Dealing With Stuck Fermentations In Home Brewing

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Brewing your own beer or wine at home is both legal and safe, if done correctly. It is a fun hobby that provides you with a tasty beverage to enjoy after all the work and waiting. Anyone can learn to brew their own fermented drinks with a basic set of equipment. Fermentation is the process of yeast consuming sugar, which creates alcohol. Most forms of fermentation also result in air bubbles and carbonation. If you have a batch of mead, beer or wine that seems to have stalled during the fermentation process, you must proceed carefully if you wish to restart it. It may still be fermenting despite any outward signs to the contrary. It may not need further fermentation either.

If you have a carboy or bucket full of brew that has stopped bubbling, do not panic. A lack of gas in the air lock or along the top of the liquid is not a clear indication that fermentation is stuck. Use a hydrometer to check the specific gravity before making any assumptions. Check the mixture three times over the course of 72 hours and look for any changes in the alcohol content. Even a slight rise indicates that fermentation is still going. Brown foam around the opening where the air lock meets the container also shows that the yeast is still alive.

To determine if the fermentation is done, you will need to know what the original gravity was when you first began brewing. This is why it is crucial to take regular hydrometer readings. A beer or wine is usually done with the specific gravity is about 1/4th of the beginning gravity. If fermentation has stopped but the gravity is still too high, you can restart the process. Start with simple steps like shaking the container a little bit. Stirring the yeast around often gets it working again. Make sure the brewing container is located in a warm environment. Different strands of yeast have different temperature requirements, but most need warm rooms that remain above 65 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. A little extra warmth can restart fermentation that became stuck due to a cold day.

Add a little yeast nutrient if agitation and warmth do nothing. Yeast go dormant if they run out of food. Nutrients are special mixtures designed to help the yeast consume the sugar in your brew more efficiently. A half teaspoon of nutrient will get the yeast eating again in most circumstances. Give the nutrients a few days to work, with hydrometer testing each day so you can track any changes.

In extreme cases, your brew may have been incorrectly formulated to begin with and you may need to add sugar. Home brewing relies on you starting with enough sugar to keep the yeast alive through the entire process. Try dissolving three ounces of sugar in eight ounces of hot water and letting it cool before adding it to the brew. If this doesn’t work, adding some additional yeast is your last hope. Adding yeast can cause the brew to taste bad, but if the yeast in your brew is dead instead of stuck, it is the only option for salvaging it.

Don’t rush through any part of the process. Give the yeast plenty of time to start working again after each step. Stuck fermentation will not ruin the beer or wine if you let it sit without working for a few weeks. Sometimes the fermenting process stops and starts again on its own. Using a good quality hydrometer and measuring at least once a month helps you keep an eye on the brew.

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