From the HBD Archive
From: (Mike Meyer)
Subject: closed fermentation vs. open
Date: 1989-01-18 02:22:04 GMT

I've been thinking about trying a closed fermentation on my next batch of beer, but I have a few questions about it.

>From my understanding, one boils their wort normally, then strains the wort
directly (via sanitized strainer and funnel) into a carboy containing 2 or 3
gallons of (Question 1: cold or room temperature) water. They then seal it
with a sanitized stopper until the wort is at pitching temperature ( a process
which can be helped along by using cold water in the carboy, provided the
thermal shock won't screw it up). When the wort is at pitching temperature,
and the yeast starter ready enough, the yeast is added to the carboy, and
a stopper with blowoff hose added (This blowoff hose can have its other end
submerged in a pail of water, to minimize outside air contact until the
positive pressure is attained, right?). Once the bulk of icky stuff is blown
off, a regular fermentation lock replaces the blowoff hose.

More questions:
2) What causes thermal shock and how can I be absolutely sure to avoid it -- I
have this abnormal fear of my carboy breaking and spewing 5 gallons of sticky
wort all over the kitchen floor.

3) What is the best way of monitoring the temperature of the wort in the
closed carboy before pitching, or should I just start my yeast starter, let
it work overnight, pitch it the next morning , and not worry?

4) Should I siphon into another sanitized carboy after two or three days, or
would the increased risk of infection from the siphoning process negate any
gain? Is it a better idea to rack into another carboy after a week instead?

5) Assuming that my existing sanitation procedures are adequate, will using
the blowoff/ closed fermenter gain me anything besides gross tubing and more
carboy cleanup?
[it just so happens that I am having some infection problems,
but I haven't been able to pin down the source, except to say that my last
batch exhibited symptoms in EVERY bottle (i.e. not a bottle sanitation problem),
and that the procedures I use for wort cooling, pitching, etc. haven't given
me serious problems in the past. (minor problems, yes, but not since I gave
up Sodium Metabisulfate as a sanitizer, and started using bleach) My hoses
have recently been replaced, and I only have a few small scratches in my
plastic fermenter. Can't remember offhand what brand of yeast I was using,
but intend to look it up. ]

6) Since the blowoff hose doesn't touch the beer, I can use one of my older
retired hoses, right? (Or can the blowoff hose back-up into the carboy?)

So many questions, eh? I know, it looks like I have this phobia or something,
but I'm just interested in picking the brains of the list, especially those
who have used both methods and either experienced or not experienced a quantum
leap in the quality of their beer. It seems that it can take a lot of the
worry out of my beermaking, provided my pitching procedure and or yeast
isn't the culprit.

BTW, has anybody ever experienced a bacterial infection that made their beer
slightly psychoactive? I had this one batch that was a lobotomy-in-a-bottle
(or more accurately, half-a-bottle), and the alcohol content was not the
culprit (3.6%). In the interest of science :-), my roommate has been trying
to reculture the yeast from the remaining bottles... If he succeeds, someone
will have to make it illegal.

Another BTW, I forgot to tell you how my batch of Toad Spit Stout came out.
It's really good stuff -- in my book, the recipe yields a drink very, very
similar to Guinness, only missing the slight bite that we all know comes from
Guinness adding the 3% pasteurized sour beer. (Betcha I could duplicate that
at home, too...) Good recipe, and far simpler than the 'Super Stout' recipe
from M.R. Reese's 'Better Beer and How To Brew It." That recipe, which we
dubbed 'Vicious', yields something that is much more like a porter, as it uses
black patent malt rather than roasted barley. It also yielded about an inch
of trub and sediment at the bottom of each bottle. Incredible sludge, and I
could go for a glass right now...

..think I will, in fact. See ya.

Mike Meyer

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