Introduction and design question...

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

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Introduction and design question...

Postby MFoster75 » Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:00 am

I'm new to this site, and couldn't find an "Introduce Yourself" section, so I figured I'd start here, and do that, and ask my question all at the same time...

I'm a relatively new brewer, five brews in, and I'm really enjoying it. I work 24 hour shifts, so I'm often away when important brewing milestones are reached at home... Like in this brew, the "A-Z Brown Ale" featured in Sam Calagione's "Extreme Brewing"... it's supposed to be a 9% ABV brown ale... Its sitting in the primary now, and I had fermentation sometime between 10 and 15 hours after pitching White Labs WLP060 American Ale yeast... After about 10 or 12 hours of fermention we had a near blow out... I got all info via email from my wife, because I was at work... It seems there was backup, of beer, not krausen, into the airlock... And the lid of the fermenter was bulging... I found this forum (extremely helpful) and had my wife create a sanitized blow off system using a siphon tube, the airlock, and a second fermentation bucket with approximately 4 inches of water at the bottom... I have CO2 out of the end of the siphon tube, but I'd like to confer with the experts on my design... Hopefully the pictures come out here.... The first is of the siphon tube connection, you can see the tint of the water in the airlock.... The second is of the end of the siphon tube, being held underwater by a dinner plate... Do we think this will hold until the pressure is relieved? There is still some bulge to the fermenter lid....


Thanks for all of your time!

Matt
[url]http://img39.imageshack.us/i/photo2hnd.jpg/[/url]
[url]http://img38.imageshack.us/i/photodvo.jpg/[/url]

*Just read the FAQ's and found the "You can't actually insert pictures into posts" section... I hope those links work... If they do not, and you'd like to help, I can email the pictures... Thanks. -M*
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blow off tube

Postby slothrob » Tue Aug 11, 2009 5:16 pm

Welcome to the board!

When needed, I use a blow-off tube that is about 1" in diameter and fits into the top of a glass carboy. I've never tried a smaller tube like yours, but I know some people do, you just need to watch for the tube clogging and repeating your original problem.

As long as there is CO2 coming out, it should be fine. If it clogs, you can just rinse it, sanitize it and put it back... as long as you catch it before the fermentor blows it's top.

I believe that fermenting cooler, usually in the low 60's, has prevented most of my need for a blow-off tube. But I make beers below 1.050 OG, typically, and bigger beers will ferment more energetically.
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Postby Suthrncomfrt1884 » Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:58 pm

I've never used WL yeast, but the wyeast american ale is the same way. It's a very angry fermenter. Everytime I've used it, I've had blow-off.

As far as your setup goes... I just had one more thing to add on what slothrob said.

You may want to use sanitizer in your bucket instead of water. I've never had it happen personally, but have heard of this stuff being sucked up into the fermenter. If it happens, it better be sanitary..
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Postby MFoster75 » Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:12 pm

Thanks for the replies, guys... Going on 24 hours with the posted setup, and no problems... As far as using a sanitized solution, the physics invloved with the siphon tube shouldn't allow the water to be siphoned into the fermenter... The pressure in the bucket would have to go from "pressurized" with the offgassing of CO2 to atmospheric pressure, to a complete vacuum... Since the siphon tube is so narrow, the pressure build up in the fermenter should remain for a significant amount of time after fermentation is complete, due to the slow release through such a narrow tube... Besides, even in a vacuum, I'm more likely to loose beer than to suck the water out of the bucket... I think... It's been a while since college physics...
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suck back

Postby slothrob » Wed Aug 12, 2009 7:15 am

I suspect the times people have problems with suck back into the fermentor are when the blow-off bucket is higher than the fermentor. I suppose it might also happen if the temperature of the fermentation dropped enough after the yeast calmed down, though.

Any idea how warm the fermentation is at this point?
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Postby MFoster75 » Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:13 am

The AC is set for 75... So it may reach 76 for breif periods of time... We would move it to the basement... But I'm worried about agitating the fermentation at this point... Besides the basement is a Good 15 degrees colder, and the yeast specifically states fermentation temps of above 70... Thoughts?
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Postby Suthrncomfrt1884 » Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:02 pm

I'm not sure about this, but I would think moving it while it's still fermenting would be better than waiting. My reasoning behind this is that when the beer is finished, you don't want to splash it around because of oxydation. As I've said hundreds of times on homebrew forums...I'm no scientist. I've never been big on the science behind brewing, I just like making good beers. I make sure I know enough to do this.
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warm ferment

Postby slothrob » Wed Aug 12, 2009 5:26 pm

I think that's too warm, but I don't have much experience fermenting anything over 65oF. I did just taste a beer from a new brewer who fermented at 72oF and the beer was dominated by fusel alcohols. I'd have moved it to the cellar. At this point, however, you may be better off leaving it alone and hoping that the yeast activity will clean it up a bit.

A lot of brewers use American Ale Yeast in the low 60s or even lower. In that case, though, it might not be a bad thing to move it someplace warmer, after fermentation has started to slow down, to make sure it finishes.

Other than spilling the beer, or sucking something in from the airlock, there's no inherent danger to moving it.
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Update!!

Postby MFoster75 » Thu Aug 20, 2009 3:04 pm

The design of the "siphon-tube airlock mechanism" worked perfectly... The fermentation continued vigorously for three or so days, after which we added 8.5 fl oz of pure maple syrup, and continued to ferment at a frightening rate. The OG of 1.058 dropped to 1.028 at the addition of the syrup, and then to 1.010 today, 10 days after we noticed fermentation... I sipped from the sample I tested the gravity on, and found it to be two parts delicious and one part rocket fuel... It's supposed to top out @ 9%, and I haven't done the math yet, mainly because I had been completely unprepared for today to be the day... I'm thinking the increased temp had a lot to do with shortening what should have been a nearly three week fermentation (according to the recipe) by 1/2. Thoughts? Thanks for all the support and ideas folks.
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rocket fuel

Postby slothrob » Thu Aug 20, 2009 5:23 pm

Yeah, warm temperatures sure will speed up fermentation, but cool, calm fermentations can significantly reduce the rocket fuel flavor.
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Re: rocket fuel

Postby MFoster75 » Thu Aug 20, 2009 7:04 pm

slothrob wrote:Yeah, warm temperatures sure will speed up fermentation, but cool, calm fermentations can significantly reduce the rocket fuel flavor.


What are the chances a cool conditioning can push that "rocket fuel" flavor out? It's not too bad, just gives off an essence of "Holy Crap! That's a Ton of Alcohol!"
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aging

Postby slothrob » Fri Aug 21, 2009 7:03 am

Aging should help somewhat with those fusel alcohols. You probably should age the beer at cellaring temperatures, about 60°F. The fusels disappear by yeast metabolism and oxidation which turn them into esters which add complexity to aged beers. These reactions will proceed more rapidly at the slightly warmer temperatures of a cellar than they would in the fridge.

It's not uncommon that such a high alcohol beer would need some aging. I was given a 9% Imperial Stout made by a friend that was delicious, but hot. It had improved after 6 months in the cellar, and was outstanding after 1.5 years. Not all of the heat was gone by the end, but it was down to an appropriate amount.

The yeast action will probably mostly take place over a month or two, so you can give that a try if you aren't willing to wait upwards of a year. I'd stash a few bottles away to see how they come out after a long aging, though.
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