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Brewing High Gravity Beer with Regular Ale Yeast - Next Step

grittyminder

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Hi there,

I'm switching over to grain, so I decided that I'd take all my old malt extract and make a total Frankenstein of an imperial stout beer. Unfortunately, the only yeast available to me from my brew shop was SafAle S-04. However, I read that S-04 performs reasonably well with beers around 8.5% so I went with it. I also got some champagne yeast (Lalvin EC-1118).

So I wrote a recipe up using BeerSmith (est orig gravity: 1.096, est final gravity: 1.022, est alcohol by vol: %9.8) then went at it: brewed, wort into the fermenter, and pitched yeast (two packets of S-04). My target batch volume was 19 liters, but I lost 2 liters due to evaporation (I didn't have any additional water on hand to add to the wort). I took a gravity sample and it was quite high at 1.110.

The fermenter blew its top--crazy foam everywhere. It was my first time brewing a beer with this high of a gravity. Somehow I managed, but a lost 3 more liters of word (now down to 15 liters).

So now I am wondering what I should do now. I haven't taken a gravity sample yet. How long should I let the beer sit in my primary fermenter (a plastic bucket)? How long should I let the beer sit in my secondary fermenter (also a plastic bucket)? When should I pitch the champagne yeast, or if the gravity gets low enough should I not worry about it?

Thank you for your help.
 

pcollins

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It's been a while since I've used US-04 but that sounds familiar: Starts fast, finishes fast.

I don't use plastic buckets but if this were my beer in a glass carboy primary I would be leaving it for at least two weeks and probably closer to three or four. I don't believe there is any rush. Just let the yeast really finish their work. Once you're in secondary you're good in there for another very long time. Take a gravity reading before moving to secondary, you want the beer to be done before you move it off the yeast cake.

I would definitely wait until you've determined where you are exactly with fermentation before, and if, you add the champagne yeast. I use US-05 exclusively and have taken beers up to 14.5% with that yeast. Granted, it was pitched on a yeast cake but it's the yeast conditions that did it, not champagne yeast.

Other people may have other comments to add vis a vis plastic buckets etc. I use only glass so that's where I'm coming from.
 

tom_hampton

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Wine yeasts are not good at fermenting maltose and maltitriose. Don't bother with it.  Get everything you can outoof the s04.

Bucket vs carboy makes no difference to the yeast. A vessel is a vessel to the yeast.  Buckets are slightlypermea ble to air, though. Because of that 6 weeks total is about the max timeyo leave a beer in a bbucketbefore you bbeginto rrisk oxidation. 

Leave it in the primary the entire time. But, you may need to rouse the yeast, several times to keep them working.  Takegravi ty readings every few days, and rouse the yeast at the same time. 

Did you make a starter? A beer that big is very hard on the yeast.  Often the will tire out before getting to the end. Keeping them suspended will help keep them moving. If you don't get down close to 1022,report back. You can't just add more yeast. It won't work.

 

durrettd

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Tom,

Not disagreeing, just don't understand yeast very well and need some education: You said adding more yeast won't work on the high-gravity beer. I would have expected that the original yeast would have been stressed and weakened by the high alcohol, low sugar environment - as you stated. I also assume new yeast, especially a new beer yeast, would be healthier and able to metabolize the remaining sugar. What am I missing?
 

Maine Homebrewer

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Yeast is not some chemical catalyst that converts sugar to alcohol. It goes through an entire life cycle.  You can't just add more and expect the process to start over. For one, you aerate in the beginning of that cycle and right now oxygen is your enemy.

I have heard of some commercial bottle conditioned beers adding new yeast during the bottling process, but that's just to make enough CO2 to carbonate the bottle.  It result in a negligible amount of alcohol.

Yeast settles out when it gets tired. Rousing it can wake it up enough to eat some more sugar.
 

tom_hampton

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Maine has it right. Mostly. 

You CAN get yeast to work, but there is a trick to it. I was trying to keep it simple for the op, unless necessary. 

Here is the trick: you have to make a starter, a big one, and you have to pitch the entire starter (wort and all) at high krausen.  The starter should be sized per the usual pitching recommendations at the current gravity of the beer. Also, leave it off the stir plate. The stir plate keeps the yeast in the aerobic phase. But, what you need is for the yeast to be heavy into the fermentation phase (anaerobic). 

So, your going to pitch 1-2 liter of fermenting wort into your beer. It may have an effect on the flavor.
 

grittyminder

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Sorry about the delay in responding... thank you for your replies!

