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Green Neck Lager Stalled?

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I think my 21L batch of Green Neck Lager has stalled.

It was pitched last Saturday at 18:30 with European Lager can yeast plus 11 g W-34/70 at 18º C.  Once ferment was confirmed by the airlock burping which was done early the next day the temp was dropped to 15º C.  But it did overshoot and it got down to as low as 11º C for one day before settling back up at 14.5º C.

Even at 14.5º C on days 3 and 4 there was not a lot of bubbling from the airlock, say one burp every 2 - 3 seconds when it was active but the last 2 days there has been no burping at all.  I have checked for air leaks by gentle squeeze of the FV drum and can cause airlock to burp so pressure is not leaking anywhere.

Unfortunately this batch is in a wide top blue drum so cannot see what is happening inside without opening it up.  Also this new drum had a dodgy tap so it had to be replaced it with a bung so cannot take a hydro reading that way and reluctant to open it up.  The recipe says it should take 14 days to ferment out so it cannot have landed so soon given slow activity shown to date.

My plan is to let the drum temperature increase up towards ambient and see if it will start burping again.  Or give it a good shake. It’s probably all I can do at this stage, what do you guys think?

Cheers - AL

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11 minutes ago, iBooz2 said:

I think my 21L batch of Green Neck Lager has stalled.

It was pitched last Saturday at 18:30 with European Lager can yeast plus 11 g W-34/70 at 18º C.  Once ferment was confirmed by the airlock burping which was done early the next day the temp was dropped to 15º C.  But it did overshoot and it got down to as low as 11º C for one day before settling back up at 14.5º C.

Even at 14.5º C on days 3 and 4 there was not a lot of bubbling from the airlock, say one burp every 2 - 3 seconds when it was active but the last 2 days there has been no burping at all.  I have checked for air leaks by gentle squeeze of the FV drum and can cause airlock to burp so pressure is not leaking anywhere.

Unfortunately this batch is in a wide top blue drum so cannot see what is happening inside without opening it up.  Also this new drum had a dodgy tap so it had to be replaced it with a bung so cannot take a hydro reading that way and reluctant to open it up.  The recipe says it should take 14 days to ferment out so it cannot have landed so soon given slow activity shown to date.

My plan is to let the drum temperature increase up towards ambient and see if it will start burping again.  Or give it a good shake. It’s probably all I can do at this stage, what do you guys think?

Cheers - AL

I'd go the slow warm thing - shaking it might bring CO2 out of suspension and burp it even if stalled. But not something I've experienced nor have I tried a lager.

How hazardous can it be to take a peek? Sanitise the bits, take a breath and hold it and take a look... 😄

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Posted (edited)

Ignore airlocks, they will send you nuts. Many don't even use them, they're not needed. Hydrometer will tell you if it's stalled or not. Open it up and take reading with a sanitised Hydro.

Edited by Lab Rat
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33 minutes ago, Lab Rat said:

Ignore airlocks, they will send you nuts. Many don't even use them, they're not needed. Hydrometer will tell you if it's stalled or not. Open it up and take reading with a sanitised Hydro.

Yep have to agree. I reckon you just have a leak. When you have a good active ferment which you did the first couple if days the co2 produced was greater than the leak could handle so some went up through the air lock. As the ferment has steadied the amount of co2 produce is less than the leak can handle, hence nothing up the airlock. Next time you open the door of the fridge or freezer get your head in there and take a sniff. You should smell the ferment.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, iBooz2 said:

what do you guys think?

I’ve been using fv’s with airlocks for around 40 years now and have found the best way to test if they are air tight is to squeeze the sides of the drum until the airlock has bubbled 3 times.

When you let the sides go the water in the airlock will be at different levels. If the 2 levels stay put at different heights you have an airtight seal. If the 2 levels equalise you have a leak.

Unless you have a dodgy gasket or the top of the fv's mating surface has some raised seams, the air leak can usually be stopped by readjusting the tightness of the lid. If this doesn't work, you may have a dodgy or loose fitting airlock grommet.

Edited by thebeerpig
Bad spelling
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8 hours ago, iBooz2 said:

what do you guys think?

If it has done what it should, now would be a good time to raise your brew temperature.  I also think you need to get into the brew to get a sample for an SG reading, otherwise you are just guessing.  If it is not finished, leave the liquid in the sample tube and test it over the next few days.  It will give you a rough idea of how things are going in the fermenter.  Once the sample SG has settled down, take a fermenter sample, test it, then take another sample the next day.  I think you will find it has finished by then.

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@iBooz2 Good luck with the remedy. I'm currently drinking and quickly running out of the Green Neck lager now. I hope it comes good for you because it's a lovely drop.

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Posted (edited)

I think you should check it with a hydrometer rather than relying on airlock activity. It's not very reliable. It doesn't really matter whether it's sealed properly or not though, it won't make any difference to the fermentation. 

I have airlock fermenters but I don't use the airlock on them. Instead I removed the grommets from the lids and taped over the hole, and just loosen the lid slightly to allow the CO2 to escape. Works pretty much the same as the current Coopers fermenters. 

