Author Topic: fermentation woes - chlorine?  (Read 2687 times)

Offline hairyhood

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fermentation woes - chlorine?
« on: October 18, 2010, 08:12:02 AM »
I am hoping for some help.  Longtime all-grain brewer.  Took a break from brewing.  Started again with extract.  I recently moved to a new house in a new town.  I have brewed 4 batches so far and all of them kick off the fermentation ok, but do not finish.  My local homebrew shop suggested that I may have not oxygenated enough.  I bought a tank of oxygen and hit  2 of the batches with my air stone, then pitched in some dry yeast.  I got nothing.  No action, and my gravity did not change.  It appears that this beer is dead as even the repitched yeast did nothing.

I have used PBW on my equipment and am not sure I rinsed enough.  The only other variables that have changed since starting brewing again is that I did not make yeast starters and my water that I use to rinse is from the tap in my house.  I finally moved my brews to secondary fermenters yesterday and noticed a strong chlorine smell.  I typically keg my beer.  I did bottle my first batch and I do have some natural carbonation....not what I had hoped, but it is not flat and has decent mouthfeel.

Is it possible that the chlorine in my house water is killing the yeast before it finishes?  Is it possible that PBW wasn't rinsed completely and is causing me problems?  Any help is greatly appreciated.

Offline abraxas

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2010, 08:42:32 AM »
Couple questions...

What city, do you have a water report?

What do you mean by the batches not finishing, how close do they get?  Could be an issue of underpitching the yeast.  How about fermentation conditions? Fermentation temp too high could result in yeast death, too low could result in early flocculation/low attenuation.

What type of yeast, are you rehydrating it at the right temp (not too warm)?  Maybe check and make sure your thermometer is reading accurately.  Is the yeast fresh and healthy or could it be old and mistreated at the homebrew shop.  There's been some problems with Nottingham yeast recently.

Where do you go when the lights go out?

« Last Edit: October 18, 2010, 10:24:42 AM by abraxas »

Offline tygo

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2010, 08:45:46 AM »
Just to clarify, are you just using the tap water to rinse or are you brewing with it?  Either way I seriously doubt there's enough chlorine in the water to kill the yeast if the water is drinkable.  There might be enough to lead to some off flavors/smells.
Clint
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Fermenting: Wit
On Tap: Lucifer's Hammer Golden Strong Ale, Dopplebock, Old Fuzzynut's Ale

Offline hokerer

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2010, 08:58:00 AM »
1. What do you mean by "not finishing"?  Remember, extract is less fermentable than all-grain so if you're expecting to get all the way down the old FGs you used to get, that's probably not gonna happen.

2. If you're using liquid yeasts, your not making starters could contribute to the yeast pooping out early.

3. Your "rinse" water is chlorinated, how 'bout your "brewing" water?  Chlorine probably isn't going to kill the yeast but it most likely will lead to chlorophenols (mediciney, band-aid).

4. You talk about rinse but how are you sanitizing?

Joe

Offline hairyhood

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2010, 11:58:21 AM »
I have been using liquid yeast (White Labs)...and no, I have not been making starters, which I always used to do.  I will get back to that....it could be my problem.  When I say "not finishing".....I have an IPA recipe that calls for an OG of 1.064 and an FG of 1.014.  I started at 1.066....and have been stuck at 1.035.  When I oxygenated and repitched with dry yeast I did not rehydrate.  I got no further activity...and a week later I am still sitting at 1.035.  I would have thought that even though I pitched an entire packet of the dry yeast that I would have had a little activity.  I guess it is possible that the yeast I have been buying has been mishandled.  All have been well within the dates. 

I guess the other difference in my batches.  I used to ferment at about 78-80 degrees.  I have a new spot that I was able to keep at 74-76 degrees. (It is hard to keep anything cool in FL without using a freezer).  I did hit 72 a few days.  I don't think that the ferm temp is the problem, but am open to any suggestions.

I am in Jacksonville Beach, FL.  I do not have a water report.  I use Zephyr Hills Spring Water for all of my brewing and have for many years.

