Stuck Fermentation

What went wrong? Was this supposed to happen? Should I throw it out? What do I do now?

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Stuck Fermentation

Postby l48shark » Sun Sep 15, 2002 9:32 pm

What do you do in case of stuck fermentation? What causes this?

I lost a few batches because nothing happened for some time and the beer came out tasting horrible. I figured the bacteria got to the wort before the yeast did. My brewshop kept selling me WYeast that was almost or just over 1 year old, so I bought some XL pack WYeast from an online site.

I was concerned with the heat during shipping, etc., but their site claimed that they never have problems with this. I brewed an ESB with London ale yeast the day I got it and pitched the XL pack. Nothing happened for 4 days and I finally gave it a vigorous stirring before the airlock started bubbling. But the beer did not taste good when I racked it to secondary.

For the 2nd and 3rd batch, I tried incubating the XL pack for 1 and 2 days, but they barely bulged. I went ahead and brewed, but I am afraid nothing is going to happen again. What should I do if the wort does not start fermenting right away? I am getting really tired of wasting so much time and money.

What's with this yeast? I have had the same problem from 2 sources now. I have not changed my procedures and have been a successful brewer up until now. Any ideas/suggestions?

Cheers,
Ford
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I hear you brother

Postby jayhawk » Sun Sep 15, 2002 10:11 pm

I am no expert, but I have experienced similar troubles. The first Wyeast I tried was very discouraging, the pack took forever to expand and the starter never really took off. I through it out. Earlier this year, my HBS sold me some yeast slurry from a local micro brewery, and I had three horrible batches in a row. The ferment didn't start promptly, and the bacteria got a hold of it and spoiled the beer. I went back to the dry yeast (Danestar Nottingham) for a while and had great success. After rebuilding my brewing confidence, I am now retrying liquid cultures (Wyeast), and so far all is good.

I have limited brewing experience, but it seems like poor aeration and improper pitching and fermentation temperature are the usual suspects in poor fermentation. Maybe you have to adjust the pitching temp for the new strain you want to use.

Perhaps the yeast strain you are using has been handled poorly. Unless they have a proven track record with you, never trust your retailer. A retailer will always claim he has nothing but the best handling and shipping practices. If he didn't he would be out of business.

As for salvaging your beer, have a "back up" pack of dried yeast on hand at all times. If your desired yeast falls through, at least you can start the dried and pitch something you know will ferment.

If possible, find a local micro or U-brew store through which you can order yeast directly from Wyeast. They should be able to "drop ship" an order for you. Try phoning Wyeast directly. Tell them your problem and who you bought the yeast from. They should be helpful. They want to maintain a reputation of having a good product. The last thing Wyeast needs is retailers spoiling their reputation by using poor handling and shipping practices.
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Some suggestions

Postby Azorean Brewer » Mon Sep 16, 2002 1:47 am

Hi Ford,
OK, I can only think of a couple of things that might or might not help.

First, look at your cleaning procedures, if you use chlorine (ie: klorox) even one drop left behind will kill all of your yeast cells. So look at that, if you are confident that you did everything right in regards to cleaning, try making a starter.

Even with a smack pack, try making a starter. Begin 3-4 days ahead of time, smack the pack, when it is expanded 1" as they recommend, dump it into a 1/2 - 1 liter slurry ( I use 1/2 cup DME per 2 cups water, and a couple of hop pellets). Begin the starter 24-36 hours before you plan on brewing. On brew day you should have a good krausen started before you pitch your yeast.

If you don't, then it may be the yeast itself and nothing else that you are doing wrong.

I hope someone out there has more scientific advice, but in case they don't you'll have some ideas.

Good luck, I know how it hurts to throw out a wasted batch. I used to have inconsistancies until I started using White Labs pitchable liquid yeast, now I always make a starter 24 hours ahead of pitch time, now I get full fermentation activity in the air lock in 4-6 hours. Let me know how you make out OK,

Paul.

PS. I am assuming you are using a plastic fermenter as I am and cannot see the process taking place.
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some thoughts...

Postby Gravity Thrills » Mon Sep 16, 2002 5:59 am

Here are some things to consider, in no particular order...

Az is right - make sure you are not killing your yeast with unrinsed sanitizer.

Also, make sure your wort is cooled to 80F or below before you pitch the yeast. Temps above this up to 100F or so will knock your yeast for a loop, but populations will slowly rebound (maybe this was the reason for the long lag on your ESB). Temperatures over 110F will kill most cells outright.

