Lazy Yeast in an English Pale Ale

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

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Lazy Yeast in an English Pale Ale

Postby scorriga » Tue Jul 26, 2005 9:56 pm

My friend and I took our first attempt at brewing a batch of malt extract English Pale Ale a couple days ago. After some activity in the fermentation vessel (closed, single stage bucket with airlock on top), the activity has slowed to a crawl after only 2 full days. In re-reading some directions to see if we missed anything, I see directions to aerate the wort as it is transferred to the fermenting vessel. We siphone into the fermenting vessel and had little or no agitation. Could this be the reason for the slow yeast, and is there anything that can be done at this point to give it a boost? Thanks!
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Hydrometer reading

Postby Azorean Brewer » Wed Jul 27, 2005 6:53 am

Hi, and welcome to beertools.com

The only REAL way to tell if your beer is done fermenting or stuck is to take a hydrometer reading. Carefully remove the float part of your air lock (if you have a three piecer) using a piece of adhesive tape, and then slowly remove the the lid and scoop out one cup (using a sanitized cup) and pour it into your hydrometer test tube, and take a reading, discard this beer (do not pour it back in to the fermenter). If it is at a low reading ( I am not sure what your target finish is, b8ut say finish target is 1.012) and your reading is 1.020, you are ready to transfer to secondary in 1-3 days. Write back with your findings, we'll help you out OK?

Paul.
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Lazy Yeast in an English Pale Ale

Postby scorriga » Thu Jul 28, 2005 12:18 am

Thanks for the reply. The initial SG was at 1.040, and the reading I took this evening showed 1.008. Doing the quick math, the yeast seems to have done it's job (I think this puts us at ~4% alcohol by volume). Everything looked (and smelled) like beer, so I'm much more optimistic than I was the other night! Regarding the secondary--the instructions we have been following don't specify to use one, but the guy at the store where we bought the supplies (and now you as well) mentioned something about transferring to a secondary vessel and letting it go for another week. If I understand correctly, this wouldn't be a proper second fermentation, so what benefit does it provide versus aging in the bottle? Thanks for your help!
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Postby BillyBock » Thu Jul 28, 2005 7:17 am

Congrats on your first beer, and welcome to the obsession...er, I mean hobby!

The secondary allows the beer time to clear--suspended matter like yeast and hop particles fall to the bottom. Afterwards you pull off the bright beer from above this layer. If you skip this stage, you'll just have more 'stuff' in your bottle To prevent off flavors from developing, it's normal to use a secondary to get the beer off of the primary yeast cake (which has more than yeast in it) and age it before consumption. Aging like this, or bulk aging, has more yeast in contact with the beer to accomplish their job. Aging can take anywhere from a few days to many months. Once you've cleared it and aged it, then you can bottle it with priming sugar where it will self-carbonate in the bottle.

I'm not sure what you mean by a 'proper fermentation' in the secondary. The term 'secondary fermentation' is really a misnomer as the most common use for a second vessel is as I described above. Some people do ferment a second time in this vessel, typically when they're adding fruit to a beer. But then they have to use a tertiary vessel to do the clearing.

There are many benefits, but it is more equipment to clean and sanitize. It's not completely necessary--especially when you're getting used to the hobby. If you don't do it this time, no sweat. Just expect more sediment in the bottle.

v/r
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Lazy Yeast in an English Pale Ale

Postby scorriga » Fri Jul 29, 2005 11:38 pm

I guess by not being a "proper secondary fermentation", I meant "not a secondary fermentation in the strictest sense", being that it sounds like it's mainly to get the beer off the spent yeast and grain and let it settle rather than to actually ferment it further.

At any rate, many thanks for the tips. On our first batch, we're going to go ahead and bottle it tomorrow so we can get it conditioned and take a taste as soon as possible. I'm anxious to see what we've got--we'll spend more time with letting the second batch bulk age in a secondary vessel!
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