My Air-Lock Is Going Backwards!

Air-lock that is bubbling backwards.Can you give me any information on how barometric pressure would affect the fluid level in an air lock. Some days they show negative pressure and a day or two later they are making bubbles again. I can’t tell if fermentation is done or not.

Thank you
Jerry
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Hello Jerry,

An air-lock is what seals the outside world from your wine during and after fermentation. It is a barrier that allows gases from the fermentation to escape while keeping little bugs and other intruders out.

You attach an air-lock to a fermenter with a rubber stopper. The stopper has been drilled with a hole into which the air-lock is inserted. These rubber stoppers can be purchased in many sizes, therefor you are able to use the air-lock on anything from a gallon glass carboy to a huge plastic fermenter.

The air-lock is filled half way with water. This is what actually creates the environmental barrier. As the fermentation creates gases inside the fermenter, the pressure rises and the gases escape by bubbling through the water in the air-lock.

Bubbles or air going backwards in an air-lock can be caused by a couple of things:

As you mentioned already, barometric pressure can play some role in this. If the barometric pressure increases you could notice a slight backwards movement or pressure on the water, but this would be nothing significant. It would not be enough to create more, than say, one bubble going backwards.

What is most likely causing the air-lock to bubble backwards is a temperature change of the wine. As a wine cools down it contracts or shrinks – much more so than the glass or plastic of the fermentation vessel.

Shop Wine AirlocksContracting wine sitting in glass jugs or even a plastic fermenter would cause a vacuum to occur in the head-space. This would cause reverse bubbling action within the air-lock, or a sucking in of air. Then as the wine warms back up you would see bubbles going through the air-lock in the right directions. This would make the wine appear as if it were slightly fermenting again, regardless if it was or not.

Your best defense against having an air-lock bubble backwards is to keep the fermentation temperature stable. This will give you a more healthy fermentation, as well. Yeast like to ferment at a steady 70° to 75°F.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

The Power Of Taking Home Brewing Notes

Home Brewing PressFor beginning homebrewers and casual hobbyists, taking home brewing notes may not be much of a priority. The most important thing, after all, is that it should be fun, right? But most brewers will reach a point when they want to enhance their craft and take their homemade beer to the next level. Taking good home brewing notes is one of the best and easy ways to accomplish this.

Keeping a home brewing log of some sort has several advantages, just a few of which are listed below. Among other things, taking notes while brewing allows you to:

  • Record your beer recipes
  • Modify recipes for future batches
  • Recreate beers that came out well
  • Improve beers that didn’t
  • Track procedures, recording methods that work and those that don’t
  • Record tasting notes to help remember some of your favorite brews and identify potential problems

Taking home brewing notes allows you to look back on a brew that came out well and recreate it. On the other hand, when something goes wrong, having a beer brewing log of some sort can provide insight as to what might have gone wrong. Either way, taking good notes will help you make better beer in the long run.

 

Tips for Taking Good Home Brewing Notes

  • Take notes while you brew, or immediately afterwards. I know that if I wait until the next day to take notes, I’ll without a doubt forget some details. (Was that 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon of gypsum I added to the mash?) The sooner you log these details the better.
  • Keep a notebook for writing down home brewing notes, then transfer to a spreadsheet or home brewing template with all your other beer recipes and notes. Having consistency in the way you log your home brew will make it easier and more routine for you with each passing brew.Shop Beer Recipe Kits

 

What to Record in Your Home Brewing Notes

Beginning brewers might want to start by recording the following basics:

  • Record the recipe and ingredients, including the weight and type of all the ingredients, the time of each hop addition, and the strain of beer yeast used.
  • Include dates for brew day, transfer to secondary (if applicable), and bottling/kegging date.
  • Record both original gravity and final gravity so you can calculate alcohol content.
  • Amount and type of priming sugar used for bottling.
  • Tasting notes – Record the date of the tasting and common characteristics: aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression. (Tip: Save a bottle or two of your brew for a tasting at a later date. You might be surprised how beers can change over time!)

Partial mash and intermediate brewers may want to log a few more details in their notebook:

  • Specialty grains used, if applicable
  • Water to grain ratio if doing a partial mash
  • Temperature of mini-mash, if applicable
  • Water amendments, if applicable
  • Fermentation notes, including duration of fermentation and changes in the fermentation temperature
  • If kegging and force carbonating your beer, record the amount of CO2 used or amount of pressure, the temperature of the beer in the keg, and the length of time under pressure

Shop Homebrew BooksFinally, all-grain brewers should keep the most detailed home brewing notes of all. In addition to the items above, they may want to record the following:

  • Gravity of first wort runnings
  • Extract efficiency
  • Pre-boil gravity
  • Post-boil gravity
  • IBUs
  • Size and type of yeast starter

Do you take good home brewing notes? Do you keep a beer log of some sort? What items do you record that aren’t listed above? Do you have a home brewing note template you like to use? Share in the comments below!

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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Leigh Erwin: Wine Fermentation Temperature

Cellar Craft SterlingHi everyone!

I am very excited to finally be starting some new wines! I ended up purchasing two more wine making kits: the Cellar Craft Sterling California Chardonnay and the KenRidge Classic Nebbiolo. I chose the Cellar Craft Sterling Chardonnay because I have yet to make a white wine using oak chips and I wanted the opportunity to do so. As far as the red goes, I chose the Ken Ridge Classic Nebbiolo because it is a red that did not come with the skins, nor does it use oak. It does contain a packet of dried elderberries, which I thought was a fun change-up for a wine making kit.

I decided to start with the Chardonnay first for no reason in particular. Just like all the other times, I drew off water the night before, just in case there was chlorine in there so it could dissipate. The day of fermentation, I first prepared and added the bentonite solution, then added the wine base. Then, I used about 8 cups of warm water to rinse out the bag.

At this point, I checked the specific gravity with my hydrometer as well as the temperature, which came out to 1.100 and 69oF.

Feeling satisfied with these values, I then sprinkled the yeast onto the top of the juice and loosely placed the lid on top. I decided not to place the lid on tightly or use an air lock because from what I’ve read about primary fermentations, they actually like and need to have some oxygen in order to successfully proceed through the process.

According to the instructions that came with the wine making kit, I was to leave the wine fermenting until at least day 6. So, I did just that.

On day 6, I went to check in on the specific gravity and was surprised to find it had barely moved and was at 1.080. I had forgotten to check the temperature of the wine, but I could feel in the room it was somewhat cool.

See, previously the heat was switching on regularly, as it was late winter and that’s what happens! Around the time I started the Sterling Chardonnay, however, it had actually been very warm outside, so I wasn’t using the heat at all. There were actually a couple of days where it was so hot that I needed to switch on the air conditioning, but didn’t think about the fact that the vents were open in the winery room and while I was making things nice and comfortable in the upstairs living areas, I was inadvertently making things very cold in the basement where the winery room is located.

Beginning to wonder if that had something to do with my ridiculously slow fermentation; I decided to try a couple things to get this wine making kit fermenting while simultaneously reaching out to ECKraus for advice. My next post will follow up more on that.
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Leigh Erwin Bio PictureMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I’ll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.

Homebrew Hacks: How to Figure Out How Much Fuel is Left in Your Propane Tank

Propane BurnerMany homebrewers enjoy using an outdoor gas burner and a propane tank for homebrewing. It’s usually faster than brewing on an electric stove and it allows you to brew outside. But how can make sure you don’t want to get caught halfway through your boil with an empty gas tank?

One method to prevent a frustrating situation is to have a spare propane tank on hand. This is definitely a good idea. But if you’re DIY-er or haven’t had that chance to exchange a tank, you might find it helpful to know whether you have enough propane to get through a brew day.

Here’s what you need in order to figure out how much fuel is left in your propane tank for homebrew day:

 

  • a propane tank
  • a scale with at least 40 lbs. capacity (for a 20 lb. tank)
  • records of how many brews you’ve done since the last fill up
  • a calculator

 

Here’s how to figure out how much propane is left in your tank:

 

  1. Weigh your propane tank.
  1. Check the rim of the propane tank, near the handles, for a stamp that shows the tare weight of the tank. This is usually labeled “TW.” The tare weight is the weight of the tank when it’s empty.
  1. Subtract the tare weight from the weight of the tank to find the weight of the fuel left in the tank.

 

Now, to calculate whether you have enough propane to get through a brew day:

 

  1. Determine how much fuel has been used so far by subtracting the remaining fuel from the fuel tank capacity. For example, you find that you have 5 lbs. of fuel left in the tank. Assuming the tank was a full 20 lbs. to begin with, that means you’ve gone through about 15 lbs. of fuel. (For best results, you will have weighed the tank right after you bought it to have an accurate starting point.)
  1. TShop Propane Burnersake the amount of fuel that has been used so far and divide by how many brews you’ve done on that tank. Checking your homebrew notes, you know that you’ve done five brews with this tank. Divide the total fuel used (15 lbs.) by the number of brews (5) to arrive at how much fuel you typically use per brew (3 lbs.).
  1. Estimate how many brews you have remaining. Continuing with the example above, if you have 5 lbs. of fuel left and you use an average of 3 lbs. of fuel per brew, you have about 1.67 brews left in that tank (5 / 3 = 1.67). After your next brew, you should definitely refill or exchange your propane tank!

 

Are you curious whether propane burners save time over electric stoves when homebrewing? Check out Bryan Roth’s Water Boil ExBEERiment.
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David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Refractometers Let You Know When To Pick!

For anyone operating a vineyard, large or small, refractometers are an invaluable tool. They help take the guesswork out of knowing when to pick by indicating when the grapes have become sufficiently sweet–a vital part of any vineyard operation.Wine Refractometer

Maximizing the sugar level is important, particularly if the grapes are to be used for wine making. Refractometers measure the sugar level (or brix) of the grapes without requiring a large sample size. All the vintner needs is two or three drops of juice from a grape placed on a refractometers prism window, and it will instantly tell him the sugar level of that sample.

This is why refractometers are so important. By simply going randomly throughout the vineyard and testing a few grapes, it can be accurately determined if it is time to pick.

Even though you may only have a few vines and do not have a large vineyard in your backyard, refractometers are still important to you as a home winemaker. Regardless of the size of the batch, you always want to make the best batch you can. And that’s exactly what refractometers help you to do.

We offer a refractometer that is perfect for wine making, and it’s very affordable when compared to some refractometers out there on the market. It comes with its own carrying case, complete with directions and it’s simple to use.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.