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Help with my first 2 extract batches - 1 stuck fermentation?

I have a little situation that I’m looking for help on. Please excuse the long story, I’m new to this…

As a wild b-day present, my friend got me the patersbier kit back in March. I finally took the plunge a week ago and batched it. It was my first attempt with a legit beer kit and I felt pretty good about the whole process vis a vis sanitation, steeping/boiling, cooldown (I bought a wort chiller) and temperature control throughout. I’m not at all knowledgeable or technical about this yet, but I at least feel I followed the instructions to a T and I have also read up with some materials… How To Brew for one and respect the basic principles essential to a successful brew.

Anyway I pitched the yeast (Wyeast 3787) at 75 F into a 6.5 gal PET bucket and put the airlock on half full with vodka. I planned on keeping my basement room between 70-75 F and about 36 hours later I was seeing a bubble every 5 seconds or so which was very promising. That only lasted for about 48 hours though. A week later with no sign of activity, now I am worried that the yeast either died due to temperature fluctuation, (using a space heater I changed it between 65 and 75 a few times) or were not active enough to sustain the fermentation. My main reason for concern is that when I activated the smack pack, it did not swell hardly at all, even though I left it out overnight at room temp. Since I’ve never used one before, I assumed a little swelling was enough.

Well this last Sunday, I wanted to have another go and I picked up the Tallgrass Halycon clone kit, a partial mash kit. I activated the yeast immediately (in the car on the way home!) and literally in an hour it was ready to burst. Completely different from the other pack, which showed very slight signs of inflation after a whole 24 hours. I suspect that the pack must have been left out after my buddy bought it and gave it to me. So that leads me to believe I will have to repitch the patersbier if I want it to live. Fortunately I again had a flawless brew process with the Halcyon. I pitched into a glass carboy Sunday eve. On Wednesday eve, 3 days later the batch was just rolling. Lots of activity showing no signs of slowing down.

I have a few questions:

Assuming the yeast for my patersbeir was indeed not activated thoroughly when pitched, what can I do to save it? Based on some research, I’ve heard that using the leftover cake from a recently bottled/kegged batch is the best way to “revive” another batch’s fermentation. If that’s advised, could I just siphon the Patersbier into the Halcyon carboy after I move that to a secondary fermenter, or should I try to pitch a new wyeast pack into the current bucket? I was initially thinking of maybe moving the patersbier to my other glass secondary and pitching new yeast, seeing what happens. Does that work?

Unfortunately, I was not diligent enough to take hydrometer readings, I was pretty pooped after both brews and didn’t want to risk contaminating anything. So my other question is: will it benefit me to take measurements of these batches with my hydrometer at any point, and if so what kind of readings am I looking for? I suppose there is a chance that the patersbier is OK (im fairly confident there would be no rogue yeast or bacteria and I know my temperatures have not caused issues because of the huge range that 3787 strain is capable of thriving within) but could a hydrometer reading confirm that and let me know I just need to give it more time, even though I don’t have an initial reading?

A last question, for my Halcyon batch, I’m worried about it having a LOT of sediment and unwanted matter in the wort. The main reason for my concern is that I definitely spilled a little of the grains into the wort kettle as I was rinsing them before the boil, and I rinsed them VERY thoroughly, mashing them against the strainer to drain out every ounce of water I could. Then when I transferred the wort into the glass fermenter, i didnt have a lot of matter at the bottom of the kettle. Now I have about an inch of very heavy looking stuff at the bottom of the fermenter and I can see tons of sediment floating around the rest of the carboy as it bubbles (yes, I am keeping it covered when I am not peeking at it occasionally like a giddy kid on christmas eve…). So even though the instructions don’t mention a secondary fermentation, I kind of want to do that. Or possibly try some kind of filtration before bottling. What would my options be, and are my concerns unfounded? Again, I a new to this, and just looking for some possible strategies to make these brews successful so I have something to show for the $400 investment I’ve made so far. …And because I want to imbibe some good stuff this summer! Thoughts anyone?

It is hard to tell you what to do with your “stuck” fermentation. I say “stuck” because without a reading how are you sure that it didn’t ferment out? Assuming you did the extract batch, and hit approx. 5 gals in fermenter, your OG should be very close to 1.047. I can see it being stuck because if you had the yeast for a couple months, its viability is severely diminished, and without a starter could very easily stall. TAKE A HYDRO READING! I know you are new to this so a word of advice, let the beer tell you its done fermenting, not a calendar or an airlock.

As far as the Halcyon. RDWHAHB… the “sediment” you see at the bottom is trub. Trub is the dead yeast and proteins that are settling out as fermentation ends. You can do a secondary (I do them, but read up on the pros/cons and what YOU want to do) to help clear this. If at all possible try cold crashing (after ferm placing it in a fridge close to 32*), and for even more clarity, hit it with unflavored gelatin (search for gelatin on this site and you will find PLENTY). The only way to filter after fermentation is with kegs as you can’t add O2 now or it will cause it to oxidize.

Your yeast for the 1st beer were 3 months old. They took a little longer to wake up. Thus the less then fully expanded pouch. I’m sure you had enough yeast to ferment it out. Maybe not “pro” quantity. But they did their job. Take a hydromometer reading, it will be in a “normal” range.

The 2nd beer, you used a glass carboy instead of a pail like the 1st. The 1st beer has just as much stuff on the bottom as the 2nd beer. Relax. :wink:

When you go to bottle, both beers care needs to be taken so you don’t pick up the sediment on the bottom of the fermenter.

Also when you bottle, fill 1-2 soda bottles along with your glass bottles. Squeeze the O2 out and screw the cap on. As CO2 is formed the bottles will expand. Give them a minimum of 3 weeks in the bottle. Then 2 days in the fridge before tasting. Patience will reward you.

Many times you will not see a lot of bubbling in an airlock, or none at all, when using a bucket. That does not mean it’s stuck, it may be that the lid seal is not perfect. Not to worry, the CO2 “blanket” would still protect the beer, but may be venting from the seal area.
It’s probably fine. Take readings after 2 weeks, and if somewhere around 1.010, you are near done. Take readings a couple days in a row, and if it’s unchanged, it’s done.

Thanks for your input all. Well today I measured the patersbeir with my hydrometer and it came in at what looks like slightly lower than 1.01, and it tastes great too. I guess I underestimated the simple power of just following instructions. Since it’s been 2 weeks, I’ll be racking it to the secondary for a few weeks and then bottling.

As for the Halcyon, I’m going to resist the temptation to measure it until its been 2 full weeks. Thanks again!

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