Fermentation won't start - HELP!

Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:29 pm

So I know my process wasn't perfect, and I've identified all the miscues I know of below. I'm not sure if one of these, or perhaps something else, is causing my problem.

I just tried (and did a poor job of) a starter for the first time on my Russian Imperial Stout (OG 1.097). I didn't begin the starter until way too close to the brew itself, I had maybe 4 hours from when I was pitching my yeast into the erlenmeyer to the point where I was pitching the starter, and the Wyeast pack had only been out of the fridge for an hour when I pitched it into the flask.

Pitching into my wort was at 2am on 1/1 (43 hours ago). I used my O2 stone for 60 seconds, full bore. At the 20 hour mark I used the O2 stone again, another 90 seconds but at a much slower release rate. At the 30 hour mark I had no sign at all of fermentation, so I pitched another Wyeast pack into the wort (straight from the pack, the pack was out of the fridge at room temp for 12 hours and was nice and fat), that was 13 hours ago.

Any ideas what's wrong? Any suggestions?

My ideas what could be wrong were that the OG might be too high for the yeast (I think this is not it, that fact might prevent going down to the terminal gravity I want, but shouldn't prevent fermentation from starting), or that I botched the starter enough that the yeast won't ferment, and the second pack was out at room temperature for too long and also won't ferment. I pitched the yeast into my starter at 70 degF and roughly the same for pitching the starter into the wort, and the second pack was pitched at 68 degF. While I can't rule it out, I am pretty careful about sanitization, so I doubt that is the issue.
-PFC Kragaad, Abacus 'Brewing Company'

Fermenter - PBW
Aging - Sweet Mead, Dry Mead, Saison, Cider 1, Cider 2, Vanilla Bourbon RIS
Cellar - Cherry Porter, Pale (Cascade), IPA, Belgian Pale, Irish Stout
Next - 3 Pales (Citra, Amarillo, Experimental 342)
AbacusBrewingCo
 
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Re: Fermentation won't start - HELP!

Thu Jan 02, 2014 7:19 pm

If your starter was only going for 4 hours, you likely underpitched, and by quite a bit. By pitching just one pack, you only put in ~1/4 the yeast you should have, and the recruits didn't come along til just recently (and still only slightly over 1/2 what the gravity calls for).
Spiderwrangler
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spiderwrangler
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Re: Fermentation won't start - HELP!

Thu Jan 02, 2014 8:21 pm

What yeast strain did you pitch?

Also It's great to keep a couple of packs of dry yeast on hand for when you brew on a whim. If you have any, I'd rehydrate one or two and pitch those.
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Re: Fermentation won't start - HELP!

Thu Jan 02, 2014 8:37 pm

Definitely use a yeast pitching calculator. One smack pack only 4 hours ahead of time for that high of OG isn't going to take off quickly. Mr. Malty is a good free calculator that will show how big of a starter to make.

I make about a 1.030-1.040 OG 2L starter about 12-18 hours before I intend to pitch and pitch the whole starter trying to pitch at high Krausen. I don't have a stir plate so I cover the container with foil and swirl it whenever I walk by to keep the yeast in suspension and get them some oxygen. I rarely crash and decant.
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Re: Fermentation won't start - HELP!

Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:16 pm

thanks a lot guys, i suppose this is the highest OG brew i've done that didn't take wine yeast (cider, mead). the other batches i've done, a pale ale, saison, hefeweizen, all got started much faster than this, without a starter at all and without oxygenating (beyond a little carboy shake) so i figured even trying a starter and properly oxygenating would mean a faster start, not a slower one, but that underestimates how much a 1.097 will take to get going.

i used wyeast 1028 london ale (recommendation of my lhbs) for both the (crappy) starter and the repitch. i do have some extra yeast laying around, dry and some extra wyeast packs, but no more 1028. my options are wyeast 1056 american ale, wyeast 1272 american ale ii, wyeast 1762 belgian abbey ii, and a couple different varieties of dry yeast, i think belgian, american and red star champagne.

i assume that if there's still no activity in the morning (first pitch + 54 hours) i definitely need to pitch more, correct? how about if there's activity in the morning, does that mean i'm set to go, or should i still pitch more? given my yeast options above, what should i do?
-PFC Kragaad, Abacus 'Brewing Company'

Fermenter - PBW
Aging - Sweet Mead, Dry Mead, Saison, Cider 1, Cider 2, Vanilla Bourbon RIS
Cellar - Cherry Porter, Pale (Cascade), IPA, Belgian Pale, Irish Stout
Next - 3 Pales (Citra, Amarillo, Experimental 342)
AbacusBrewingCo
 
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Re: Fermentation won't start - HELP!

Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:32 pm

just checked on it, there is a small amount of activity, but clearly it's a very slow process. with the above available options, what should i pitch? should i make a starter or just use the smack pack/dry yeast right out of the packet?

also, having used a starter already, if i do another starter, won't i be jacking my gravity up further? my target was 1.090, and it's already up to 1.097; i assume that's because instead of a gallon of water, i topped off my wort with a half gallon of water and a half gallon of starter that included an extra half pound of DME.

i also don't want to mess up the flavor profile of my beer, a 1000 mL or even 2000 mL starter with around 1.020 light dme shouldn't be too big an effect, but if i do another starter to get fermentation going better, then i'm up to 4000 mL or 1.020 starter, not only is that going to give me an OG over 1.100 but won't it also be enough 'starter wort' to affect the flavor of my finished product? good fermentation vs unadulterated recipe feels like a catch 22
-PFC Kragaad, Abacus 'Brewing Company'

Fermenter - PBW
Aging - Sweet Mead, Dry Mead, Saison, Cider 1, Cider 2, Vanilla Bourbon RIS
Cellar - Cherry Porter, Pale (Cascade), IPA, Belgian Pale, Irish Stout
Next - 3 Pales (Citra, Amarillo, Experimental 342)
AbacusBrewingCo
 
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Re: Fermentation won't start - HELP!

Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:36 pm

sorry to keep posting, my brain is scattered... would yeast nutrient be of help? i've got plenty of it on hand. if so, how should i add it, dry or as a slurry? is this a recommended addition for all batches after pitching, or only if i run into trouble with a stuck fermentation?

and thank you everyone, again, for your help.
-PFC Kragaad, Abacus 'Brewing Company'

Fermenter - PBW
Aging - Sweet Mead, Dry Mead, Saison, Cider 1, Cider 2, Vanilla Bourbon RIS
Cellar - Cherry Porter, Pale (Cascade), IPA, Belgian Pale, Irish Stout
Next - 3 Pales (Citra, Amarillo, Experimental 342)
AbacusBrewingCo
 
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Re: Fermentation won't start - HELP!

Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:34 am

Quit messing with it and learn from this mistake.
Just let it ride.
I know you have time and $ invested.
Maybe do a "do-over" with the next batch.
For next time-- properly plan it all out.
Make a proper starter a few days ahead of time.
Sorry I sound like a dick. I am one.
Cheers!
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snowcapt
 
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