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I've read elsewhere that this shouldn't be too bad so I guess I'm just after reassurance that something isn't broken...

I did my first AG brew on Saturday evening (Black Sheep Ale from the Hop and Grain database). Foolishly I started late and didn't get it finished until 4am but I work well at that time of the day/night so that wasn't so bad... lesson learnt, however :)

Here's what I did...

  • Saturday morning, I got my yeast (Danstar Windsor 11g dried) going in a splash of high-gravity wort in the morning.
  • Very late Saturday night, by the time my wort was ready for pitching it was at 30C/86F and 1.058 (temp adjusted). I really couldn't wait any longer for the wort to chill - it was getting very late!
  • I warmed the starter up to wort temp by submerging the sanitised container in the wort and pitched it. The starter had been going for about 18 hours prior to pitching.
  • Sunday morning, about 11am, it was bubbling vigourously at 22C/72F
  • Monday, about 1pm, I have just checked the fermentation and it has all but stopped. The temperature is about 17C/63F

So, by my reckoning, and not including the yeast starter headstart, it's been fermenting for somewhere between 24 and 30 hours. This is, by a long way, the shortest fermentation I've experienced.

Looking for a little advice about how to proceed - I haven't checked the gravity yet - I don't want to open the bucket just yet... just wondering if there's anything I should do before breaking the seal.

Cheers! :)

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A couple comments about things that weren't so good here...first, never rehydrate dry yeast in wort, especially high gravity wort. You may very well do more harm than good. Don't bother warming the starter to wort temp. There's pretty convincing evidence that colder yeast into warmer wort promotes yeast health. I always take my starters out if the fridge and pitch immediately. And get the temp under 70F before pitching. You'll generate a lot of off flavors by pitching at the temps you did. –  Denny Conn Dec 9 '13 at 19:18

2 Answers 2

You pitched really warm - 30°C is well above what is recommended - you can expect a lot of fruitiness and maybe some stronger alcohol flavors. It takes many hours for 20 liters of beer to drop to ambient temps, plus as the yeast get started, they create heat, holding the temperature where it is or raising it.

The temperature falling to 17°C could mean one of two things:

  • fermentation really is complete - you can only know this by taking a SG reading
  • the drop in temperature caused the yeast to drop out and stop working. Again, the SG reading will show if this is the case.

Either way, I would rouse the yeast and just wait a few days before taking a reading. If you can raise the ambient temp closer to 19°C that would be better.

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Sadly I know it was a too warm, however the bulk of fermentation (probably around 3/4) was at 22C so hopefully the fruitiness shouldn't be too bad. The ambient temperature in my utility room is quite cool at about 17C but it's pretty consistent because it's underground. I'll give the fermenter a bit of a gentle swirl to see if I can get it going again and report back. If it doesn't do anything after a couple of hours I'll take a gravity reading. –  Doug Dec 9 '13 at 15:11
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It's the fermentation temp in the first few hours (or day) that really matters for producing off flavors. –  Denny Conn Dec 9 '13 at 16:57
    
I used Windsor in my second-to-last batch after proper rehydration, and it also fermented out fast (about 36 hours at between 67°F and 70°F). But I was in a glass carboy so I at least could see what was going on. I think Windsor goes fast. Yours is a moderate gravity ale, so it seems like there is a high probablilty it fermented out, and very low chance of a stuck fermentation. Personally, I would just wait out two weeks, rather than crack the lid and lose the blanket of CO2. RDWHAHB. –  Chino Brews Dec 9 '13 at 17:13

You must judge progress based on a gravity reading.

Since you haven't checked the gravity yet, you don't know for sure that fermentation has finished. If you're saying it's finished because the airlock has stopped bubbling, that isn't always a reliable indicator of fermentation.

The airlock bubbling may be spaced minutes apart or not occurring at all, but it could still be fermenting. Depending on your primary fermentation vessel, it may not generate a good seal and the CO2 pressure generated by fermentation escaping via another route. This is especially common when using food-grade plastic fermentation pails.

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