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New Brewer - Need Help!

Brewed my first 5 gallons of American Wheat Beer. It has been in the primary now for, hmm, 80 hours. No sign of bubbles or fermentation in the airlock. I can tell you the dry yeast (good until sometime in 2014? 16?) was added at 78* and the bucket placed in the safest place in the house which maintains a temp of 65-68*. Thought I followed all the directions correctly. I have not opened the lid. I’m very concerned! No fermentation. I received the Essential Starter Kit as a gift. My college age daughter will either be angry or disappointed with me if I don’t produce! Can anyone help? What should I do at this point to save the brew?

First don’t worry to much at this point. Get your fermenter in a large bucket with cold water in it. Look up swamp cooler. If the ambient temperature is 68° to 72° your fermentation temperature will be at least 5° higher. That high of a temperature will produce off flavors unless you are brewing a Saison. Fermentation may be going, but the CO2 produced is being pushed out around the seal of the bucket lid. This is very common with buckets and not a problem. A blanket of CO2 is till covering your beer. To check for krausen formation without lifting the lid, shine a flashlight through the bucket from the opposite side. If a kraausen is forming you wil not see a smooth line of the worts surface, but a more fuzzy irregular line.

Next step may be to open the lid and take a hydrometer reading. Sanitize well under the lids rim, your hands, and equipment. With high wort temperatures fermentation could have completed in two days. Taste the hydrometer sample. Do not put it back into the wort. To much risk of contamination.

Thanks for the rapid advice!
If understand correctly, first, my ambient temperature may be a bit too high and I should seek a place where I can keep the primary at about 63-68* because the temp of fermentation will then be around 73* - right? If not, I should cool the brew by possible use of a swamp cooler.

I will be unable to check on the krausen until tonight. I can report that the lid of the bucket fermenter seems “bowed” upwards as if pressure is in there, but absolutely no activity in the airlock other than a slight bias to the fermenter side, which is what had (has) me worried. I was under the impression it would be bubbling every few seconds - not so and still ok? I will take temperature readings for ambient and outside fermenter wall this evening and report.

If there is anything else I should be doing in the meantime - please let me know!!!

If the lid on your fermenter is bowed upwards the airlock may be plugged. Pull the airlock holding a clean towel in the other hand to catch the krausen which may explode through. Is there someone else who could pull the airlock? Better than the lid and the krausen heading up to the ceiling. Krausen coming through the airlock grommet will keep contaminants out. Perhaps there is someone else that could pull the airlock? If nothing happens a sanitized towel laying over the airlock grommet will be sufficient until you return home.

Report what you have found tonight. We can go from there on other questions. Good luck.

My apologies for the delay - I was off finding a proper thermometer…
Ambient room temperature = 76.1*
Primary Wall Temperature = 75.6*
This is not looking good.
Removed airlock, was quite easy and no pressure was behind it. The bowed lid must just be the
natural shape of the lid. “Candled” the Fermenter with a flash light as recommended. The only
thing seen is the sharp delineation at the top of the wort’s surface. No fuzzy line. I removed the
airlock again and looked through the hole with good lighting. There is nothing forming on top of
the wort except some debris. It is basically smooth.
I fear there is no and has been no fermentation at all.
I do not have a hydometer to check the wort.
Is there any salvaging this ???
What should I do?

Taste a sample of the beer - approximating sterile technique. It should taste less sweet than when you put it into the fermenter - you did taste it then, right?

If you’re not certain it has started fermenting, add a packet of dry yeast (Fermentis US-05 would be a suitable choice).

Get a hydrometer.

Cool your fermenter.

Don’t worry about it. You’ll make beer.

And, read

+1. The best book on brewing that I have read.

Good for new to intermediate brewers, extra to all grain, theory to practice. The first book to put on your homebrew shelf.