Make sure you are completely aerating the wort at pitching. You can also aerate again up to 6-8 hours after pitching to give the yeast a little extra oxygen during that lag phase - after that, of course, no more air. A stainless airstone and aquarium pump will get you to saturation in @ 5 minutes. I use a stone attached to a little BernzOmatic oxygen cylinder to get there in around 1 minute (2 30 second blasts).

Are your fermentation temperatures in the range of the strain you are using? Are there large, rapid fluctuations in temperature where you are fermenting? That can knock your yeast out.

Absolutely use a starter as others have suggested. If you are using kits, throw a teaspoon of Fermax or other yeast nutrient into your starter, and another teaspoon into the wort at pitching time. I use it anyway even with all-grain, because there are some micronutrients that may still be in short supply during lag phase.

And find a better source for the Wyeast if someone is pushing year-old product. Right on the Wyeast packages it says to not use anything over 6 months old. My home brew supply shop (I'll plug them: Heart's Home Brewing out of Orlando, FL - awesomely fast shipping and good grain prices too) advertises that they strive to supply only the freshest stuff and I believe them -- the manufacture date on the Wyeast smack packs they send me show me the stuff is usually only a couple of weeks old when I get it! If you want really fresh stuff it's probably better to use the more popular strains so you know there is good turnaround of inventory.

If your fermentation craps out early, rouse the yeast by gently rocking the fermenter. Also try a less flocculent strain if your yeast seems to be settling out too early.

And that emergency dried yeast packet is a good idea, too. I've gotten complacent because it has been a long time since I've had a stuck fermentation (knock wood casks), but I'm gonna put that on the list of things to get with my next order to be safe :-)

Cheers,
Jim
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funny you should say so

Postby stumpwater » Mon Sep 16, 2002 1:06 pm

The first time I used liquid yeast, it was the London and I had the same problems. The yeast also clumped and floated rather than flocculate. I think that my problem was the fermentation temperature as this yeast is less tolerant to higher temps than the dry stuff I was using. I think this yeast has an ideal fermentation temp of about 18 celcius. Hope that this helps :o

Stefan
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???

Postby Monkey Man » Mon Sep 16, 2002 5:28 pm

Invest in a hydrometer and learn to use it. Over time this will allow you to establish a baseline as to when repeated recipes are "done." In the meantime, when you use old yeast ake a starter. Use yeast nutirent in the starter and in the "big" wort. Take a hydrometer reading. Aerate like mad, then pitch. The hydrometer should tell you how your beer is coming along. Make sure you keep within the manufacturers specs. I would also recommend using White Labs yeast. It out performs Wyeast in my opinion. Either way try to get yeast as fresh as you can.
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Update

Postby l48shark » Mon Sep 16, 2002 6:46 pm

OK, thanks for the input. I will try to address some of the questions:

>I have never had a problem with aeration, but I am not equipped with an O2 tank and stone. After chilling the wort, I pour it into my bottling bucket and then from there I funnel (not syphon; it splashes a lot) it into the fermenter. This has always been sufficient in the past.

>I pitch the yeast at a wort temperature of 74*F and the temperature of my brewhouse is currently the same.

>I do not use chlorine bleach to sanitize. I use idophor only. I drain, but do not rinse, after sanitizing with a solution of 3/4 teaspoon idophor per gallon of water.

>I have not tried a starter, but a WYeast XL pack is supposed to be just that, isn't it? It is much larger (125mL) than their normal size.

>I am using glass fermenters, which is how I know nothing is happening.

>I did find another supplier to avoid the year old yeast, but I had to switch from a local store to an online site. The yeast rode a UPS truck in 90+ heat all day before getting to my house and originated from Texas in August, so who knows what else it was subjected to. I really wonder how much abuse it can stand, particularly when the WYeast package says to keep it refrigerated.

>I do have a hydrometer and use it regularly. My brews typically begin with 1.045 SG @ 74*F. The ESB was reading a little high after a week and tasted a little foul. It is currently in a secondary. I will let it sit for a while yet, but I do not have high hopes for it. That was the one with the 4-5 day lag time.

On the 2 new batches, I am at 24 hours with no percolating of the airlock yet. How long does your lag time (with and without a starter) usually last? Hopefully these 2 will be OK when I get home tomorrow and this will be a moot point, but I am concerned. Oh well, at least my merlot came out nicely.

Cheers,
Ford
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I think yeast handling

Postby jayhawk » Mon Sep 16, 2002 9:22 pm

"The yeast rode a UPS truck in 90+ heat all day before getting to my house and originated from Texas in August, so who knows what else it was subjected to."

