Little or no fermentation during primary

This is only my second brewing session using an extract kit(American Amber). However, in both attempts I get little fermentation during the week or two of primary fermentation(ie. no foam cap and no bubbles coming thru the fermentation lock). I agitated the wort to aerate it and then added dry yeast when the temp was below 78 as indicated in the instructions. Don’t know if I am doing something wrong or not. My home is located at 6000 feet elevation so would that have any effect on brewing? I wouldn’t think so. I haven’t transferred the beer to a secondary fermenter yet, so can anything be done to at this stage in the process? Thanks for any tips.

Are you using a bucket or carboy? If a bucket, the lids do not seal very tight and it is possible to have the co2 escape without having airlock activity.

I can tell you that if you are pitching and fermenting at 78* this is WAY too warm, in spite of what the directions say. At that temp, it might have fermented completely when you were not looking. Do you see evidence of krausen having climbed up the sides?

Did you check your starting gravity? What is the gravity now?

You said this is your second kit and the same thing happened with both. Did you make beer with the first one?

Do you take gravity readings? If not you should be to check if fermentation is happening without being seen. If you’re using a bucket it is possible that there is a poor seal so the gas is leaking out there rather than the airlock.

Yup, I am using a fermenting bucket, not a carboy for the primary, so yes gas could be escaping. I did just check it again today and saw some foam on the surface and krausen on the sides. The starting o.g. was 1.045 not the 1.047 listed in the procedures. I have not taken another gravity reading. Is that recommended? Last year I did a porter and had the same thing happen, but after racking it to a carboy for secondary and bottling it, the beer turned out great. With the likelihood the bucket lid is allowing gas to escape would you recommend doing both the primary and secondary in a carboy? And do another gravity reading to see if it is dropping? Thanks for the tips. Also, it helps to know that 78 may be too warm to pitch the yeast.

How would you take a gravity reading without removing the lid on the fermenting bucket? A newby question I know.

Unless you really messed something up it should be fermenting. Gas could be escaping or you could have just missed the bulk of primary fermentation. Either way, I’d wait two weeks, pop the lid, and take a reading then to see where you are. Odds are your fine!

would you recommend skipping the transfer to a carboy for secondary fermentation? thanks. Plus I noticed that this kit did not list a final gravity reading as was the case in my first kit. Is it typical to list both a beginning and final gravity?

Hey Foothill,

I’m a fellow rookie brewer as well. I’ve had similar questions and here is what I’ve been told. Most have told me that primary fermentation is much more important than secondary. And racking to a carboy (or moving wort in general) is risk not worth taking. My instructions told me to move to a secondary after 4-6 days or when I’ve hit the targeted FG range, which I am currently at. I’ve taken the advice of these guys here and will let it sit on the yeast cake for about 5 days or so.

I accidentally used my bottling bucket for primary and I want to move to my carboy for secondary. My primary airlock was bubbling every 3-5 seconds 24-48 hours after starting fermentation. It’s been about10 days now and its slowed down considerably 1 bubble/min. I’m planning on racking to my carboy this weekend.

Good luck to you sir.


To get a gravity reading you will need to open the lid. Buy a new turkey baster. Sanitize it and draw a sample out for your reading. Or if you have a HB store near by, pick up a wine thief. Works better with carboys.

The finished reading could be anywhere in the 1.010-1.020 range. As long as the reading is the same for 2-4 days it’s done.

Using a bucket is fine. Many people have moved from glass carboys to buckets because to the cost, weight and dangers in breaking of the glass.

And you are fine for just leaving the beer in the bucket for 3-4 weeks. You will need to make the decision if transferring to a second vessel for bulk aging is worth the risk of contamination and time need to clean/sanitize more equipment for the taste of the final produce.

Yes you will have to take the lid off to check gravity. I would crack it and peek in if it has not been two weeks and you should be able to tell if there has been activity in there, If so, chances are you are fine.

Many people, including myself, transfer to secondary on a regular basis and with proper sanitation, have no issues. I am still on the fence as to whether or not it gives clearer beer but most often I do it for beers that I want to age a little as it frees up my buckets for the next batch. I generally leave on the primary for 3 weeks, but with lower gravity beers, sometimes only 2 weeks.

To all who have responded to my issue with fermentation during the primary I thank you for the suggestions and tips. Though the kit directions were quite good, they don’t clear up many questions a novice brewer might have. So this forum is a terrific resource. Other than the necessity of keeping everything sanitized throughout the brewing process I now see where there is more flexibility in implementing some of the steps, i.e., it may not be crucial to transfer the beer to a secondary fermenter. So again, thanks.