EDIT: I see from this post and from elsewhere on the Web that a bubbling airlock is apparently not an indicator for fermentation, as there could be a leaky lid. Regardless, doesn't a non-bubbling airlock indicate that something is wrong, as there could be a leaky lid? I'm under the impression we use an airlock in the first place to keep air out as it would oxidize the alcohol into vinegar.
This was my seventh extract batch. For the last 4 batches I've done a yeast starter and aeration with an aeration stone. This has moved my lag time from 24 hours max to 12-16 hours max. For all my other batches I get a vigorous airlock for 4 days. Normally I pitch the yeast in the middle of the fermentation bucket and do NOT stir the yeast around. I normally order the Wyeast over the internet which takes 5 days to ship to me. I use a swamp cooler. Normally I wait until the airlock starts to bubble before I add frozen water bottles to the swamp cooler.
I bought the Creme Ale from NB which uses Wyeast 1056 (American Ale).
However, this was the first time I didn't order the Wyeast from NB; instead I purchased it from the LHBS because I figured the 5 day shipping from NB was harmful.
I also ordered a Dead Ringer IPA which uses the same yeast.
I made two yeast starters. The one for the Creme Ale had an OG of 1050 and the one for the IPA had an OG of 1040. The IPA definitely was a better yeast starter.
I aerated the creme ale wort (1040 OG) with an areation stone and pitched the entire 1050 yeast starter into it. This time I decided to stir up the yeast in the wort. This time I decided to put 6 frozen water bottles into the swamp cooler immediately instead of waiting until the airlock started bubbling. Using a temperature probe I kept the swamp cooler at 60*F by adding frozen water bottles. The lid was completely sealed.
After 24 hours the airlock was not bubbling, so I purchased another Wyeast 1056 from the LBHS and pitched it without a yeast starter at 48 hours. However when I opened the lid to the bucket I saw the following: (Is this fermentation activity or simply a result of me stirring the wort/yeast from 48 hours before?)
Around 2 hours later (50 total) the air lock started bubbling, so I figured that I was safe and that either the 1050 og of the yeast starter somehow destroyed the yeast (even though I successfully pitched 1060 og yeast starters before) or the Wyeast I bought was bunk. I then added 6 frozen water bottles to the swamp cooler to take it to 60*F.
When I woke up 10 hours later (60 hours total) the airlock stopped bubbling.
I only did three things differently this time:
1) The LBHS sold me bad yeast. 2) The frozen water bottles somehow stopped the fermentation. 3) Stirring the yeast into the wort somehow did something.
What is the problem (if it is possible to diagnose over the internet), and what should I do now?
I am in the middle of brewing the IPA with a 1040 og yeast starter so I will report back. This time I will simply pitch the yeast starter and not stir it, and I won't add frozen water bottles until I see the airlock bubbling.