OK, despite attempts to fix things, I fear this first attempt to brew has failed. Its been a week with no signs of activity. In reviewing my instructions and what I have read in other threads here on the forum, I believe I may know why. On the video for the essential kit, it mentions that it is ok to leave a little of the sanitizer in the primary. Of course I did in an attempt to keep things clean. However, here on the forum posts, many indicate that sanitizer will deactivate your yeast. Could this possibly be the problem, not the temperature (which I have lowered now to 73*)?
In any event - can the brew be saved?
Will it ferment with new yeast, if the above is the cause?

I will have to get the book and read up, but I feel time is of the essence at this point.
I will have to rely on the forum’s advice if things can be saved.

There are no “Home Brew Stores” anywhere in my area from the phone book or googling.
Where do I get the new yeast? What kind of store?
Are there any substitutions?
Is there another type of store I can get a hydrometer (like, today?)
What will the hydrometer tell me (us)?

Your help would be greatly appreciated!
In other words - I’ll owe you a beer!!!

There is no replacement for beer yeast. Don’t use bread yeast.

Where do you live? There may be someone near by that can help you out in person or direct you to a local resource. You can list a general location in your profile. If you are paranoid, list a town 20 miles away.

The hydrometer is a piece of equipment that tells you how much sugar is in the liquid. Here is a video on it’s use.

The video is from NB. Funny, here is their opening line.

At one time every starter kit contained a hydrometer. I guess to keep cost down, they have eliminated the hydrometer and made it a separate purchase. But in their own video they say it’s a needed item. Big thumbs down to NB on this.

Did you use dry yeast or liquid? If dry, did you rehydrate it (not necessary) and at what temp if you did?

If liquid, which brand and did the pouch inflate if it was WYeast?

The only way the sanitizer would kill the yeast is if you poured the yeast directly into the sanitizer. If you left a little sanitizer in the pail, <1oz likely, then poured the wort in, then the yeast, the sanitizer would be at such a low concentration that it would never have an affect on the yeast.

The last post is an exact description of the process I used. There was just a bit of sanitizer in the bucket. I poured in the hot wort. Checked temp until it cooled to 78*. Sprinkled in the yeast on top and closed it up. The yeast was in a packet, dry. It was room temp and had been kept refrigerated until use. Uh-oh. Was it supposed to be activated? If so, I know it was smacked, but the packet didn’t inflate or anything. No, I believe it was dry yeast for the American Wheat beer. I did NOT rehydrate. I simply sprinkled it in on top of the wort. Slight agitation, no real “mixing” it in. Relieved that I didn’t kill the yeast with sanitizer…
No problem on the location - I’m in Brick, NJ 08724.
Any leads on getting what I need would be truly appreciated! ... =0CIMBELYD

Looks like Brewers Apprentice may be the closest place. Call ahead to make sure they are open/in business.

865 Route 33 West (Business Road), Suite 4
Freehold, NJ 07728
(732) 863-9411

I am surprised that after 80hr nothing is happening. I’ve gone out to 72-75hrs before. I routinely just sprinkle dry yeast on the wort.

Also, yeast are heat tolerant to around 110*. So you are fine were you sprinkled it in at 78*.

I’m going to guess that because of the higher temps, fermentation took off fast and finished fast. Though you are having trouble seeing the remains looking through the tiny hole in the lid.

You can’t hurt things by opening the pail to check for signs of fermentation. Just use caution. Like keeping pets away and turning off ceiling fans for a couple minutes so you reduce the possibility of airborne contaminants.


Just called they got the stuff and are open until 5pm!

What kind of yeast do I need??? (they asked what kind of dry yeast)
The type previously mentioned ? Fermentis US-05?

Otherwise - I’m on my way after i check a few things!!!


Yes, US-05 is a great dry yeast for an American Wheat.

They should have a hydrometer and tube for you also.

Glad to be of help.

