New Small Batch Brewer - Irish Red Ale Question

Hello all,
This is my first post and I’m happy to be here. I actually have two questions regarding my new hobby. I brewed up a batch of Irish Red Ale and Caribou Slobber, both of which foamed over the air lock, which leads me to believe I’ll be using a blow off tube with my next batch, either an American Wheat or Cream Ale. I like small batch brewing, as it fits my space requirements and if I brew a couple at a time, its more than enough for me and a few friends to enjoy together. My question is this: My kit came with a smaller hose that I can use for a blow off tube, right? Well, do I try to force it over bottom piece of the 3 piece air lock and attach that to fermenting jug, or do I just put the hose directly in the hole of the cap on the jug? The latter seems much easier and seems to fit fairly well.

Question #2:
My Irish Red Ale went through a rather violent and quick fermentation with the krausen overflowing and forming a thick head on top of the beer. Two days after brew day it sank to the bottom and there is no activity in the air lock. It has been 5 1/2 days since brew day now. Do I take this as a sign that its ready to bottle or should I let the process continue further before bottling and if so, how long would you wait? I was under the impression that the Irish Red was a quick fermenting beer with a fairly quick turn around time. The hardest part is waiting! Fortunately I have more recipes and an extra jug on order so I’ll be able to cook up another brew of my choosing by Tuesday from the sound of things!

Thanks so much, I’m looking forward to your replies!

The hose should not take a lot of force to fit the inside stem of the air lock. It should go on, after being wetted with sanitizer, with a gentle twist and push. Use the air lock grommet if the fit is snug and dust or fruit flies cannot enter.

Sounds like you don’t have a hydrometer yet for checking specific gravity. No air lock activity does not mean fermentation is complete. The end of a fermentation can take quite some time with certain yeasts, without noticeable activity. With these yeasts specific gravity readings, after two to three weeks of fermentation, a week apart is the only sure way to prevent bottle bursting problems. Most likely the yeasts you have used will not take this long to finish.

I will take a SG reading about 14 days after initial fermentation begins. A second SG reading, three days later, usually verifies the first reading was final gravity. I will bottle at about 21 days. In the first 24 hours to 48 hours after FG is reached the yeast will clean up natural off flavors produced during the fermentation. The rest of the time, for my beers, is for the CO2 to off gas and let the excess yeast and suspended sediment to drop out. This amount of time also allows the yeast/trub layer to compact, meaning more beer can be siphoned to the bottles.

Two weeks might be sufficient time to wait before bottling, if the fermentation did not get stuck. Three weeks will give you a clear beer and less sediment in the bottles. Without SG readings you will always wonder if the bottles will start exploding during conditioning.

I recommend getting a hydrometer and taking at least one SG reading, at about 15 to 18 days, to see if the yeast attenuated into the range they should have. With this sample you can also check the clarity and give it a taste test.

You could do double one gallon recipes in a three gallon plastic bucket, made into a fermentor, by drilling for the air lock grommet. This will give you more head space for the krausen. I have gotten three gallon plastic buckets from the super market for $0.50. They originally held frosting and are food grade and have a lid that seals. Overly active fermentations, with excess krausen production, can be minimized by controlling the fermentation temperatures. The higher the wort temperature, the more active the fermentation will be, and the more esters and off flavors produced. Some of these off flavors will not age out.

Thank you for the very detailed reply, flars. I actually did just get hydrometer in the mail today so I’ll be able to take the reading as soon as I figure out exactly how to read it. It came with instructions and they’re all over the net so I’m sure I’ll be fine there. I’ll await my beer thief as I have no baster or anything like that yet nor do I have a cylinder besides what the hydrometer came packaged in, except the small one that comes with the easy cleanup kit, and it sounds like I should give it more time anyway. Hopefully my appropriate thief and cylinder will be here by the time it’s closer to bottling. I also like the double batch idea. Thanks for replying so quickly and enlightening this brewing newbie. Many thanks and cheers!

From Palmers’ old book. A lot of the information is still good. I use the tube the hydrometer came in to hold the sample. One of the hydrometers I bought years ago had a base for the shipping tube. Never used it, I prefer to hold the tube at eye level to read the scale and make sure the hydrometer is not sticking to the side of the tube. I’m checking for dissolved CO2 and clarity at the same time. CO2 sticking to the hydrometer can float it higher, giving a wrong SG read.

I’ll be sure to keep that in mind when I do my test. Thank you!