Also, lagers shouldn't take 14 days to reach FG. 10-11 days max. Most of mine are there in under 10 days, fermenting at 10 or 12, however I do pitch a lot of yeast into them which is one key to a decent lager (probably almost double what you've pitched here), as well as allow the temp to rise to 18 after 5-6 days, which obviously speeds up the finish. 

Edited by Otto Von Blotto

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Thanks for all the thoughts and input guys, very much appreciated.

I have no temperature control on this little wine cooler fridge so it’s a bit of guesswork to have the thermostat in the correct setting.  To give me the best average of temperature readings I have a stick on temperature strip on the drum, also a proper thermometer also taped to the drum and use one of those temperature guns which is just point at the side and pull the trigger – great gadget.  All three give me the same temp albeit the gun gives me to 0.1 decimal points but read the same.

Back before I posted the possible stalled ferment I did suspect a leak.  Already sprayed a very thick dose of sanitiser around grommet area which left quite some liquid around it and produced no bubbles so no leak there.  With the perimeter rim of the top opening I used a spray bottle of dish washing liquid which I use on my gas bottle and BBQ connections to test for gas leaks but no bubbles there either.  I used the dish washing liquid mix around the drop down rim as there was less likelihood of that getting in up under that wide part.

Already tried the squeeze and observe but levels were static, wherever the two levels of the airlock sanitiser ended up, so still no obvious leak but thanks for reminding me to try this.

Also no obvious smell of ferment like I remember back in the old days when using lager yeast so I knew it was it was not fermenting properly.

I have let the temp increase to 16.5º and it’s now active again, burping once every 3 seconds so I think it’s now good.  Will slowly take it back down to the recommended 15º C by tomorrow but will monitor it much more closely from now on.  Thanks for all the advice.

Cheers - AL

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Just leave it up there once it warms up. Not much point constantly warming and cooling it. 

The bubbling could also simply be due to the temp rise, allowing a little more CO2 out of the beer along with the pressure going up slightly.

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4 minutes ago, Otto Von Blotto said:

Just leave it up there once it warms up. Not much point constantly warming and cooling it. 

The bubbling could also simply be due to the temp rise, allowing a little more CO2 out of the beer along with the pressure going up slightly.

Yep I hear you but this little wine cooler fridge has proven hard to get temp right.  Will leave it were its set for next couple of days and maybe let it creep up a bit for D-rest, just thought it was way too early to have landed yet.  Back in the old days when I used airlock it was the burp count / min that used to tell me it had landed, once supposedly finished then take a hydro.  Smaller batches and very precious beer quantity so back then only two test samples.

Will take a hydro sample about mid next week and leave that sit in the test tube for the remainder.  There is just enough room, I think, to have it inside this little cooler so temp is the same.

Thanks OVB.

Cheers - AL

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It's probably more than half way finished already mate. I'm not sure if this idea of lagers taking forever to ferment originated from brewers underpitching them or not (which would lead to sluggish fermentation), but if you pitch a reasonable amount of yeast they don't take much longer than ales. It's all the conditioning and shit that takes time. 

What I do with most batches is to take a sample 3 days after pitching for ales and 5 days after pitching for lagers. What these readings are determines whether I raise the temperature then or wait another day. I don't leave the samples with the fermenter in the fridge though, I prefer to keep them warmer so they ferment out quicker and give me an idea of the FG before the batch itself reaches it. 

IMO airlocks aren't a lot of use for determining how far along the fermentation is, SG readings are far more accurate and reliable. An airlock also won't tell you if a brew is stalled or not, but an SG reading will. 

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On 3/20/2020 at 2:06 PM, Lab Rat said:

Ignore airlocks, they will send you nuts. Many don't even use them, they're not needed. Hydrometer will tell you if it's stalled or not. Open it up and take reading with a sanitised Hydro.

I have used an airlock since I started brewing. I am not nuts -well not noticeably so anyway. I like my airlock. I have been known to sit and watch it’s rhythmic pulsing for longer than is strictly necessary. (Yes ,maybe I need to get out more) I love it’s simplicity and efficiency. It lets the Co2 out and stops the nasties getter in. Very clever! I also find that on a well sealed vessel,it provides me with a reliable indication of the progress of fermentation. So much so,in fact,I never bother with a hydrometer. I have read and heard all the expert advice on the subject,such as “ you’ll get your caught one day”, or that a hydrometer is the only way to track fermentation. All good,sound advice I’m sure, based on knowledge and experience. But while I continue to reliably and consistently produce excellent beer without it,I will regard it as an unnecessary complication. I know I do harp a bit on the keep it simple theme,but that’s how I like it. In a couple of hours every few weeks I can make all the beer I can reasonably,and occasionally unreasonably,drink. And I’m not nuts. No! Now if those men in white coats would go away I might crack a bottle of my favourite Nut Brown Ale. Perhaps if I offered them a drink- - -? . I hope your brewing brings you happiness in these uncertain times. Cheers.

