Did my yeast die?

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ScottyDoesntKnow

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Hey, my first attempt at home brewing earlier this year didn't go exactly to plan. I bought a kit and tried to keep things simple to start with. Against all the advice here, I used the kit yeast and justified it to myself saying things like "it's my first go" and " well I already have it here". Anyway, after weeks in the fermenter and several identical hydrometer readings, I still was a fair bit away from the expected final gravity. This was when I first started to worry that maybe the kit yeast had given up early. I called the home brew shop for advice and they said not to worry and go ahead and bottle.

I bottled into 355ml stubbies, the sugar measure was 330ml, 500 or 700. Not wanting to risk bottle bombs I chose the 330ml sugar measure and made sure each one was heaped up over the top of the measure before going into bottles. Fast forward 5 months of sitting in 18-20 degrees to now and these beers are still not properly carbonated. They taste ok and cracking the seal releases a promising sound but that's where it ends. Hardly any fizz and if poured into a glass there is zero head. Again I think back to the yeast, was there just not enough healthy cells to properly carbonate? It's a shame because while this beer was nothing amazing, with proper carbonation it would be easily drinkable. Instead I find myself living in hope, trying one every 2 weeks and tipping it out.

Luckily it hasn't turned me off brewing, if anything it's been the opposite. I'm about to give BIAB a go, using real yeast this time! But now I'm not sure how to go about carbonating. I was set on bulk priming however it's a bit more gear to buy and I'm only doing a small batch this time. Maybe I should find a 375ml sugar measure and try that instead
 

TwoCrows

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Steady temperatures in relation to yeast storage and fermentation play a major role in the outcome of a drinkable home brew. When buying yeast from a brew shop they should be storing them in a fridge.
Dan Murphy sells kits and all things Cooper's at my local. The kits appear to be fresh, good date stamp, so hopefully the yeast's are not too old, even when using the kit yeast I have never had a problem.
Cooper's carbonation drops (sugar lollies) take the hard work out, use one for stubbies and two for 750 ml bottles, three for 1.25 litre bottles.

When bottling, store them at or around 18 degrees for a week or so. Never at any stage in direct sun light.
Then store for 3 more weeks, total of 4 weeks minimum and then drink. I would not leave it too long, up to 3 months approx. I find these kits taste good within this time before they lose all flavour and yeast trub in the bottom of the bottle becomes dark and loses it flocking ability.

There is a lot of info available here !! from kits , partial and all grain styles to help you get a drinkable beer.
 

manticle

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Does it taste sweet?
Could be bad seals but if it's sweet, it may indicate unfermented priming sugar.

Measure the gravity of one at 20 deg C.
 

Droopy Brew

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You could try getting another packet of yeast and dropping a small sprinkle into a couple of stubbies, re seal them and try again in a couple of weeks.

If still no carb then you can probably count out the yeast as the issue. But I suspect it is the issue and this will get your beers carbed up.
 

ScottyDoesntKnow

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Cheers guys, I have a temp controlled fridge which I used through out fermentation then bottled all the beers and have been storing them back in the fridge at the same temp.

So I just measured the gravity of one, it's 1.022 I've deleted the readings I took when I bottled and at the start of ferment but it was just a normal rapid creek pale ale can 23l batch. It is definitely sweet although I seem to remember it tasted similarly sweet before bottling too. Sounds like the coopers carbonation drops are the way to go next time.
 

Droopy Brew

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Sounds like the sugars you have added haven't been converted so try the addition of some fresh yeast. Carb drops wont make a difference if the yeast is inert but I do find them nice and easy to use.
 

ScottyDoesntKnow

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May sound like a silly question but the sugars that have been converted, won't a lot of that carbonation escape once opening the bottles. Adding extra yeast will then convert remaining sugars but there may now not be enough of those sugars left to convert to make a real difference?
 

manticle

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If it's 1022, sweet and it was a pretty basic kit, you either bottled too early or your yeast has died/gone dormant. What was the gravity prior to bottling?

Carbonation is the carbon dioxide in solution. What's in the headspace will escape when you open the bottle but the carbonation itself needs time to come out of solution. The warmer the beer, the quicker it comes out.
 

ScottyDoesntKnow

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Definitely didn't bottle too early, was over a month in the fermenter with same gravity readings over 3 days at the end before bottling. Tried shaking the fermenter a few times to try and get a few more points. I'm going to try adding a bit of us-05 to each bottle now and re-capping.... Looking at all these stubbies lined up now... Going to need a beer after this! Will report back in a few weeks and see if they are any better.
 

ScottyDoesntKnow

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Yeah I don't remember exactly sorry, rang the local home brew shop and told them at the time and they said it's good to bottle. Just sprinkled a few granules of new yeast in a couple of bottles and they fizz up straight away! Shit I hope I'm not making bombs here...
 

manticle

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Who's the lhbs?

After 5 months, I'd expect bombs would have happened if they were ever going to but that is somewhat temp dependent.

Until you're totally confident about your brewing, fermentation and packaging processes, I'd recommend being more anal about recording/documenting numbers like fg.
 

ScottyDoesntKnow

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Fair call. At the time I recorded everything because I was worried the ferment had not finished. Lhbs is a country brewer and after speaking with them, they never suggested pitching more yeast before bottling which in hindsight is probably what I should have done. On their advice I bottled and ditched the numbers thinking I was done. Being my first attempt I was just happy everything else went pretty much as expected. Anyway, they are all recapped with a little sprinkle of new yeast and back in the fridge at 20 degrees now so we'll see how it goes.
 

ScottyDoesntKnow

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So an update for anyone interested, cracked one of these today and hurrah we finally have good carbonation! Glad I didn't give up on them and thanks to Droopy Brew for the suggestion of adding a bit of new yeast to each bottle. An average beer at best but hey, it's drinkable.
 

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