Another My Beer Is Not Fermenting Panic Attack!

The problem with brewing beer for the very first time when you know nothing about brewing is that the process becomes overwhelming and every little detail becomes a big deal.

You are extra careful about the entire process and once the beer is in the bucket/carboy fermenting, you feel like you are kind of done with your part and now you just have to wait.

You do have to, however, keep an eye out for that airlock activity which is your only indicator that fermentation is happening…

Wrong…

That’s not the case at all. The airlock is not the best indicator that fermentation is happening. If you did everything right, you will more than likely see bubbles for 3-7 days.

But there are those occasions in which the bubbles may stop sooner or may not even show up at all… that doesn’t mean the beer is not fermenting.

When you are experienced, you don’t worry too much, but when you are a brand new brewer the earth starts to shake and the end of the world is near… your beer is dying and you go into a panic attack to try and save it…

Should you pitch your yeast? change the temperature? shake the fermenter? Call 911?

Nah…

None of that is necessary… at least not without doing a simple diagnosis… a test…

If you had a good set of instructions you may have used a hydrometer to take a gravity reading right before you pitched your yeast.

If you beer seems like it’s not fermenting, the only way you will know is by taking a second gravity reading and see if there is any drop in the gravity reading. If no change is happening, then by all means take action and re-pitch yeast, shake your bucket, and cry if you want to…

But more than likely, your beer is actually fermenting and you’ve just interrupted the fermentation process.

Krausen should be forming and the gravity reading should be dropping, even if there are no bubbles in the airlock!

Now, the second panic attack most new brewers get and it’s usually tied to this is… is my beer infected…

See… they think the beer is not fermenting and they go and open the bucket… they then realize that some nasty thing is forming on top and wonder if it is an infection…

How could it happen to them? On their first beer?

But, once again… it’s just Krausen forming and yes it looks kinda nasty, but it is by no means an infection. So, if you are thinking that your beer is not fermenting and are freaking out about it… do yourself a favor and take a gravity reading before doing anything to your beer… 9 times out of ten it will be fine and you just need to chill, relax, and let the beer do its thing…

5 Comments

  • Rich

    Reply Reply May 31, 2011

    This is extremely frustrating. Just brewed my 1st batch on Sunday and nothing but a couple tiny bubbles as of today. Was extra careful about following the instructions for my Pilsner, but can’t help but worry that I ruined it somehow. I did attemot to do a gravity reading, but it didn’t seem to work and honestly I probably wasn’t doing it right. I guess time will tell. It hasn’t been 48 hours yet… I read that I might need to add sugar?

    • Jorge

      Reply Reply May 31, 2011

      It can be frustrating… I know I freaked out when my batches were not bubbling… but one thing you’ll learn is that airlock bubbles can be finicky… sometimes they’ll go strong and sometimes not at all…

      If you are brewing a pilsner, then you are probably fermenting at low temperatures… lower temperatures usually show less bubbling activity than higher temperatures…

      I’ve forgotten to take a gravity reading many times, but in 4 to 7 days, if you really are worried about your brew, don’t be afraid to open the fermentor and take a sample for a gravity reading… (as long as you keep everything clean and sanitized nothing bad will happen to your brew)…

      You don’t need to add sugar… at least not until you are ready to bottle… and you should do so, only if fermentation is complete…

      Trust me I know the feeling, and that’s why I’m now sharing a lot of information with brewers… so you don’t go through the same…

      Cheers and congrats on your first brew…

  • Rich

    Reply Reply May 31, 2011

    Any tips on reading gravity? I put my sample in the tupe with the reader and it just ended up sitting at the bottom of the tube. The “directions” that came with it just said how to make adjustments, but not how to actually use it.

  • Jorge

    Reply Reply May 31, 2011

    @Rich – Sounds like you are not using enough beer to take a reading… the hydrometer should be able to float…

    I don’t think I have a video that shows specifically how to use a hydrometer, but here’s one that is close… yeast attenuation

  • Rich

    Reply Reply May 31, 2011

    Jorge, thanks for your help. I will have to take another reading tonight.

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