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Honey Wheat , Long Fermentation Question

I’m having a situation with a kit I bought from Northern Brewer, but I’m not exactly sure that it is a problem, so I’d like some feedback on it. Pardon the length, I’m trying to fit in as many details that seem relevant to me as possible.

A couple of months ago, I bought a Honey Wheat extract kit from NB along with the recommended Wyeast American Ale yeast. I also bought a second kit at the same time, and brewed the second kit first, so the Honey Wheat kit sat in my basement and the yeast in my refrigerator for a little over a month until two weeks ago, when I pulled everything out and brewed it up on a Sunday afternoon.

The initial brew went well, and the only thing I found remarkable was that the Wyeast smack pack, which I had pulled from the fridge the previous day and activated by breaking the nutrient envolope and letting sit overnight did not swell noticably. I’m not even sure this is remarkable, since some envelopes say they won’t swell, and that not swelling is not a sign of trouble.

So, the boil went well, I cooled down the wort to the suggested temperature, poured it into the carboy, topped up with cold water to about 5.5 gallons, added the yeast, agitated the whole thing for areation, popped on the airlock, and hauled down to my customary fermenting space, and room in my basement that serves both as a storage space for my brewing equipment and my home office.

The following afternoon, after a full 24 hours following the addition of the yeast, I was seeing no activity whatsoever. Not a speck of foam that I’ve come to expect after about a day. The following morning, 36+ hours after the initial addition of the yeast, I still saw nothing. When I came home from work that day, 48+ hours after the boil, I was expecting again to see nothing, and was thinking about adding a packet of dry yeast, I had left over from an earlier batch, but found that I was finally getting some activity, there was about a 1/4 of foam over the surface of the wort. Relieved, I was glad to see that yeast activity picked up to about what I was expecting all along, about an inch of foam, over the next two days before the activity started to fall off again.

Now I come to the part that has me puzzled. My past expeience with brewing, and this is probably my 10th or 11th 5 gallon batch over the last two years, has led me to expect that once the yeasts fermentation activity reaches its peak and falls off again, I can expect to drop to about nothing in three or four days. Normally once this happens, the foam on top of the carboy falls back to the surface of the wort, and ultimately disappears altogether as it is disolved into the wort by contact.

This has not happened. A full two weeks after the initial boil and addition of yeast, I am still seeing active fermentation in this carboy, though at a much reduced rate compared to its peak. As of now, I’m getting a bubble in the air lock every 5 - 10 seconds, and the foam on top, while nowhere near an inch deep, looks quite fresh as evidence of the continued fermentation.

So, my big question is whether this two week period of active fermentation is an indication of any problem with this batch? This is the first time I’ve brewed a wheat recipe, and it strikes me that this may just be a characteristic of wheat malt, but I don’t know if that is so or not. I’m also wondering if I may have over refrigerated the yeast and triggered this behavior thereby.

No you didn’t treat the yeast wrong to trigger some strange behavior. The yeast was a couple month past the packaging date. So there was some slowness in them getting the party started.

Every yeast/wort/temp combination will act differently. So finding a “normal” fermentation is going to be difficult.

It’s probable being a wheat beer that the foam sticking around is “normal”. You can give the carboy a gentle swirl and see if you can break the surface tension to allow it to drop. The air lock activity could be CO2 coming out of solution. Not a sign of actual fermentation.

You could take a gravity reading. Then another in 3-4 days and see if it changes.

In addition, honey takes awhile to ferm out. I have experienced 2 week long fermentations when dealing with honey.

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