Belgian Ale?
July 15, 2004 10:56 AM   Subscribe

HomeBrewFilter: I boiled this Belgian Ale Kit last night. Today, there's absolutely no carbonation coming out of the airlock. Nothing. I am concerned that the yeast might have been damaged. Should I worry about it now? Or wait and see a bit longer?
posted by scarabic to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wait for a couple of days. If it doesn't go by then, try putting in another batch of yeast. Relax, have a homebrew.
posted by sauril at 11:15 AM on July 15, 2004

Response by poster: It was a liquid yeast, which was not made clear on the ordering page. Notice that there's only one yeast available with the kit, and the picture shows an envelope yeast. They shipped it to me unrefrigerated. That seemed like a bad thing. If it hasn't gotten its groove on in another day or two, I can just pitch a fresh vial of yeast? That's a relief to hear, as otherwise I'd be out $23 on all the ingredients. $5 for the yeast is bad enough!
posted by scarabic at 11:20 AM on July 15, 2004

Yes, you can just pitch a fresh vial.

I've had fermentation take 48 hours to start. That's rare, but it does happen. And I've had "flash fermentation," too, which is the opposite extreme. At any rate, putting more yeast in there won't hurt anything, even if the first batch eventually takes off.

(I've been making beer for almost 20 years, and wine for 8 months or so. Cheers!)
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:43 AM on July 15, 2004

Oh, another problem I've run into is a leaky seal on the fermentation bucket. Fermentation happened, but the airlock never bubbled. As long as there's positive pressure inside the vessel, no problem, but it's something to work on for the next batch.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:45 AM on July 15, 2004

On occasion, I've had to wait well over 24 hours for fermenation to start, though that seems to indicate something is slightly amiss. Did you aerate the wort? What sort of water did you use -- does it have enough mineral goodness for the yeast to thrive? If you do have to add more yeast, consider also mixing in some additives (in small quantities) -- it can't hurt, and might help, and shouldn't cost much.
posted by Mark Doner at 11:51 AM on July 15, 2004

I made a similar Belgian once, if I remember correctly it too took about 48 hours to begin fermentation.
posted by soplerfo at 12:03 PM on July 15, 2004

Response by poster: I used bottled mountain spring water - first time I've tried that. Hope it works okay. I aerated quite a bit in the transfer from boiler to fermenter.

I'll double-check the seal. I think it's okay, because there was actually a little bit of reverse pressure on the airlock this morning, probably due to more cooling overnight.

I guess I'll hang and wait. I tend to get impatient. Thanks for the tips, y'all!
posted by scarabic at 12:09 PM on July 15, 2004

"bottled mountain spring water"

If that's really distilled water it might not have enough minerals.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:30 PM on July 15, 2004

I'm thinking ozonation might not help, either.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:07 PM on July 15, 2004

I've used bottled spring water with good results, but it probably depends on the brand & source. Obviously, some sources are purer, and others more mineral-rich.

Ozonation probably doesn't hurt -- ozone breaks down into oxygen, which is something you want to have in there. And you've got that much more assurance that there isn't anything living in the water.
posted by Mark Doner at 1:30 PM on July 15, 2004

In general it's better for fermentation to start within 24 hours, since this gives the yeast a chance to outnumber the "bad bacteria" sooner and take over. Most home brewers probably underpitch, though, so sometimes this can take longer. 48 hours would be my limit before I pitched more yeast.

I've had problems with liquid yeasts when I didn't give them at least a day or so to culture before pitching. I prepare a starter malt solution, boiling the water and then adding the malt to it (the idea is to acheve a similar water/malt balance as the wort will have, so the exact proportions will vary), pouring into a sanitized flask and then allowing it to cool. Once it's cool, I add the liquid yeast, affix an airlock and allow it to work for a day or so. I then pitch that into the wort. It means more planning, of course, you can't brew on a moment's notice.

You can do something similar with dry yeasts, if you want. I've heard also that with dry yeasts all you need to do is hydrate them in pre-boiled (but cooled) water. When working with dry yeasts I generally do the starter solution at the beginning of the boil, rather than days ahead. It seems as if the better dry yeasts have a higher cell count and so there's less time required to get sufficient yeast cells.
posted by tommasz at 1:50 PM on July 15, 2004

Response by poster: Can anyone comment on what happens to liquid yeast when it's kept unrefrigerated?
posted by scarabic at 2:21 PM on July 15, 2004

If it's an ale yeast the concoction needs to sit at a pretty warm temperature for the yeast to be active. In the future you can always try "krauzening" (sp?) which is skimming an active froth from one batch and using it to prime another batch. Also, many Belgians continue to ferment in the bottle. Echo sauril, relax and have a homebrew.
posted by vito90 at 2:21 PM on July 15, 2004

scarabic, I would expect it to begin to ferment and then go dormant when the small amount of food in the package is exhausted. The amount of time between that point and when it gets used will determine how much of the yeast cells survive. The longer you wait, the more yeast will die.
posted by tommasz at 2:37 PM on July 15, 2004

Sit tight, I'm pretty sure you'll be fine. You've got a pretty high-gravity beer there (I assume), so a long lag period is to be expected if you don't have a starter and don't oxygenate. You can pitch another tube in a few days if you really want to, but I don't think you'll need to. The lack of refrigeration is unfortunate, but shouldn't be a crisis; White Labs does good work and their yeast can last a long time, even unrefrigerated. The biggest caveat I'd have is if you may have pitched it too warm (you mentioned it cooled a bit overnight)... In that case a fresh vial would be a good idea. But if you were below about 85, you should be OK.
posted by nickmark at 3:02 PM on July 15, 2004

Response by poster: It was reading at about 78 when I pitched. Cooling to that point has proved to be my biggest challenge overall. I think I'm going to switch to a partial boil method, so I can top off with cold water and get below 80 faster. I don't want to use an immersion wort chiller as it just grates on my water usage ethics, not to mention it's another piece of equipment taking up space in my kitchen. My last few batches have involved nesting the boiler in a sink full of ice. All that bagged ice is another $3-$4 to the ingredient list, sadly. I need to start freezing tupperwares full of water or something instead.
posted by scarabic at 3:40 PM on July 15, 2004

Response by poster: Followup: it's been about 36 hours now and the shit bubbleth!

I did a little more reading and found out that 78 was a little warm for this particular yeast (Whitelabs abbey). It likes to be in the 64-74°F range, apparently. I think I'm probably fudgeable for this batch, but it might have had something to do with the slow start, and there may be further consequences. But for now, ferementation is bubbling away, so I'll stop freaking out.

Thanks, all!
posted by scarabic at 8:25 AM on July 16, 2004

« Older Satellite broadband opinions wanted.   |   Name a Three-Legged Cat Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.