Monday, December 3, 2007

Stuck Fermentations and How to Deal With Them

When fermentation ceases and all of the available sugars have not been converted to alcohol, you have what is called a stuck fermentation.

Why? What do you need to do to finish the fermentation?

I have had stuck fermentations and I have also thought that I had a stuck fermentation when I really did not. For the latter, there was an occasion when I did not get the lid securely sealed on my primary fermenter and the gases were escaping around the lid rather than through the airlock. There was another occasion when I did not have a good seal around the airlock stem and gases were passing between the grommet and the airlock rather than passing through the airlock. I also had a customer recently who did not put liquid in the airlock. He was quite frantic thinking that the fermentation was not going to start when in fact it was completely done.

The proof of whether you actually have or have had a stuck fermentation lies in using your hydrometer. You can go to the How To links on our website for instructions on how to use and read a hydrometer.

By taking hydrometer readings on consecutive days you can figure out if your sugar content is decreasing as it should. Instead of being stuck, your wine (or beer) may simply being slowing down as the amount of available sugar decreases. It is also possible that your fermentation is complete.

The presence of bacteria, temperatures which are too cool or too warm, and poor yeast nutrition can all lead to an unfinished fermentation. Yeast needs lots of food, good sanitation and a temperature suitable for the variety of yeast being used.

A complete list of causes of stuck fermentations is available on our website (go to the How To page and click on the link to visit our explanation about Stuck Fermentations).

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