guess you are a fairly casual brewer who is happy not to geek out on all things brewing. There's nothing wrong with that except you seem dissatisfied with the beer you are brewing. Spending some time increasing your knowledge of our beloved hobby might be more cost effective than the money you are spending on extract to make beer you don't enjoy.

There are definitely some shortfalls in your fermentation process if you are coming out with flat beer or beer that is not fermenting properly. There are excellent resources on this site that can help you better understand the fermentation process and improve your technique.
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Offline mattybrass

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Re: Help with fermenting
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2014, 08:02:48 PM »
+1 to what both the above posters said.

It can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be.

One thing to remember is that you make wort, but the yeast make the wort into beer. That being said it is certainly one of if not the most important part of the brewing process. Proper pitch rate, proper aeration, and definitely proper temperatures make a huge difference in the final product.

Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Help with fermenting
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2014, 11:50:20 PM »
Not mentioned above is letting the season and ambient temperatures assist with the choice of which style to brew.  Hot weather would go well with saisons, cooler but not cold temperatures suggest most ales (60's), and below 60 you can consider lagers, if you can prevent too low of a temperature and too many swings in temperature.  Look into a term called swamp cooler.  Good luck!
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