Thank you Mr. Miner....and thank you all for your responses.  Any thoughts on the PBW if I did not have a thorough rinse or any tips are appreciated.

Offline hairyhood

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2010, 12:03:41 PM »
P.S.  I am using White Labs WLP013 London Ale and WLP001 California.  For the dry pitch I used Safale 05 (I think that is the standard ale yeast).

Offline hairyhood

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2010, 12:05:32 PM »
P.P.S.  I am using StarSan for the sanitizer.  It is roughly 2-3 years old.  I guess maybe I should go ahead and throw that out and get some fresh stuff.  Any idea on the life of StarSan, especially after sitting in a hot garage for a couple of years?

Offline tumarkin

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2010, 12:15:06 PM »
as you're aware, making a starter is certainly advisable, but not absolutely necessary. you obviously got fermentation, but not enough to lower to target fg. take home lesson.... make starters in the future. on the dry yeast, as mentioned there have been a couple of recalls recently. certainly possible you got a bad sachet, thus no surprise on it not helping.

you mention using  Zephyr Hills water..... are you using their spring water or their distilled? There are a number of things that can limit fermentations. minerals are certainly one, and if you're using distilled (probably not, but....) then that could be an issue. certainly more of an issue with an extract batch than with all grain.

your higher temps would lead to a faster, more complete fermentation, but also one with potential off flavors - but that's not the source of this particular problem. for the future, it is possible to get cooler ferm temps without a dedicated brewing fridge. put the fermenter in a large tub of water. fill two gallon jugs about 3/4 full and put in your freezer. put one in the tub in the morning when you go to work, swap it out for the other when you get home in the evening. low tech but effective temp control. given your ambient temps, you may not get as low as you like, but should help considerably.
Mark Tumarkin
Hogtown Brewers
Gainesville, FL

Offline hairyhood

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2010, 12:35:28 PM »
Thanks for the tip on the ferm temps.  I have a question about that.  Should I submerge the carboy in the tub of water or maybe go half-way...???...maybe a quarter full in the tub?  I know I will have to monitor and adjust it, but any idea on where to start?

Another note on the StarSan.....I realize that it is a no-rinse sanitizer, but I always rinse my carboy after sanitizing.  I can't stand the thought of adding my beer (especially when I do an organic brew) to all of those suds.  I contacted FiveStar and asked if this was ok.  I was told that while I was not getting the full benefit of the sanitizer that it should still be ok to do a rinse after sanitizing.

Offline hokerer

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2010, 12:53:14 PM »
Thanks for the tip on the ferm temps.  I have a question about that.  Should I submerge the carboy in the tub of water or maybe go half-way...???...maybe a quarter full in the tub?  I know I will have to monitor and adjust it, but any idea on where to start?

Another note on the StarSan.....I realize that it is a no-rinse sanitizer, but I always rinse my carboy after sanitizing.  I can't stand the thought of adding my beer (especially when I do an organic brew) to all of those suds.  I contacted FiveStar and asked if this was ok.  I was told that while I was not getting the full benefit of the sanitizer that it should still be ok to do a rinse after sanitizing.

For the temp control, the water level in your tub should be less than or equal to the wort level in your fermenter.  Otherwise the fermenter could float/tip/otherbadthings.  Ideally, add enough frozen water bottles to keep the water temp around 65 degrees.

For sanitation, remember the StarSan mantra "Don't fear the foam!".  Pouring on top of the foam will have no affect but rinsing could.  You've gone to the trouble of sanitizing your fermenter with StarSan but then you go and rinse with tap water.  If there's any nasties in your tap water (and there's probably always some), you've just put them back in the fermenter.  "Don't fear the foam!"  :)
Joe

Offline tumarkin

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2010, 12:57:37 PM »
fill the tub so that it comes as high up the side of the carboy as you can without causing it to float. obviously, your tub has to be deep enough to accommodate that. you don't want the tub too big though (width & length), as more water makes it harder for the frozen jug to drop the temp enough. you can also try covering the carboy with a tshirt. as the water wicks up & evaporates it will have a cooling effect also. these solutions work, though obviously not anywhere near as well as a fridge & temp controller.

dont worry about the residual star san.... it's truly not a problem, you'll never taste it from what's left by the foam.
Mark Tumarkin
Hogtown Brewers
Gainesville, FL

Offline hairyhood

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2010, 01:26:04 PM »
I'll give the tub a try.  I have a "keg tub" so it will not be a problem getting the water chilled with the ice jug.  I already have a temp controller....just need to find the space for a chest freezer and I should be ok on that front.

