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It's been three weeks, and my impatience has had me crack one bottle on days 7, 14, and now 20. There's no carbonation in these bottles, and it doesn't appear to be getting any better over the weeks. I pop the top and if I'm not paying attention, I won't hear the escape of CO2/O2 come out, it's that faint.

At this point, should I continue to let them sit in bottles? After a few more weeks, if they don't carbonate, what are my options? Is it even worth the effort to go through and figure out how to siphon them out and back in?


To add a bit more context to the situation: After I racked it off primary and into secondary for a month, I had just started to wash yeast, and was curious if I could wash the yeast that came off secondary fermentation and bottling. So after taking the beer out of secondary and into bottles, I harvested the yeast in the carboy. Yes, I am no aware that harvesting yeast out of secondary is not nearly as good as harvesting off primary, but at the time I didn't. Before that realization occurred, I had actually pitched one of the yeasts into a batch of beer after giving it a good shot at success with a starter. That harvested yeast did not ferment, and I had to pitch other yeast instead. Not sure how much context that adds as to the health of the yeast in suspension in the bottles, but I figured I'd mention it.

TLDR: The yeast harvested off the beer from secondary fermentation did not ferment another batch of beer made after harvesting, despite using a yeast starter.

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What's the starting and ending gravity of the beer? High alcohol beers can prove troublesome when bottle conditioning. –  Tobias Patton Jun 8 '13 at 2:14
    
1.110 and 1.038 respectively. Imperial Russian Stout. –  Scott Jun 8 '13 at 2:31
    
That's a strong beer! In general, you don't want to harvest yeast from beers of more than 5 or 6% ABV, as the yeast has been stressed by the high alcohol environment. –  Tobias Patton Jun 8 '13 at 2:35
    
Yep, I figured that out after the fact. The yeast used was WLP002. –  Scott Jun 8 '13 at 2:36
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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If the beer has not fermented in the 3 weeks since bottling, it's not likely to kick off any time soon.

Assuming that the beer is not excessively high in alcohol, you should add more yeast to the bottles to initiate fermentation. Get yourself a packet of dry yeast (check the manufacture date or expiry date to be sure it's fresh yeast). Uncap the bottles and add a couple grain to each bottle. Then recap. Check after a week.

UPDATE: Since the beer is pushing 10% ABV, it's not surprising that the yeast are non-viable. You can still follow this advice, but use Champagne yeast, not beer yeast, as it's more alcohol tolerant.

UPDATE 2: WLP002 is described by White Labs as having "medium" alcohol tolerance, which could be taken to mean "around 10%". The attenuation of your beer is only 65% (110-38/110), which is low for that strain. I'm suspicious that the yeast were knocked out by the alcohol before they finished fermenting all the available sugars. If you add a yeast with high alcohol tolerance to the bottles, you may end up with bottle bombs.

This is a tricky situation. You might try carefully decanting the bottles into a fermenter and adding Champagne yeast. Let it ferment until finished, then bottle with priming sugar. You take the risk of oxidizing the beer, but I can't think of any other safe way of getting carbonated beer in the bottles. Or, just drink the beer flat and tell people, "that's how they do it in England."

In the future, pick a yeast strain with high alcohol tolerance when fermenting a huge beast like your imperial stout.

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Thanks for editing the second time, as I was just going to ask that exact question (I also checked White Labs' site and saw that). I actually bottled these instead of kegging them because I didn't want to bother with kegging first, then bottling from the kegs for long-term storage, figured I'd just go straight to bottle conditioning. I may take this route now and just force carbonate. Not sure how I'm going to decant into a keg though... –  Scott Jun 8 '13 at 15:01
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