Fermenting in my brew kettle?
  • I have a converted keg that I use as my brew kettle. I use the brew kettle as the fermentation vessel as well. After the boil is finished, I re-circ the hot wort through a copper plate chiller to bring the temperature down to ~ 68 F. I then pitch the yeast.

    I have had some good batches, but there have also been some bad batches. The fermented beer frequently has a strong fusel alcohol taste.

    Question: Does my setup where I use the brew kettle as the fermenter a good idea? I have not heard of other home brewers using such a system. Could this setup result in the bad batches directly, particularly the fusel alcohols? I'm sure it is not a temperature issue as I have tried different liquid yeast strains at fermentatioon temperatures varying from 65 - 70 F.
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,454
    Interesting. This is the first I have heard of anyone with this kind of set up as well.

    If you are simply recirculating the wort back into the BK you have a lot of trub in there that can produce off flavors but will also contribute to cloudy beer.

    As far as fusel alcohol that is many times created by very high fermentation temps.

    When you tasted this fusel alcohol how old was the beer? And did the taste subside?
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 49,686
    the fusel production is not dependent on temp alone. it's a result of stressed yeast. are you oxygenating using a high % of adjucts?

    also, how fast does it ferment? and how are you measuring the ferm temp, is it the ambient temp of the fermentation chamber or the actual temp of the beer?
    The pinnacle of lame and awesome in one singular moment. -Lake
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,454
    Also, are you pitching the proper amount of yeast? If you under pitch this can also stress the yeast and cause fusel alcohols.
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931
    @mmerrig you should be able to post now, pm me if you are still having trouble.

    I agree with what the guys said, too much trub can be trouble, but shouldn't cause fusel flavors. Stressed, yeast will produce off flavors, usually fruity/strong esters though, not so much fusels.

    If you are relly getting fusels - marked by hot alcohol flavors, take a look at ferm temps and ferm rates. If the yeast are blasting through the primary fermentation in 2days or less you could be out of the optimum range for that yeast strain.
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • frydogbrewsfrydogbrews
    Posts: 44,679
    for several years i just dumped everything into my ferm buckets, trub and all, and never got off flavors from it.

    my best guess is that the yeast is oxygen starved, but temp would certainly cause this too.

    what are you're recipes like? adding extra corn sugar or honey or anything like that? both can cause flavors like you described.
  • I can post now! Thanks for the excellent feedback. My recipes are all grain. No corn sugar. The finished beer has a strong alcohol taste, but it also does have some fruity, estery notes. I have been wanting to upgrade to a stir plate to increase the yeast pitch rate. Maybe this should be my motivation.

    Also, I leave the wort on the yeast/trub bed for 2 weeks. No secondary fermentation. Could this be the issue?

    I have experimented with an aeration stone, but must have bought the wrong one. I had trouble getting air to flow through the stone. Do you guys have any recommendations?

    My main question, though, is do you guys see any fundemental issues with using the brew kettle as the fermenter as well?
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931
    mmerrig said:

    I can post now! Thanks for the excellent feedback. My recipes are all grain. No corn sugar. The finished beer has a strong alcohol taste, but it also does have some fruity, estery notes. I have been wanting to upgrade to a stir plate to increase the yeast pitch rate. Maybe this should be my motivation.

    Also, I leave the wort on the yeast/trub bed for 2 weeks. No secondary fermentation. Could this be the issue?

    I have experimented with an aeration stone, but must have bought the wrong one. I had trouble getting air to flow through the stone. Do you guys have any recommendations?

    My main question, though, is do you guys see any fundemental issues with using the brew kettle as the fermenter as well?



    the only fundamental issue with using the brew kettle as a fermenter would be not being able to brew again until you keg your previous batch. otherwise, as long as you can seal it up well enough, it will work very well. it would be hard to imagine a better sanitation regimen.

