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I am trying my first beer kit after trying wine once before. I picked up a "Summit Avenue EPA" clone of Summit EPA from Midwest Supplies.

On Monday I did the 60 minute boil, cooled everthing to about 75 degrees F and pitched the yeast. Took a hydrometer reading and got an adjusted SG of 1.031 which seemed a bit low. I moved the plastic bucket with the lid on and the fermentation lock on into the basement which is usually around 65 degrees. Tuesday I checked on it and saw the lock bubbling happily with a bubble every 2 to 3 seconds. On Wednesday I checked again and there were no bubbles at all in over a minute. I decided to leave it for an extra day and see if it worked itself out. Wednesday night I checked again and saw no bubbles for the 2nd straight day. I decided to move the bucket upstairs into a closet where the temperature is a bit higher.

This morning there are still no bubbles and I'm starting to get worried - is there anything I should do to kick start the fermentation (make a new starter and pitch new yeast?) or should I just let it go for a few more days and see what happens? Also is it bad to take the lid off and get a new hydrometer reading this early in the fermentation process?

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What's the gravity? Fermentation may be done. –  Dean Brundage May 14 '10 at 17:54
    
Bubbles don't mean anything. Check the gravity. –  brewchez May 14 '10 at 18:59
    
I checked the gravity today. It has been fermenting for 8 days and is at 1.019 (1.018 at 74 degrees) –  Kyle Boon May 18 '10 at 19:36
    
Did your beer turnout? I'm having the same problem with a Midwest kit. I actually tried proofing my dry yeast with the extract and nothing happened until I put 1 tbsp of sugar in it. The first day the airlock bubbled like you saw then after that nothing has happened. –  user280385 Apr 3 '12 at 11:45
    
I had a very similar issue. I saw bubbles within 8 hours or so, but the weather cooled, my wort cooled down to around 66 degrees...and everything stopped for more than an entire day. That had never happened to me before, so I FREAKED a little. TO make a long story short I also moved the fermenter to a warmer section of the house and swirled the fermenter just a little to move things around a little. Within just an hour I had bubbles every 5 seconds for the next 2 days. Everything seems fine. –  user3404 May 5 '13 at 14:57
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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Your first batch can be terrifying. You have nothing to compare to, and people are giving you conflicting advice. It's like driving at night with the lights off.... except...

This is beer. What you have there is probably beer, or well on its way, and not needing of your help. It's probably drinkable, or will be at some point. Here's some thoughts:

The OG reading you took seems low for the fermentables you put in (6 lbs LME, 1 lb DME). I put it through beercalculus.hopville.com because the kit doesn't give an expected gravity. I came up with 1.050. If you took your 1.031 OG reading while the wort was still hot, say 150F, this would correlate to a 60F reading of 1.050. If it was room temp, then that's puzzling.

Can you explain how you took the reading and how you adjusted it?

Most importantly: don't dump this batch. It's probably fine. I stressed out about my first batch, ended up drinking it early when I could've let it sit and mature. (It's 6 months old now and I'm left with one bottle, which is undoubtedly better than any of its predecessors.)

If you think it's underattenuated (taste for sweetness), add some dry champagne yeast and give it another week, then bottle and move on to batch #2.

To answer your second question, since you've had some fermentation, that means there's some alcohol in there, which means popping the top and checking the gravity is totally fine. Don't let your pet iguana crawl into it, and maybe don't be eating a messy sandwich over it while you're taking the reading, but your chances of infecting it by taking a reading after there's been significant fermentation are very, very low.

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You could try rousing the yeast and see if that gets it going. Grab your brewers paddle and give the wort a good mix up.

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How careful do I need to be about oxygenating the wort as I stir it? –  Kyle Boon May 14 '10 at 17:54
    
It depends... I have books that say give it a good thrash as it may be a lack of oxygen that caused the fermentation to stick, so you need to put some more in. –  fatboab May 17 '10 at 11:20
    
It depends... I have books that say give it a good thrash as it may be a lack of oxygen that caused the fermentation to stick, so you need to put some more in. However, as other have said, check the gravity and see what's going on. –  fatboab May 17 '10 at 11:22
    
Never do that with a paddle, because you will also raise the dead yeast cells from the bottom. If you want tp rouse the yeast, just shake your fermentor. –  Tetragrammaton May 18 '10 at 9:42
    
Tetragrammaton, see brewchez answer below. –  fatboab May 19 '10 at 17:14
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I've had a batch of beer that fermented VERY quickly. As in finished fermenting within 48 hours of pitch.

  1. Take a hydrometer reading. If it is near/at your final gravity, I'd say you are ready to bottle/keg. Once you are finished make sure the lid is secured properly and that the hole in the lid of the bucket is fully closed off. You may be fermenting and off-gassing, but due to a leak in the fermenter, not seeing any airlock activity.
  2. If it's not finished, try aerating it. Give it a day.
  3. If it's STILL not doing anything, pick up some yeast from the LHBS and pitch. Give it a couple of days.
  4. If it's yet again STILL not doing anything, consider a sacrificing the batch to the beer gods and start over with a new batch.
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Do not aerate. If the yeast has switched from growing more yeast to consuming food then introducing oxygen will only produce stale flavors. "Rousing" it - swirling around with adding too much air - is better. –  Dean Brundage May 14 '10 at 17:57
    
Down voted due to aeration recommendation. –  brewchez May 14 '10 at 18:58
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Before you do anythin take a hydrometer reading. The airlock is only an indicator and just because it is not bubbling it does not mean it is fermenting. ALWAYS TRUST THE HYDROMETER

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If after you check the gravity you truly are "stuck" the appropriate steps are to warm it up some and rouse the yeast.

To do this, I'd move the fermenter to a warmer spot for a day to ensure its a little warmer than where you were fermenting. If you can get it to 75F that would be fine. Then I would gently introduce a sanitized spoon or something deep into the fermentor to get to the cake. Gently stir it up some.

Another option is to never open it and gently swirl it around until you get the whole volume moving and the yeast cake starts to loosen up. I prefer that technique and have used it with good results. But if you are not in a clear carboy it can be hard to tell how well its going if you aren't used to it. Lastly, if you used a really flocculant English type yeast strain that cake can be pretty tight and difficult to rouse with swirling. Again the clear glass carboy is useful here.

You could try racking it to a new fermentor and suck up the yeast cake too, but that gets messy and increases the chances of oxidation and contamination.

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