> Did you make a starter?

Yes I did. Two packets. When I poured the starter into the yeast it (the starter) was foaming up mighty good.

> I use US-05 exclusively and have taken beers up to 14.5% with that yeast. Granted, it was pitched on a yeast cake but it's the yeast conditions that did it, not champagne yeast.

I'm glad to hear that! I think I had a pretty good starter going so maybe I'll be okay...?

> Leave it in the primary the entire time. But, you may need to rouse the yeast, several times to keep them working.  Takegravi ty readings every few days, and rouse the yeast at the same time. 

How do I rouse the yeast? Do I jostle the bucket or something like that?

So the recommendation is that I do not use the champagne yeast? Will there be enough active yeast around to carbonate in the bottle after 6 or so weeks in the fermenter? (I don't have a kegging system).
 

tom_hampton

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How do I rouse the yeast? Do I jostle the bucket or something like that?

Yes, generally swirl the bucket to get a good circular current going.  You can do it with a spoon or other actual stirring method, but I've never enjoyed the risk that introduces. 

So the recommendation is that I do not use the champagne yeast? Will there be enough active yeast around to carbonate in the bottle after 6 or so weeks in the fermenter? (I don't have a kegging system).

Since, you made a starter with two packets, I think your beer will probably finish out just fine.  If you'd just directly pitched a single dry packet (or even two), I would be worried it would run out of energy before it finished.  Keep it roused, and maybe elevate the temperature as it gets closer to the end by a few degrees (5F or so is fine, and often very helpful).

Probably.  But, if that's your only concern you CAN use champagne yeast, specifically for bottling.  You want to add about 1/4 packet or so of re-hydrated yeast when you add your priming sugar (you don't need or want much yeast for bottling).  As usual, make sure it is all very well mixed before you bottle. 

 

grittyminder

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Keep it roused, and maybe elevate the temperature as it gets closer to the end by a few degrees (5F or so is fine, and often very helpful).
[/quote]

This is something I can do--I have and electric heat pad so I can up the temperature by a few degrees at the end.

Thank you for the tips--I have a feeling that this beer is going to turn out okay!
 

grittyminder

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Hmmm... well, the gravity has been stuck at 1.040 for a week. Maybe I've been too gentle while rousing the yeast (I haven't been very aggressive due to worries about oxidization, and have not yet tried stirring with a spoon), and maybe I haven't had the temperature high enough (there has been a cold spell here and I was careless--my wort temp went down as far as 64 degrees. I am now up to 73 degrees).

What should I do next? More aggressive stirring and temperature regulation? Something else?
 

Maine Homebrewer

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I decided that I'd take all my old malt extract and make a total Frankenstein of an imperial stout beer

You threw a bunch of stuff together and it isn't good. It happens.

Pitch it and free the equipment for something good.

 

grittyminder

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I'm not going to throw it away. The beer actually tastes quite good--like a proper imperial stout (which is what I was shooting for). The problem is that the yeast is tuckered out and there is still fermentable stuff in the wort. I still have the champagne yeast. Should I bottle or try to use the yeast to bring the gravity down further before I bottle? Is CO2 only produced when there is available oxygen? If so, then I don't have to worry about caps flying off from carbonation when I bottle even though the gravity is high?
 

Maine Homebrewer

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The problem is that the yeast is tuckered out and there is still fermentable stuff in the wort.

I brew an extract imperial stout years ago and had a similar experience. The yeast just pooped out. To the point where even when I bottled it with priming sugar, it remained flat. Wasn't very good.

Is CO2 only produced when there is available oxygen?

Quite the opposite.  CO2 and alcohol are the byproducts of the anaerobic part of the yeast's life cycle.

I really don't know what to say. Adding yeast that isn't already started isn't going to get you anywhere. If you do make a starter slurry like tom suggested, I'm quite positive that you will change the character of the beer.  For better or worse I can't say.

Either way I doubt you'll get bubbles in it without force carbonating it in a keg. It will likely remain flat like mine.

Bottle it flat and at service time pour in some cheap swill to add bubbles?
 

Beer_Tigger

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Careful when bottling.  I made a heavy stout and put it in bottles too soon.  Now I have to open them over a sink because they are volcanoes.  The yeast is still working on it a year later...
 

durrettd

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Add a packet of rehydrated US-05. You'll get close to 200 Billion cells to eat some of the remaining sugar. I would not bottle with the current gravity - it took two sutures to close the  gash on the back of my arm when I bottled a stuck fermentation that came unstuck.
 
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