    2 weeks is actually a pretty short ferm cycle. I don't think you're giving the yeast enough time to clean up after themselves. Try letting it age out a little longer, say 4-6 weeks next time and see if that has any impact. i think it will.
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • frydogbrewsfrydogbrews
    Posts: 44,679
    the only downside i see to using the kettle as your fermenter is that you can't brew again until you've kegged (or bottled)
    also, how are you getting an airtight seal on your kettle lid?

    for aeration, i would suggest just stirring the hell out of it or splashing it back in by holding the hose above the level and allowing it to splash and foam like crazy.

    i leave my beers on yeast/trub for 4 weeks with no issues. helps with clarity and for the vast majority of styles, secondary is not needed.
  • frydogbrewsfrydogbrews
    Posts: 44,679
    damn lake, you posted the same thing while i was typing mine!

  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931

    the only downside i see to using the kettle as your fermenter is that you can't brew again until you've kegged (or bottled)
    also, how are you getting an airtight seal on your kettle lid?

    for aeration, i would suggest just stirring the hell out of it or splashing it back in by holding the hose above the level and allowing it to splash and foam like crazy.

    i leave my beers on yeast/trub for 4 weeks with no issues. helps with clarity and for the vast majority of styles, secondary is not needed.



    haha, beat you to it.

    and i would even go so far a to say the stonger alcohol flavors are because of a too short fermentation cycle. the yeast will clean up some of the ester and other undesirable byproducts and some of the very light alcohols can be carried away and wil meld and mellow if you give it more time.

    if you are doing 2 week ferm cycle because you want to brew again and dont have another kettle, then that's a problem.
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931

    damn lake, you posted the same thing while i was typing mine!



    fast typer.
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • C_BC_B
    Posts: 88,596
    Seems like most things have been well covered...

    I usually ferm for 4 weeks minimum.
    Some of my higher abv beers have been crazy hot early on. After a couple months in the bottle that tends to age out, depending on the abv and such.

    I don't see a problem with fermenting in the kettle except for the whole brewing again thing... I'm not sure about the beer sitting on all that trub, but I'm not sure that would even be an issue unless it was left on the trub for a long long time, like months.
    "On it. I hate software." ~Cpt Snarklepants
  • we had to construct a lid based on a plastic fermenting bucket lid and plexiglass. We use a large plastic o-ring to fit into the outside seam of the lid. We attached brackets/braces to the top of the brew kettle (two braces opposite of each other on the outside of the opening) with a threaded screwed exactly centered over the opening. We then screw down the lid to get an air-tight seal. There is a small hole with a grommet to allow for the insertion of the airlock. I'm not sure the seal is exactly air-tight, but it is pretty snug. I'm assuming that with a good yeast starter, shouldn't be an issue. After the fermentation is complete (2 weeks currently, possibly will increase to 4+ weeks), we simply open the the spicket and fill our kegs. We do 10 gallon batches and each of us gets a full 5-gallon keg.

    What do you guys think of this design?
  • the recipes are usually high gravity extra IPAs. We like to brew the Hop Head Double IPA from Northern Brewer Homebrewing supplies.
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931
    mmerrig said:

    we had to construct a lid based on a plastic fermenting bucket lid and plexiglass. We use a large plastic o-ring to fit into the outside seam of the lid. We attached brackets/braces to the top of the brew kettle (two braces opposite of each other on the outside of the opening) with a threaded screwed exactly centered over the opening. We then screw down the lid to get an air-tight seal. There is a small hole with a grommet to allow for the insertion of the airlock. I'm not sure the seal is exactly air-tight, but it is pretty snug. I'm assuming that with a good yeast starter, shouldn't be an issue. After the fermentation is complete (2 weeks currently, possibly will increase to 4+ weeks), we simply open the the spicket and fill our kegs. We do 10 gallon batches and each of us gets a full 5-gallon keg.

