Airlock constantly gunked up

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by SourSage, Mar 16, 2016.

  1. SourSage

    SourSage New Member

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    Hello everyone, new to these boards and new to brewing. I began home brewing a few months back and have been enjoying the fruits of my labor for a bit now.

    However, this past batch (brewed this past Sunday (03/13)) has been fermenting quite differently than any previous batch. For some insight, the beer we did was a black session IPA (triangulation from all involved, 2 wanted a double ipa, another wanted a porter/ stout/ black ipa, and I wanted a session ipa - therefore, black session ipa seemed to fit the bill.) I'm doing partial mash still. This is the recipe:
    6 Gallons of Poland Spring Water
    1 lb Cara-Pils/ Dextrine
    1 lb Pale Chocolate Malt
    8 oz Carafa II
    2 oz Fuggles (First Wort)
    1 lb Dark Dry Extract
    6.6 lb Amber Liquid Extract
    1 oz Challenger 8.9% AA @ 60 min
    1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 15 min
    1 oz Citra 12.8% AA @ 10 min
    2 pkg 100 million cell California Ale White Labs WLP001
    4 oz Citra 12.8% AA Dry Hop @ 7 days.

    Practically, immediately I noticed the burps on the airlock faster than normal, and over night the airlock gunked up with beer. I sanitized another airlock/ plug, threw out that airlock/ plug and replaced it. Again, the next day, the airlock/ plug were gunked up and heavy yeasty/ cocoa powder aroma were present. I prepared a dish of Starsan and quickly removed, cleaned, and replaced the airlock/ plug.

    I currently don't have a setup for a blow-off tube and realize this is probably the solution.

    So, I guess the questions I have are these: Why would such a vigorous fermentation occur on a 5.8% (I know this is higher than session) Black Session IPA? Is the yeasty smell an indicator that I may have pitched too much? I usually brew with 5 gallons of water, but decided on this batch to do 6 to try to increase the yield - was this the error or reason for such a vigorous, eruptive fermentation? With all the beer gunking up in the airlock/ overflowing onto the carboy, is there a worry for contamination? Did I appropriately (with limited resources, i.e., no blow-off setup) address the problem?

    And then any recommendations for making a blow-off setup, as I am going to set one up asap at this point.

    Thank you for any and all consideration/ response.
     
  2. Ozarks Mountain Brew

    Staff Member

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    as long as its in the first 3 days its actually ok just to take the airlock off completely, you can just lay a clean paper towel over the whole and you'll be fine, the C02 is pushing everything out, then when you notice the foam is gone put the airlock back on
     
  3. jmcnamara

    jmcnamara Well-Known Member

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    with the extra gallon in there, your headspace was decreased, which could increase the chance for a clogged airlock.

    basically, you just need a hose that can snugly fit in the grommet in the lid of your fermentor. make sure it'll be long enough to easily reach and rest in a bowl or other jug you can place nearby. Put some sanitizer in that bowl or jug, and put the end of the hose under the line. depending on the size of your bowl and level of sanitizer, you way want to monitor it a little bit to make sure your blow off doesn't overflow.

    I had a stout explode out the airlock with no problems. It did sound like someone's gurgling stomach from the other room though.

    i'm assuming you didn't do a starter, but what was your ambient ferm temp? if it's in the 70s, that might explain all the activity. i also noticed you used two vials of yeast? any particular reason?

    or, and i'm playing devil's advocate here, what if the previous brews didn't have the lid / airlock properly sealed so that the gas could escape in another way besides the airlock? I'm super guilty of it, but judging by airlock activity alone isn't really a good indication of fermentation (or lack thereof)
     
  4. flars

    flars New Member

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    The most likely reason for krausen getting into the airlock, if you are controlling the fermentation temperature, is the available headspace was reduced by the additional one gallon of wort.
     
