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I just started homebrewing and a couple of friends told me my airlock on my plastic bucket primary should be bubbling. After 3 days of primary fementing with dry yeast, I've seen nothing, but, you can see through the bucket that there is two inches of foam on top of the wort. In addition, when you push on the lid, the odor of the wort is strong. So, I'm thinking that there isn't a good seal on the bucket. I have two questions. Is this a problem? How do I fix it?

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4 Answers 4

Short answer: It's not a problem. Don't fix it.

Most of my 200-or-so fermentations have been initially in a primary pail with a loose-fitting lid, and then racked to a carboy to wait for bottling time. That way of brewing (2-vessel fermentation) used to be the norm, but keeping the wort/beer in a single vessel has become the "in" way of homebrewing recently.

I'd suggest you not worry about making your primary pail air-tight, and rack to a carboy soon after the foam drops down.

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In keeping with single-vessel fermentation, couldn't you just leave it in the bucket until you are ready to package, even though the lid is leaky? The CO2 heavier than outside air, and the leaky lid probably doesn't allow enough air exchange to make any difference in those conditions. I'm just saying because I have several 2-gal. buckets and those lids are always super leaky. –  Chino Brews Dec 22 '13 at 2:37
    
Yeah, I think what you're saying makes sense. –  Jeff Roe Dec 23 '13 at 16:15
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There are a couple of small things that you can try to fix it but it would be best to buy a new bucket with a proper seal from a home brew store.

One fix could be to wrap the bucket lid in electrical tape to seal it better. I have a friend who has the same issue as you and he does this which works.

Another thing depending on the lid is you could try to put some vasoline gel in the rim of the lid to help block any gaps but you may end up having to use a lot depending on how bad the leak is.

Another thing to check is if the airlock has a proper seal. You could also vasoline that.

In regards to this being a problem if your brew is fermenting then there will be CO2 escaping from the bucket from the leak in the seal, which will mean that infection wont be able to find its way inside the bucket with the pressure of the CO2.

When the fermentation stops then there will be no CO2 escaping meaning that infections can find their way into the bucket.

A way to find out when the brew has stopped fermenting would be to take hydrometer readings and compare them to what the brew company says it should be at the end of fermentation.

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Hi guys, Any constructive feedback on why this is not a good solution? Part of the reason to fix the seal is because for a beginner home brewer the airlock is a visual indication on what is happening inside the fermenter. –  WillNZ Oct 7 '13 at 19:47
    
Yes, downvotes without a comment are not helpful. You should share your perspective, let the answerer know where there is a problem so he can fix it first. –  mdma Oct 7 '13 at 21:53
    
Sorry....a loose fitting bucket lid is not a problem. Bacteria or infections don't crawl up and under the lid. Open fermentation has been successfully used for many years, but on a commercial and home scale, so simply having a lid without a tight seal is not an issue in terms of beer quality.. –  Denny Conn Oct 8 '13 at 20:00
    
Ok that's a fair comment. What about this on the reason to use an airlock "The fermentation lock or airlock is a device used in beer brewing and wine making that allows carbon dioxide released by the beer to escape the fermenter, while not allowing air to enter the fermenter, thus avoiding oxidation."Source I understand that the topic is on the seal but I think that this is relevant –  WillNZ Oct 8 '13 at 20:18
    
Ok here is some extra reading that is helpful. Can I Brew Beer Without An Airlock? Personally I still like to see the airlock bubbling as it is a visual indicator as to what is happening on the inside. Most first time brewers get a good understanding by looking at the airlock then taking hydrometer readings. The only real way to know if your brew is fermenting/finished fermenting is by taking hydrometer readings. –  WillNZ Oct 8 '13 at 20:24
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Sounds to me that your lid doesn't have a good seal and that's why the airlock isn't moving. Try sitting and watching the airlock for awhile. You'll usually only see rapid activity at the beginning. One thing to try is tapping on the lid a bit. If there is a real seal you should see the airlock bubble.

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Although the air lock isn't always a good indicator on what is happening in the bucket, sometimes fermentation is going slowly and you don't see any bubbling, it still feels good to see the thing going crazy, and it does keep the bad bugs out. So in short, I would consider it a problem.

Make sure the air lock is filled with sanitizer to the proper level. If that's good, then I would check the seal, and if you can't figure out what's wrong, then get another lid if possible, or another bucket and lid if not. Don't do anything crazy like throw the beer because of the seal on this batch, it will more than likely be fine.

Best of luck!

Mike Scott

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