I’m on my way to the store 30min out, 30 min back.
Once I have the hydrometer and yeast - what then?
Take a hydrometer reading (guess this will be the “before” reading as I have no other reference
unless one can tell from the reading itself what the sugar content is) I guess we are looking for
a fairly high reading indicating no fermentation - right?
If so, I add the yeast and close her back up and keep it cool - right?
Then look for the bubbles…?

A wine thief would be a good item also. About $5. Additional sanitizer if you need it.

Sanitize the thief (or new turkey baster). Get a sample and check for the sugar content. When you started it should have been above 1.040 ( can check the kit description for specifics). Now it “should” be 1.020 or below.

If the reading is high, yes add the new yeast. Rehydrate it if you like. To do that, heat .5-1c of water in the microwave to sanitize it. Allow to cool to ~75*. Sprinkle the yeast in and cover. After 5-10 minutes the yeast will “bloom”. Swirl the yeast and dump in the pail.

edit: the specs say an Original Gravity of 1.043. You should have that unless you volumes was not 5 gallons. Anything close is fine. Variations only affect the ABV by a small %. Instead of a 4% beer you might have a 3.8%

Just got back - WOW what a lead!!!
THANK YOU HIGHTHAWK (yes I’m shouting…)

OK, results with the hydrometer:
SG = 1.010 @ 74* (so more like 1.012)
Pot Alch by Vol = 1%
Percent Sugar (BALLING) = 2.5
(have also cooled primary down to 68*)

Tastes like beer, (but not very good beer…)

So, unless my malt contained very little sugar (or I messed up boiling it)

I made some Beer???

OK, as beers go, what path does this put me on?
Do I add sugar and yeast? (I have NOT pitched anymore yeast yet)
Anything to spruce it up?

Or am I wrong about making beer?

BTW - got the Brewing book recommended above and 2 cases of bottles at the Brew Store
(just in case I’m on the right track…)

Super news!

Glad you found a local store. Although 60min round trip, they have some good hours to work around. Being open on Sunday is rare.

Go ahead and leave the beer sit for <gasp!> 2 weeks. This will allow the yeast to “clean up” some byproducts that they created during fermentation. And allow some yeast and other solids to drop to the bottom of the fermenter.

After that, time to bottle. It’s not necessary to use “new” bottles. You can use any pry top bottle. Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Boulevard, Bell’s, New Belgium, the list goes on. Sometimes screw top can work in a pinch.

When you get to bottling, fill 1 soda bottle with the beer. Squeeze the O2 out and screw the cap on. As CO2 is produced, the bottle will expand. No wondering what is happening in the glass bottles. Leave the bottles alone for 3 weeks. Then put 1-3 in the fridge for at least 24 hours. This allows the CO2 in the head space to be absorbed into the beer better. Open and see if they are carbonated well. If so, enjoy! If not, give them another week.

Having an extra soda bottle on hand for any “leftover” is a good idea. Soda bottles make great items if you can plan ahead for trips to the beach, camping or Monday Night Football at a friends house. 2lt bottles are good “growlers”.

It’s best to measure your priming sugar. A decent scale will run $30-40. You can pick them up at any of the big box stores, Walmart/Target. Or a boutique kitchen store. You might find other uses around the kitchen for it. I use one for portion control on snacks/chips for my lunch.

Start planning your next beer. Maybe take a trip to the other stores to see what their operation is like.

Store this extra pack of dry yeast in the fridge or freezer. As you found, a spare pack could be a lifesaver.



Bottling sugar, in the future you can use table sugar. No need for the expensive corn sugar.

Boil the sugar in 1-2 cups of water. Put in the bottling bucket. Then siphon the been in. Give it a gentle stir. Some people like to gently stir the beer after every 10-12 bottles are filled. They feel it keeps the sugar mixed better. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

If you have a dishwasher, you can run the bottles through that with the “sanitized” cycle activated. Avoid jet dry as it will kill the head retention of the beer. A piece of tape or wad of paper towel to close the opening of the jet dry port works well.

Fill the bottles over the dishwasher door. Any spills will be contained and clean up made easy.

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