  5. Head First

    Head First Well-Known Member

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    One gallon in a carboy is lots of head space removed.
    Also since manufacture recommended pitch of White Labs yeast is 1 pack for a 5gal batch of 1.050 then you pitched plenty of yeast. Not really an over pitch though. Sounds like you will be a successful brewer, as it looks like you did everything ok for what you had to work with. Brew On
     
  6. SourSage

    SourSage New Member

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    First off, thanks for all the replies from everybody - you're easing my anxiety with this batch.

    The ambient temp was (on the first day) 62-65°F, after the fermentation picked up, I saw it increase to 68-70°F which is when I moved it to my downstairs to drop temp. Now, as it's hanging out down there, it's sitting at 60-62°F.

    I used two vials of yeast, mostly, because I wanted a vigorous fermentation, but also because when I asked the employee at the homebrew shop if that would be too vigorous of a fermentation (as I'm still new, and don't know how active all the yeast strains are) he said it'd be fine. So, I just went with it - not a ton of thought there, but definitely an oversight when adding an extra gallon.

    I have used the same airlock/ plugs for every batch previously - and a worry of mine was actually the opposite - I thought maybe this time, the plug/ airlock weren't on snug enough and oxygen was possibly seeping in, causing all the commotion - maybe from excessive aeration of the yeast?


    I think you're completely correct and I am cursing myself for adding the extra gallon. Either way, thanks a lot for the reassurance.

    I am heading up to my local brew shop in a second here to rig up a blowoff setup to stop worrying about this batch. Cheers, thank you all! :D
     
  7. flars

    flars New Member

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    You are well on your way to becoming an experienced brewer.
     
  8. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    Well that was carefully worded! :lol: :shock:
     
  9. jmcnamara

    jmcnamara Well-Known Member

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    Once you get a few more brews under your belt, you'll start to get a sense of just what your system can handle (usually by making a few "mistakes" like this).

    from your temps, i'd definitely say that had a part in the overflow.

    not sure what your OG was, but for a 5.8% beer, one vial should generally be adequate (roughly 1.060 is the cutoff). anything above that and i think you're better off with a starter than using 2 vials of liquid yeast. but, i've also used 2 packets of dry yeast on a batch, so what do i know :D


    also, little tangent, but a while back i went to an all-grain class when i was first getting into it. what really stuck with me was the guy saying that this stuff wants to be beer. you have to really actively screw up practically every part of the process to not get at least something resembling beer. i think this is true for all grain, partial mash, extract, and whatever other technique there is.

    oh, and sanitation
     
  10. SourSage

    SourSage New Member

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    Thanks a ton! I really do appreciate the encouragement and compliment.

    This is the first time I've done more than 5 gallons, and it was certainly experimental - I figured with boiling off/ loss from trub, that I'd still end up yielding about 5 gallons, but it really was an oversight to just dump another gallon in, didn't realize the impact it would have.

    I think the temps were a bit high and contributed to the crazily active fermentation.

    To be fair, I (for some reason, alcohol, commotion, or otherwise), always forget to check the OG - which I know is a huge mistake, as that's realistically the indicator of how fermented the beer is. So, from now on, I'm going to try to keep it in the forefront of my consciousness to check the OG.

    And, please, continue the tangents whenever - I love hearing stuff like that.


    Thanks, as usual, for all the input!

    Anyway - without further ado, this is the rig I came up with:
     

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  11. jmcnamara

    jmcnamara Well-Known Member

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    looks good. i usually put the hose directly in the rubber bung, but as long as it's on there tight enough it'll be fine.

    also, i wrap a towel or pillowcase around my clear vessels. they tend to be in darker part of the house anyway, but it makes me feel like more light is being blocked

    anyway, be sure to let us know how the beer turns out
     
  12. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    That looks like mine!
     
  13. SourSage

    SourSage New Member

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    :D :D :D :D :D

    Sorry for the wait! As promised, here's the final brew. It actually came out better than expected and I think is one of, if not the, best brew I've done. The fuggles comes through incredibly, the bittering is just right, the carbonation is on point, and the chocolate malt is so delicious.
     

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