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If it works for you fine. My comment and opinion was directed to a new brewer. I remember what those first brews were like, not knowing if things were right - was that muddy colour a bad sign, how long should the foam hang around, what's that stuff on the top of the beer, should all that beige stuff be on the bottom etc etc. The last thing I would have needed is... F me why is the airlock not doing anything!!!!

That's why a hydrometer is better tool to rely on.

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Thanks guys, I’m not really a new brewer, been doing this on and off since early 1970’s brewing with mostly left over ingredients from uncles, friends of family that dabbled with home brew beers and wines.  Nearly all of it was stale but got some surprising good drinking beers sometimes.  Mind you my mates and I would drink anything back then, even if it was at manifold temperature.

 But I am a new brewer with this particular yeast having never used it before hence my stalled question.

Don’t normally use an airlock, most times a blow off tube into a jar which is sort of an airlock anyway but no room down the side for this in the FV fridge being used.  I do still like to see the burps to know it’s ticking along ok and remember it was quite mesmerizing back in those days.

I also remember one brew done in my mum’s big aluminium jam making pot, only airlock was the screw hole where the lid handle used to be.  Forgot about it and went away for the school holidays.  When we came home it was finished as it was as clear as.  Tasted so bloody good we filled our glasses by scooping it straight out of the pot, room temperature and flat.  Drank the lot in one afternoon session.

Cheers- AL

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On 3/22/2020 at 9:23 PM, Worts and all said:

I have used an airlock since I started brewing. I am not nuts -well not noticeably so anyway. I like my airlock. I have been known to sit and watch it’s rhythmic pulsing for longer than is strictly necessary. (Yes ,maybe I need to get out more) I love it’s simplicity and efficiency. It lets the Co2 out and stops the nasties getter in. Very clever! I also find that on a well sealed vessel,it provides me with a reliable indication of the progress of fermentation. So much so,in fact,I never bother with a hydrometer. I have read and heard all the expert advice on the subject,such as “ you’ll get your caught one day”, or that a hydrometer is the only way to track fermentation. All good,sound advice I’m sure, based on knowledge and experience. But while I continue to reliably and consistently produce excellent beer without it,I will regard it as an unnecessary complication. I know I do harp a bit on the keep it simple theme,but that’s how I like it. In a couple of hours every few weeks I can make all the beer I can reasonably,and occasionally unreasonably,drink. And I’m not nuts. No! Now if those men in white coats would go away I might crack a bottle of my favourite Nut Brown Ale. Perhaps if I offered them a drink- - -? . I hope your brewing brings you happiness in these uncertain times. Cheers.

Aye, until one day you get a stalled brew or the thing doesn't seal properly 😜 glad it works for you mate but I'd rather not put all my trust in something that can bubble for more reasons than just fermentation and can also not bubble for a few other reasons. Besides, I time all my temperature changes on SG. 

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On 3/20/2020 at 9:54 PM, Shamus O'Sean said:

If it has done what it should, now would be a good time to raise your brew temperature.  I also think you need to get into the brew to get a sample for an SG reading, otherwise you are just guessing.  If it is not finished, leave the liquid in the sample tube and test it over the next few days.  It will give you a rough idea of how things are going in the fermenter.  Once the sample SG has settled down, take a fermenter sample, test it, then take another sample the next day.  I think you will find it has finished by then.

Finally got around to removing the air lock and taking the lid off today which is BD +18 and the SG is 1.011, it looks quite clear and smells great except for initial waft of lager yeast. Was expecting down around 1.008 but I reckon its done so closed the lid as quickly as possible and stuck some foil over the hole.  This FV has been sitting at ambient since BD +10 so more than enough for any D rest.   Put the FV into another fridge to crash it down to about 4 C. and will adjust it down further tomorrow or day after.  Have kept the SG sample as Shamus has suggested and will see if it drops any more over next couple of days but I think it's academic so guessed its time to CC this batch.  Going to bottle this lot and lager it properly over a few months, then see if a lager is worth the extra work when I taste it.  Thanks again for the help and suggestions guys.

Cheers - AL

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On 3/24/2020 at 10:23 PM, Otto Von Blotto said:

Aye, until one day you get a stalled brew or the thing doesn't seal properly 😜 glad it works for you mate but I'd rather not put all my trust in something that can bubble for more reasons than just fermentation and can also not bubble for a few other reasons. Besides, I time all my temperature changes on SG. 

You are right of course. My faith, like most, is built on dodgy ground. That said, it has served me faultlessly for several years. That is perhaps why I’m a bit defensive of it. That and a working life spent amongst technology which has left me with a profound appreciation of simplicity. I fully appreciate the need for a hydrometer for most of the brewers on this forum- given that many, or most take their brewing to a higher level than mine. My head is not completely in the sand. Who knows,I may venture forth, when such things are permitted, and buy one ,if only to see what all the fuss is about. Meanwhile.keep safe and brew good beer!😁

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I must admit I've gotten a bit lazy with checking FG lately because I know the kegs won't explode, but also I always get consistent fermentation with the yeast starters I make. They do make for good tasting and smelling samples though, maybe if I'd checked FG on that infected batch I would have picked it up before doing a week long cold crash 😐

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