I think this is your culprit. I had a shipping nightmare happen to me with a local retailer. It is a long story, but here is the upshot of the whole thing. The courier picked up the yeast friday, but could not get it to me until monday. As a result, the yeast was going to sit in a warehouse (unrefridged) over the weekend. I phoned WYEAST, and they said that if the yeast sits unrefridged for a long period of time (ie over 12 hours), it will be useless. Thus, if your yeast pack is sitting in a UPS truck in the Texas heat for long periods, it will be seriously affected and you will have problems like yours. I have a helluva time sourcing yeast, I have to drive for over 1 hour (one way) to get WYEAST. I don't trust couriers because they don't generally ship perishables. Unfortunately, yeast is perishable.
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That's The Answer!

Postby Gravity Thrills » Tue Sep 17, 2002 10:10 am

Now the truth comes out. Your beer is jealous of your wine and is engaging in negative attention-seeking behavior. Tell your beer it is just as special as your wine and I'm sure it will start to behave :-)

seriously, as far as shipping the liquid yeat, if you are buying all teh ingredients for a batch a good supplier will insulate the yeast with teh rest of the ingredients to keep it from overheating. To my surprise, I have even had coldpacks thrown in with yeast orders in teh summer, so some stores out there actually care about their customers.
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Jealous Beer

Postby l48shark » Tue Sep 17, 2002 3:19 pm

Yeah, no kidding! Well, considering that the wine is a simple to make, 6-week, Wine Art kit and the beer is *much* more work and a recipe I designed myself, that should not be a problem. :) That Wine Art stuff is good though and at ~$2 per bottle, you can't beat it! One of these seasons I am going to plant some grapes vines and make some real wine, though.

My local homebrew shop is really good about handling the yeast. If I am not going straight home, they throw it in a plastic bag and seal it with a few cubes of ice. The problem was that I got tired of choosing a style based on what yeast was fresh. :( That along with getting burned on the old strains is what prompted me to seek another source.) Especially since the fresh strain was always American ale (most popular) and that's about it.

In this case, all I bought was yeast (several XL packs) and there was nothing to insulate or cool it. I thought their site said it would be delivered on the next business day, so I I thought it would be OK. It actually said it would be _shipped_ on the next business day, so my Thursday order arrived on Tuesday and I am the last stop for my UPS guy. Of course it was over 90*F that day in AR and the shipment came from TX (in August). Yeah, I had a few homebrews while browsing the site. I also typed the wrong zip code and had to reorder and cancel the first. ;)

Cheers,
Ford
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ONE STARTED!

Postby l48shark » Tue Sep 17, 2002 3:25 pm

Well, the pale ale is percolating today. I have been stirring them occasionally trying to rouse the yeast. The weizen is not yet. I popped another yeast pack, so if it is still dead this weekend and the yeast pack has risen, I will brew a new batch. If it does take off, then this pack will tell me if this yeast is indeed bad if it does not pop. If you are wondering what the urgency is, I am hosting an Oktoberfest party on 19 OCT and would like to have some homebrew to serve besides what the club brings. If you will be near Northwest Arkansas around then, let me know so I can give you directions.

Cheers,
Ford
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Final Update

Postby l48shark » Tue Sep 17, 2002 9:23 pm

Well, it looks like I may have cried wolf here. 48 hours after brewing, the pale ale is bubbling and the weizen also started fermentation the same numbers of hours later as the difference in the time that I brewed the two batches. It appears that all is well. I think I know what happened...

I recently read that the WYeast London ale strain is highly flocculent and "may require additional stirring." I did not know/do this until way after pitching and apparently after the bacteria got to the wort. I guess I will know next time I attempt an ESB.

The reason I was so concerned is because I have not brewed for a while due to an auto accident, but before then I had a few terrible batches and I believe the reason was old yeast. I posted early to get ideas so I could possibly salvage the batches if something went wrong again. It looks like everything may turn out OK now, but I am still surprised that these fresh yeast packs did not rise during incubation.

Thanks a lot for the tips. It looks like I may be OK for Oktoberfest. :)
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Maybe that was my wine problem

Postby dartedplus » Wed Sep 18, 2002 7:23 pm

I think my wine may have had that same lack of attention problem. I was more concerned about my altbier, so my wine didnt start to ferment for a couple of days. I just made a peach wine with some peaches from my sisters tree. She will be giving me a box of pears this weekend, and I will need to bottle the blueberry soon. Man I'm busy withh all this stuff. but I cant wait till its all done. I already had a little sipper of the blueberry and it is very nice, it has the color of a nice merlot. :)
Ed
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