Suppose you are “fermenting” a batch and you don’t see any bubbles come out of your airlock after 24, 36 or more hours… What now?

Should you pitch more yeast? raise the temperature? shake the bucket? freak out? call 911?

I mean you’ve spent 2 to 3 hours boiling this stupid wort following some crappy instructions, not to mention you’ve dropped a good $40-$70 bucks on ingredients… and you’re about to dump it if it doesn’t start fermenting?

Or maybe the airlock was bubbling pretty intensely, but all of the sudden it stopped… hmmm…

Well this is where no airlock activity really is worse than you may think…

You may think your beer is not fermenting or you’ve landed yourself into “stuck fermentation”… but more than likely, the beer is just fine… and because you are not an experienced brewer you will try to solve a problem that doesn’t exist to begin with and actually create problems…

See, some brewers will freak out and re-pitch yeast without even figuring out if the  beer really isn’t fermenting… worse, some may bottle it as soon as they see the airlock stop after only 2-4 days and because of that, they wake up to a closet full of bottle bombs exploding…

So the first thing you need to do is to take the idea of “No Airlock Activity = No Fermentation”, wrap it up into a dinky little ball and kick it as far away as you can… heck kick it into a bonfire and burn the little sucker!

The idea is plain wrong…

There are many reasons why airlocks don’t show any activity and it usually has nothing to do with the beer not fermenting. Things like, oh say, the bucket is not sealed properly, yeast may take up to 72 hours to start fermenting, or the opposite where they may be done fermenting in a day or two…

Whatever the reason, it probably has nothing to do with beer fermentation being “stuck”…

But because you may think it is, all kinds of ideas pop into your head and you start to DO stuff to the beer when you should just leave it alone.

There is only one thing you should do if you suspect something is wrong with the beer… that is to nab yourself a hydrometer and take a gravity reading…

The other problem that arises when you do that is that you start using advanced evaluation methods and involve your senses… Say you have a solid reason to open up your fermenter and take a gravity reading, what happens then, is that you will immediately start to inspect the beer visually…

Hey, what are those white spots?

Is that an infection?

Oh my God, it smells kinda sour… hmmm should I taste it?… ewww it’s funky!

Well, all that would be correct, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the beer is bad… in fact, unless you are an experienced brewer, you should never evaluate the health of your beer based on your senses…

Your fermenting beer will taste funky and it is a complete fermentation cycle that will clean up those smells and tastes… and this is something that lasts well after the airlock has stopped bubbling…

White spots often show up after Krausen goes away… and that is not an infection…

So if you are ever afraid of having no airlock activity, don’t be afraid of your beer not fermenting, be afraid of the stupid things you could do that will ruin your beer for trying to fix something that’s not broke to begin with…

In my better home brew formula training program I go into detail about the fermentation process and how to figure out when your beer is done fermenting so you can avoid mistakes like this…


    4 replies to "No Airlock Activity Is Worse Than You Think"

    • Virginia

      Just getting started

    • Von

      Is it the same with cider? My airlock stopped bubbling after three days, and i’m worried that the cider is no longer fermenting.

    • holm

      This seems to be a very common concern among the home brewers. Let me point out some facts about the yeast fermentation. Fist: when you have just pitched the yeast it will take some time until the yeast has burned all the oxygen inside the fermentation vessel. Basically the yeast produces CO2 and water from the oxygen and the sugars (aerobic fermentation). In this phase the water lock will show vigorous activity. Secondly: when there´s no oxygen left inside the vessel the yeast will produce ethanol from the sugars. This is called anaerobic fermentation and it will take longer time than the previous aerobic fermentation.

      • jorgitoz

        I had to re-read this comment a few times, but actually at first yeast just uptake oxygen, amino acids and minerals… it’s not until it enters the anaerobic fermentation (when they run out of oxygen) that they use sugar as an energy source and that’s when CO2 is produced…

        Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.