Saturday, February 27, 2010

Counter Top All-Grain Brewing Part 1

Brewing up an all grain IPA on the Counter Top. Check it out.

Counter Top All-Grain Brewing Part 2

Brewing up an IPA on the Counter Top! It's easy to do, just watch the video.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What do I do if I have a stuck fermentation?

This question seems to come up a lot with both wine makers and beer makers. There are a few simple things that you can do to get the fermentation going again in your beer or wine.

First off, you want to take a hydrometer reading. You know what a hydrometer is, right? That little glass thingy that you probably broke far too many times and have had to replace. Anyway, this is THE only way you can tell what's going on with fermentation. DO NOT rely on airlock activity. I've had plenty of people say that their wine or beer is still working after months of just sitting in a carboy because they see bubbles coming out of the airlock. Please don't rely on airlocks. What happens during primary fermentation is that there is an ass-ton of carbon dioxide being produced. Since it all can't go up and out of the airlock or blow off tube it has no other place but to get dissolved into the solution of the beer or wine. So if you see activity in your airlock months after primary fermentation I can 99.9% guarantee that it's just residual co2. So always use your hydrometer.

Now, if your hydrometer is reading above 1.000 (for wines) or higher than you expect your final gravity to be for beer, then the first thing you want to check is your temperature. If your beer (ales only) or wine is in a cooler place . . . 65 degrees or lower, then the yeast tend to slow down and possibly go dormant. So I suggest to warm up the beer or wine and gently rouse the yeast up with a sanitized spoon to get it back into suspension. Let it know that it still has a job to do!

If this doesn't work then you can add more fresh yeast to see if it will take off.

If that doesn't work either then it could be your ph, especially with wines. If your ph is too low then your yeast will automatically die. You can use ph strips to see what your ph level is. Anything lower than 3 and it's too acidic for the yeast and the yeast won't take off. You can use some acidex to help drop out some of the acid to raise your ph level or you can dilute your wine down with some water. Water usually has a ph of 8. You can also cold crash your wine. Simply place it in an area that's close to freezing for a few weeks and the tartaric acid will naturally start to crystallize and drop out of solution. You'll see it at the bottom of the fermenter; this may take a few racks to get the desired ph level. Once your ph level is above 4 then you can add some more fresh yeast.

One other thing is alcohol tolerance. Yeast have specific alcohol tolerances. That means they can only grow and produce up until a certain saturation of alcohol and then the alcohol will kill them. You're going to have to check the alcohol tolerance of your yeast and base that off of the alcohol in your wine or beer to see if you've reached the max tolerance for that yeast. If you did reach the tolerance then you can possibly add more yeast that can handle a higher alcohol tolerance. If you do this then rehydrate the yeast in water first before adding. If you add the yeast directly to the alcoholic beer or wine then the alcohol could kill off as much as half of the yeast because it can't fully hydrate itself and prep its cells walls to do their job.

If you still can't get your fermentation going after all of that, then you may just have a permanently stuck fermentation. If the beer or wine is too sweet then you can blend it with another beer or wine that's similar to cut back on the sweetness.

Good luck and I hope you don't get any stuck fermenations!