Volume Loss During Primary Fermentation

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beers 1826 º places 120 º 08:15 Sun 11/25/2012

I was wondering if any of you brewing have experienced this situation. Iíve been brewing with starters for quite a long time, as I tend to brew bigger beers like barleywines and imperial stouts. For the really big beers like the imperial stout I brewed on Friday (OG was 1.115 on that one), I made a starter of about 3 cups DME to 3 cups water and pitched one package of Wyeast 1028 London Ale into the starter wort (and yes, I smacked the package to release the nutrients). That usually results in a starter of about 1.040 or so and seems to really get the yeast going. I pitched the entire starter into the wort (collected just under 5 gallons and this resulted in being just over 5 gallons after the starter addition) and fermentation began in less than three hours in my 6.5 gallon carboy. By 5 hours after I pitched I needed to install a blow-off tube and as a result of the vigorous fermentation, I have lost at least a quart of wort/foam through the blow-off tube. Seems like the beer is settling down now, but do any of you experience this same problem -- that is, losing beer volume through the blow-off tube? One friend suggested that I might be overpitching in these big beers, so I am trying to find a happy medium between quick fermentation and not losing beer volume to the vigorous fermentation. Thanks for any thoughts you have!

places 16 º 10:06 Sun 11/25/2012

There are a few additives that seem to help keep blowoff down. I had been having trouble with certain "top cropping" strains, even with 2-4 gal of headspace in a 15 gal carboy, but "Fermcap" seemed to really help with those problems. I have not noticed any off flavors, etc.

beers 2139 º places 14 º 13:18 Sun 11/25/2012

Yep, Fermcap works wonders.

beers 1826 º places 120 º 13:52 Sun 11/25/2012

Sounds great! Thanks for the responses. I was having a bit of trouble with foaming while aerating with pure oxygen, so my guess is that this will help with that foaming as well....

beers 2139 º places 14 º 14:00 Sun 11/25/2012

Thatís normal, its easy to overdo O2. It shouldnít cause problems with over foaming though.

Over aerating can cause yeast health problems down the road if you harvest yeast. No need to go more than a minute with a stone and pure O2.

beers 2452 º places 182 º 16:04 Sun 11/25/2012

Vigorous top-cropping yeasts just need a lot of head space, especially for big beers. If your not going to get a bigger fermentor, fermcap is the only solution other than brewing smaller batches. Unless you are experiencing almost no lag time or pitching on a whole yeast cake, you probably arenít over-pitching.

beers 2160 º places 63 º 19:00 Sun 11/25/2012

Usually the blowoff looks worse than it is.
I typically donít lose a lot of volume.

beers 3438 º places 209 º 09:06 Mon 11/26/2012

Out of curiosity, why add the whole starter? I always decant to reduce dilution. Plus, starters can produce a more estery product, in my experience, as I tend to ferment starters warmer than primaries to aid with growth. That coupled with increased oxygen due to use of a stirplate lead me to decant...

beers 2139 º places 14 º 14:12 Wed 11/28/2012

I always decant my starters due to using a stir plate. That starter wort is oxidized and nasty.

beers 3244 º places 21 º 14:28 Wed 11/28/2012

What did you mean when you say you decant your starter? Iíve not heard of this.

places 16 º 14:54 Wed 11/28/2012

Originally posted by BenH
What did you mean when you say you decant your starter? Iíve not heard of this.

Cold crash, let the yeast settle out, pour off 90% or more of the liquid, resuspend the yeast, and pitch that resuspension.

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