    What do you guys think of this design?



    it sounds good. i like clever designs. do you have an adjustable racking spigot?
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931
    mmerrig said:

    the recipes are usually high gravity extra IPAs. We like to brew the Hop Head Double IPA from Northern Brewer Homebrewing supplies.



    the high gravity ales will definitely need more time to mellow out. i would plan for 4-6 weeks at a minimum. it may seem like the fermentation is done after a week, but it's not. the yeast are still working hard to make your beer taste good.
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • C_BC_B
    Posts: 88,596
    mmerrig said:

    we had to construct a lid based on a plastic fermenting bucket lid and plexiglass. We use a large plastic o-ring to fit into the outside seam of the lid. We attached brackets/braces to the top of the brew kettle (two braces opposite of each other on the outside of the opening) with a threaded screwed exactly centered over the opening. We then screw down the lid to get an air-tight seal. There is a small hole with a grommet to allow for the insertion of the airlock. I'm not sure the seal is exactly air-tight, but it is pretty snug. I'm assuming that with a good yeast starter, shouldn't be an issue. After the fermentation is complete (2 weeks currently, possibly will increase to 4+ weeks), we simply open the the spicket and fill our kegs. We do 10 gallon batches and each of us gets a full 5-gallon keg.

    What do you guys think of this design?


    Neat design. I think you could really benefit from a longer ferm. Maybe four weeks like you said. Try it once and see what it does.
    Do you use tubing to fill from the spigot? I assume so, otherwise you would be asking why your beer tastes like cardboard and bandaids.
    "On it. I hate software." ~Cpt Snarklepants
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931
    I'd like to see your design. would you mind posting a build thread with some pictures. this is an interesting concept and i'd like to see it in action!
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,454
    Yeah I want to see pics and a build thread if you have time.
  • C_BC_B
    Posts: 88,596
    Lakewood said:

    I'd like to see your design. would you mind posting a build thread with some pictures. this is an interesting concept and i'd like to see it in action!


    jlw said:

    Yeah I want to see pics and a build thread if you have time.


    This and this.
    "On it. I hate software." ~Cpt Snarklepants
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,454
    also @mmerrig post your some of your recipes where you have had good success and some where you have had the fusel problem. I would be curious to take a look at those as well.
  • frydogbrewsfrydogbrews
    Posts: 44,679
    mmerrig said:

    the recipes are usually high gravity extra IPAs. We like to brew the Hop Head Double IPA from Northern Brewer Homebrewing supplies.



    this is my wheelhouse brother, its almost all i brew.
    certainly give it more time in the primary.

    i have gotten away with 2 weeks, grain to glass, for APA's under 6% abv, but once you get over 6.5% and up into the good beer category of 7 and above, it needs time.

  • yes, we using tubing for the keg fill. we first fill the kegs (flush the oxygen) with Co2.
    My brew buddy designed the setup. He is a mechanical engineer. I'll ask him for some pictures.
  • I think we will upgrade to the stir plate for yeast propagation and then ferment for a longer period of time (4 - 6 weeks).
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931
    I'm an ME also. Lots of Engineers and scientists in brewing.
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931
    mmerrig said:

    I think we will upgrade to the stir plate for yeast propagation and then ferment for a longer period of time (4 - 6 weeks).



    Both will help a lot with the bigger beers.
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,454
    mmerrig said:

    I think we will upgrade to the stir plate for yeast propagation and then ferment for a longer period of time (4 - 6 weeks).


    I would like to have a stir plate just never got around to buying one. I have had really good success with building the starter and giving a good swirl on occasion. You should be getting pretty decent aeration using a pump and chiller plate and recirculating your wort.
  • The Octane IPA had the most problems. It uses a Wyeast 1098 British Ale yeast. The Hop Head Double IPA use the Wyeast 1056. I was mistaken. The kits are from Midwest Homebrew Supplies.
  • C_BC_B
    Posts: 88,596
    Lakewood said:

    I'm an ME also. Lots of Engineers and scientists in brewing.


