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wort is not bubbling much

Originally published at GeekBeer. Please leave any comments there.

Part 2 of my ongoing “what search terms bring people here?” series: My wort isn’t bubbling, and I need advice.

Item #1 on the list is “Don’t panic.” Everything about beer is designed to take a while. First, let’s review proper pitching technique to see if you may have screwed something up:

  • Always pitch live, healthy yeast in sufficient quantities for the amount of wort you have. For a homebrewer, this usually means picking up something from White Labs or Wyeast from the local brew store. If you picked up an Activator smack pack from Wyeast (by far the favorite yeast in my neck of the woods), you should have smacked it and let the yeast swell the package up a bit. You can actually pitch these packs without smacking them, but then you have no proof that the yeast are healthy.
  • Always pitch into wort that’s cool. If you pitched into water that’s too hot, you may have killed the yeast.
  • Always pitch into wort that has sufficient gravity to sustain your yeast. This is, of course, the whole idea of making beer. If you’ve got a wort that’s only 1.020 gravity, you’re not likely to get a good beer out of it — your yeast won’t be happy and they won’t be able to produce much alcohol or CO2.
  • Always practice good hygiene while brewing. Yeast are hearty, but they need a relatively clean wort in order to have a fighting chance to out-compete other organisms that may have taken up residence in the liquid. If you don’t sterilize your primary fermentation vessel, there may be organisms in there that out-compete the yeast, leaving you with… well, not beer.
  • Rinse everything that was sterilized with clean water. Yes, it’s possible that the low concentrations of bleach or iodine that you’re using don’t require much rinsing, but why leave it to chance? Bleached beer is not good beer, and even low concentrations can kill your precious $7 smack pack.

So… you did all that, right? And your wort still isn’t bubbling? Don’t worry. There are lots of reasons this might happen.

  • You might have a leak in your primary fermentation vessel. Provide it’s a small leak, and it’s mostly covered, this isn’t a big deal. CO2 is heavier than air, so your beer isn’t in danger of oxygen contamination. And provided the leak is covered or small, it’s likely that the consistent outward pressure of CO2 being produce by the yeast will keep most nasty critters away from the beer. This
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<p style="border: 1px solid black; padding: 3px;"><strong>Originally published at <a href="http://geek-beer.com/articles/wort-is-not-bubbling-much/">GeekBeer</a>. Please leave any <a href="http://geek-beer.com/articles/wort-is-not-bubbling-much/#comments">comments</a> there.</strong></p><p>Part 2 of my ongoing &#8220;what search terms bring people here?&#8221; series: My wort isn&#8217;t bubbling, and I need advice.</p> <p>Item #1 on the list is &#8220;Don&#8217;t panic.&#8221; Everything about beer is designed to take a while. First, let&#8217;s review proper pitching technique to see if you may have screwed something up:<UL><LI>Always pitch live, healthy yeast in sufficient quantities for the amount of wort you have. For a homebrewer, this usually means picking up something from <A HREF="http://www.whitelabs.com/">White Labs</A> or <A HREF="http://www.wyeastlab.com/hb_products.cfm">Wyeast</A> from the local brew store. If you picked up an Activator smack pack from Wyeast (by far the favorite yeast in my neck of the woods), you should have smacked it and let the yeast swell the package up a bit. You can actually pitch these packs without smacking them, but then you have no proof that the yeast are healthy.</LI><LI>Always pitch into wort that&#8217;s cool. If you pitched into water that&#8217;s too hot, you may have killed the yeast.</LI><LI>Always pitch into wort that has sufficient gravity to sustain your yeast. This is, of course, the whole idea of making beer. If you&#8217;ve got a wort that&#8217;s only 1.020 gravity, you&#8217;re not likely to get a good beer out of it &#8212; your yeast won&#8217;t be happy and they won&#8217;t be able to produce much alcohol or CO2.</LI><LI>Always practice good hygiene while brewing. Yeast are hearty, but they need a relatively clean wort in order to have a fighting chance to out-compete other organisms that may have taken up residence in the liquid. If you don&#8217;t sterilize your primary fermentation vessel, there may be organisms in there that out-compete the yeast, leaving you with&#8230; well, not beer.</LI><LI>Rinse everything that was sterilized with clean water. Yes, it&#8217;s possible that the low concentrations of bleach or iodine that you&#8217;re using don&#8217;t require much rinsing, but why leave it to chance? Bleached beer is not good beer, and even low concentrations can kill your precious $7 smack pack.</LI></UL></p> <p>So&#8230; you did all that, right? And your wort still isn&#8217;t bubbling? Don&#8217;t worry. There are lots of reasons this might happen.<UL><LI>You might have a leak in your primary fermentation vessel. Provide it&#8217;s a small leak, and it&#8217;s mostly covered, this isn&#8217;t a big deal. CO2 is heavier than air, so your beer isn&#8217;t in danger of <A HREF="http://www.byo.com/stories/techniques/article/indices/7-aeration/1671-winning-the-air-wars">oxygen contamination</A>. And provided the leak is covered or small, it&#8217;s likely that the consistent outward pressure of CO2 being produce by the yeast will keep most nasty critters away from the beer. This <A HREF="/uncategorized/brew-update/" happened to us</A>. We threw out a whole batch of probably good beer because of it.</LI><LI>It&#8217;s possible that your yeast haven&#8217;t achieved Maximum Velocity, or they have already achieved it. Just because you aren&#8217;t seeing a bubble every minute doesn&#8217;t mean your yeast aren&#8217;t active, it just means they aren&#8217;t <i>really</i> active. Depending on the yeast and gravity of the wort, yeast might only bubble actively for a few hours or a day at most.</LI><LI>If you&#8217;re brand-new to this, you might be confused by terminology: The wort itself won&#8217;t bubble. &#8220;Bubble&#8221; refers to the one-way air lock on the top of the primary fermentation vessel. They are designed to let CO2 escape but not let air back in. As they do this, they gurgle or bubble, and so they are affectionately called &#8220;bubblers.&#8221;</LI><LI>Crack the primary and look at the wort. Different yeasts look different as they eat, shit, and die, but the only consistent thing to look at is this: If your wort looks exactly the same after 3 days as it did when you pitched, you might have a problem. For ales, you&#8217;ll want to see a head of brown gunk and foam on the top of the wort.</LI></UL>Remember that if your wort is bubbling at all, it&#8217;s probably fine. </p> <p>When all else fails, and you really don&#8217;t know if your ferment is going well, I have just one piece of advice: Wait. Give it at least a week, and then taste it and take a gravity. What&#8217;s the worst than can happen? You&#8217;ll spit out bad beer and start over. What&#8217;s the best that can happen? The ferment will have gone fine despite your concerns, you&#8217;ll rack to secondary, and a few weeks later, you&#8217;ll have bottles in your fridge.</p>
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