I have been using the Zephyr Hills SPRING water....any thoughts on spring water....I know it will be higher in minerals.  Any ideas on what type of water to use if not spring water? 

I will be using starters from now on with my yeast.  It still seems odd to me that the fermentation would drop off so quickly before reaching my FG.  1.035 and my target of 1.014 is a huge gap.  I went ahead and started dry-hopping anyway.  Would anyone go ahead and try to pitch yeast for the third time at this point or just keg it and drink it when the dry-hopping is done.  It has been about a month now.

Any other thoughts are still appreciated.

Offline hokerer

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2010, 01:44:16 PM »
Do you trust your hydrometer?  If 1.066 is close to the OG you were looking for, it's not likely, but could something be wrong with it.  Does it read 1.000 in distilled water?
Joe

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2010, 01:48:32 PM »
With an extract batch there is no harm in using distilled water and it might be preferable to some water available.  The water that was used to make the extract is what's important, and by adding that to spring water you're increasing mineral levels in the final wort.  That's not necessarily bad, but is worth mentioning.  And I don't think it has anything to do with your problem.

The temps you mentioned are higher than ideal, but they would favor yeast activity and are not the problem either.

It is possible that aeration or yeast health are the problem.  Here is what I would do . . . get yourself some new yeast and rehydrate it in about 1/2 cup of warm water.  Once it is rehydrated, and a tsp or so of sugar to get it going a little.  Rack a pint or so of your beer into a new container and add your yeast mixture to it.  Measure or calculate the gravity of the new mixture, then take a reading the next day.  If the gravity is dropping, let it go until it is stable.  This will give you an idea of how low you can expect it to go.  Once the sample is stable, swirl it to resuspend the yeast and add it back to the main batch and give the whole thing a big swirl to resuspend the yeast that have previously settled out.  Then wait.

If the sample gravity doesn't drop, then you're probably stuck there and not going to get lower without doing something like adding amylase.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline abraxas

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Re: fermentation woes - chlorine?
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2010, 04:45:56 PM »
When I started brewing I ran into similar problems for two batches in a row.  I never did figure it out, but it was very similar, I'd pitch more yeast and it wouldn't drop any.

A brief rinse with PBW followed by Star San soak should be enough to rule that out as a culprit.

Regarding Star-San shelf life, from here: http://forums.morebeer.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=2963
Quote
"Under normal conditions there is no real shelf life problem. There is
nothing in the product that can go bad or inactive. It will decompose if
stores at temperatures above 120F for long period of time say two to three
months at a time.
Charlie"

Even if the Star San was ineffective, I would expect infections would be more likely than incomplete fermentation (unless something is competing).  Some pH strips should help you test the Star San and it might be worth checking the wort.  You should be able to find some at a brew shop or garden supply store for a couple dollars.

My best guess would have been too high of a temp (and temperature swings which yeast don't like).  Say the spot gets to 76F, during high yeast activity this could be at least 10F higher, might be enough to kill off a lot of the yeast.  If you sprinkled dry yeast onto the semi-fermented wort it might have been less than ideal environment for the yeast to take off.  A better way would be to rehydrate the yeast and add a couple additions of a little of the wort to get the yeast used to the environment, add the yeast when it is at high krauzen.  If the yeast doesn't show any activity there's a good chance something else is wrong.  This i sort of a late fast fermentation test. http://www.braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Fast_Ferment_Test

Also, maybe try rousing the yeast a little by gently shaking the carboy.  This might help eliminate some of the CO2 in solution and help with wake up some of the dormant yeast.