    Nearly exclusively. I just manage :D
    "On it. I hate software." ~Cpt Snarklepants
  • I'm a civil engineer.
  • but not always civil ;)
  • C_BC_B
    Posts: 88,596
    I love my stir plate. I only buy one yeast vial for 10 gallons. Then build it up to what it needs to be. Saves a (little) money, but it's fun too!
    "On it. I hate software." ~Cpt Snarklepants
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,454
    C_dubbs said:

    I love my stir plate. I only buy one yeast vial for 10 gallons. Then build it up to what it needs to be. Saves a (little) money, but it's fun too!


    ok, maybe I should invest.
  • is a 2 liter flask large enough for 10 gallons?
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,454
    mmerrig said:

    is a 2 liter flask large enough for 10 gallons?



    I usually pitch 2L for 5 gallons of higher gravity beer.

    Here is a good site with calculator to help answer that questions

    http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html

    Also I recommend reading the articles too.
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931
    mmerrig said:

    I'm a civil engineer.



    Its definitely an engineers hobby!
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • C_BC_B
    Posts: 88,596
    mmerrig said:

    is a 2 liter flask large enough for 10 gallons?



    With a stir plate, yes.
    "On it. I hate software." ~Cpt Snarklepants
  • BenvarineBenvarine
    Posts: 1,606
    mmerrig said:

    I think we will upgrade to the stir plate for yeast propagation and then ferment for a longer period of time (4 - 6 weeks).



    Are you checking the gravity before you keg? I would rely on that instead of any arbitrary time, all beers are different, even a recipe you brew over and over. When it's done, the reading will tell you.
  • BenvarineBenvarine
    Posts: 1,606
    C_dubbs said:

    mmerrig said:

    is a 2 liter flask large enough for 10 gallons?



    With a stir plate, yes.


    For ales. For lagers, probably 4L. Like jlw said, check Mr. Malty.
  • C_BC_B
    Posts: 88,596
    Benvarine said:

    C_dubbs said:

    mmerrig said:

    is a 2 liter flask large enough for 10 gallons?



    With a stir plate, yes.


    For ales. For lagers, probably 4L. Like jlw said, check Mr. Malty.

    Great point. I don't do lagers. I didn't even think about it.
    "On it. I hate software." ~Cpt Snarklepants
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 53,828
    Welcome mmerig

    I'm a civil too
    Never attribute to malice, that which can adequately be explained by stupidity.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 53,828
    Longer primary time might help .... 5 weeks or even 6
    Never attribute to malice, that which can adequately be explained by stupidity.
  • scoobscoob
    Posts: 16,617
    Why not build a stir plate? I built one years ago from a computer fan, a wall wort power supply, a rheostat, a switch and a radio shack project box. I epoxied a plastic disc magnet thing from a name tag onto the assembly to turn the stir bar in the flask.

    It took me about 30 minutes start to finish to build it

    I think I need to do a build thread with pics....
    Jesus didn't wear pants
  • C_BC_B
    Posts: 88,596
    azscoob said:

    Why not build a stir plate? I built one years ago from a computer fan, a wall wort power supply, a rheostat, a switch and a radio shack project box. I epoxied a plastic disc magnet thing from a name tag onto the assembly to turn the stir bar in the flask.

    It took me about 30 minutes start to finish to build it

    I think I need to do a build thread with pics....


    Yes you do.
    "On it. I hate software." ~Cpt Snarklepants
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,454
    azscoob said:

    Why not build a stir plate? I built one years ago from a computer fan, a wall wort power supply, a rheostat, a switch and a radio shack project box. I epoxied a plastic disc magnet thing from a name tag onto the assembly to turn the stir bar in the flask.

    It took me about 30 minutes start to finish to build it

    I think I need to do a build thread with pics....



    yes, please do a build thread. I would build one instead of buy.
  • scoobscoob
    Posts: 16,617
    Ok, I will slap together a build thread, it was super easy, and I used junk I had sitting around
    Jesus didn't wear pants
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931
    @mmerrig i'm still really interested in seeing this design. If you have time to post pics i'd really appreciate it.
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • I told my buddy that you were interested. I'll ask him for some pictures.
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,931
    mmerrig said:

    I told my buddy that you were interested. I'll ask him for some pictures.



    Thanks!
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny