Feb 21 2008

a bit of venting, or: how i learned to relax, don’t worry, and have a blowoff tube

Published by at 9:37 am under Homebrew

i meant to write this up last night, when i thought the matter was settled. the matter was not settled.

on monday i brewed up a 4.75G batch (a bit of a volume screwup, as usual) of 1070 pale ale. into it i pitched a healthy looking 500ml starter of WLP001. i filled my 3 piece airlock with vodka and stuck the carboy in the closet.

by the next morning, the beer had sucked half of the vodka into itself, and the airlock was bubbling, but not especially frantically. i thought nothing of either matter; i’d had vodka loss before, and maybe the yeast was just a little slow starting (though I didn’t quite believe that, considering what a monster WLP001 is, but I had no other explanation for the lackadaisical airlock).

yesterday evening when i arrived home from work, i was very surprised to find the kreusen had risen all the way to the neck of my 6.5G carboy — recall that I had only 4.75G of beer! this was a first for me.

i had dinner and then went back to check on the beer again. by now, the yeast was actually in the neck of the airlock, and i could see it pumping up and down, prepping for a jump into my precious bodily fluids — er, vodka. i grabbed a couple paper towels and my trusty bottle of vodka, doused the towels in the least interesting of all spirits (sorry, comrade!), yanked the airlock out of the bung, and capped the bung with my vodkatowel. there was an audible “poot” as i removed the airlock. huh.

a tragedy narrowly avoided, i sat back and thunk. perhaps the pressure is enough to lift the plastic piece through vodka but not enough to lift it through air. so what was needed was… more vodka. i wiped the airlock down as best i could and added more cheap vodka inside it, and stuck it back on. it appeared to work, as it began bubbling furiously. at the same time, the kreusen retreated some. i got back on the computer and made some jokes to my buddy about kreusen retreating in the face of vodka. har!

i relaxed for a little bit and commenced not worrying, but i did not have a homebrew. that was a mistake. when i was ready for bed, i checked the airlock “one last time”. it was full of yeastgoo. d’oh! i did the thing with the paper towel again, yanked the airlock, but this time, i replaced it with an S-type bubbler airlock. that has a longer neck for the gunk to climb, and i figured it would be easier to blow off gas because there’s no plastic to lift.

half a minute after i had attached it, it was bubbling so violently that it was shooting vodka out of the top (i had not overfilled it). a couple minutes later, the yeast was in the airlock. nuts!

so i gave up and decided to use a blowoff tube. i’ve never used one before and i have high hopes for this beer, so i worried a little, and became a little un-relaxed, and i still was not drinking a homebrew. i was doing everything wrong!

if there’s one thing i have in abundance, it’s tubing. someone once said about homebrewing, “how did i ever get involved in a hobby that involves so much plumbing?” i’m with you buddy, plumbing and tubing. and i’m just scratching the surface, so far.

i selected a tube, cleaned it up a little, swabbed the business end with the remainder of my bottle of rotgut, and jammed it right through my carboy hood. the other end went into the rest of the vodka, poured into a saucepan sitting in a large mixing bowl.

i dunno the ID of the tube, i think it’s 5/16″ or something. pretty small. probably not great for a blowoff tube, but it certainly worked. immediately, in fact. it sounded like a really bad case of the runs, bloorp bloorp bloorp bloorp. the bubbles came fast and furious, and quite loud i might add. before long, some yeast junk came shooting through the 4 foot tube. i went to bed, satisfied that i had protected my beer *and* my brewing closet.

i sleep with earplugs. even with my earplugs in, i could hear the intermittent blurp blorp blarp! of the blowoff. i had to put the bowl into the closet (no small feat — it’s a small closet) and close the bedroom door. even then, i could still hear it. i relaxed, don’t worry-ed, and had a nice sleep (but alas, still no homebrew).

this morning, the blowoff bowl was pasty with yeast junk. but it was still bubbling and there was no mess on my carpet. success!

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