Thursday, October 29, 2009

Explosive Fermentation

Yesterday I had not one, but two volcanic eruptions in my basement. It all started with Sunday's match up between the Steelers and Vikings. B. James and his girlfriend(wife) came over to watch the game, grill up some food and brew some beer. Late in 4th quarter, after like his 5th sack, Bret Favre kind of just laid on the field in the fetal position, not wanting to get up.

That was our cue. Time to make some beer.

Brewing went well. We did everything perfectly. We sterilized everything thoroughly, followed the recipe to a tee, chilled down the wort to 70 degrees in under a half hour, pitched the yeast, transferred to the fermenter, and sealed the airlock with cheap vodka. It was time to begin the drinking, waiting game.

8 hours passed, no bubbles. 12 hours passed, no bubbles. 24 hours passed, no bubbles. 36 hours passed, no bubbles. 48 hours passed, ...OH MY GOD! THE BUBBLES!!!

I come home from work to find the lid of the bucket covered in thick brown sludge and the airlock is bubbling forth with happy little yeast farts. Yea!

We were getting worried, and were glad we didn't have to resort to our backup plan to get the yeast going, which was letting my pet guinea pig take a swim in the bucket.

It may have been a slow start, but things quickly got out of hand. I wake up yesterday morning (this is the first morning after bubbles started the night before) to find my basement has fallen victim to a volcanic eruption. We're talking Mount Saint Fuck'n Helen!

I see thick foamy head oozing out of the bucket, the lid is lying on the ground 10 feet away, and it looks like an elephant's ass had exploded in my basement.

I cleaned everything up, resterilized the lid before putting it back on, and went off to work. But it wasn't done there. Hoping that the yeast had gotten it all out of it's system the night before, I come home to find another volcanic eruption. This one was tamer, but no less messy. This was one of those slow moving lava flows. You know the ones that a 2 year old could out run, and yet some grown man always seems to be caught off guard and killed by it. The sludge had oozed out and formed a nice pond and river of filth through my basement. Once again, I cleaned everything up. Now I have the bucket sitting in a large basin in hopes to contain any further mishaps.

I guess the only comforting thing is knowing that if the yeast is that active, it's got to be choking out any bacteria that might try to get a foot hold in the batch. I could probably take a crap in the bucket and still come out with good beer.

...ok, maybe not.


  1. We'll have to use a bubbler next time. A hose going from the hole in the bucket lid into a bottle filled with water or vodka or something. That way if it overflows, it just goes into the bottle and is neatly contained. It also shouldn't clog as easily as the little airlock doohickies, thus reducing the risk of explosion.

  2. Yes, you should. I fill my jar with sanitizer, as water will harbor infection in the case of it being sucked back in. I pulled a quart of sanitizer into one of my beers when I cold crashed it, forgetting cooling liquid creates a vacuum. To fix it, I crashed it very cold and skimmed off the top of the beer, which had a lower gravity since it was mainly sanitizer. I then racked from the bottom with a cane, which allowed me to pull clean beer off. Once it tasted soapy I stopped the transfer. I got lucky and ended up with about 4.5 gallons in the end.

  3. Doesn't the sanitizer lose its power after like 15 minutes? I think the liquid we use for the pre-made airlock thingies is still probably the best: