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Tony Perkins
03/10/14 11:19 AM  
High gravity lambic brewing?
I have a simple question, probably covered here before but I couldn't locate a relevant thread. I'm planning to brew an inoculated lambic, with Wyeast lambic blend and a repitch of BugFarm. Everything about the brew will be as usual except that I was thinking of brewing to about 1.066 OG and after high krausen, diluting with water down to 1.048. The idea is to 1) ferment in one vessel, 2) leave enough headspace for a tidy primary sach fermentation, and then reduce headspace to almost nil for the year+ Brett and lactic fermentation, and 3) end up with 5 gallons of lambic in the normal gravity range. Good plan? Is there anything to worry about with those bugs and a 1.066 OG wort? One more question--I was planning on fermenting in glass, with an orange carboy cap. Jamil Zainasheff says that the orange carboy cap lets in just the right amount of oxygen. Does anyone here have any experience with using a carboy cap, good or bad? Thanks in advance.
Mike T
03/11/14 11:56 AM  
Re: High gravity lambic brewing?
Seems like a good idea. I might save some of the bugs to pitch after diluting just as insurance against high ABV causing problems for the Lacto/Pedio (in truth though I'm sure the Bugfarm has hardy enough microbes to be fine).

That said, headspace in a carboy isnít a big issue in my experience. In barrels headspace allows the wood to dry out increasing gas transfer. Not an issue with glass/plastic/metal fermentors. You get more air in when you remove the bung for samples, but even ~1 gallon short has never resulted in vinegary beer for me.

The BetterBottle people did some airlock/bung tests and those orange carboy hoods let in a lot of oxygen (114 cc per day), the second worse was 20 cc/day. We racked a beer out of a barrel and into a carboy with a hood and it had taken a vinegary turn in less than a week. Not something Iíd recommend.
Tony Perkins
03/11/14 08:03 PM  
Re: High gravity lambic brewing?
Thanks for the reply. I'll use an S-type airlock instead, then. The trouble here is that I don't yet have enough experience with sours to know the amount of oxygen exposure to shoot for. I have a Flanders red/brown and a pale sour approaching a year old now, both in glass under airlocks, with modest head space. I haven't tasted them in months (almost twelve months, in the case of the brown ale). They may be terrifically sour, or they may be clean. Who knows? (Of course I'm dying to know--I'm planning to take samples in the next couple of days. I may know better what to do then.)
Mike T
03/12/14 08:13 AM  
Re: High gravity lambic brewing?
Honestly, I'd shoot for a minimum of air contact. It's sort of like water treatment, you have a much larger chance of ruining a batch instead of improving it unless you know exactly what you're doing. If you taste it and want a vinegary edge that isn't there, age a 1/2 gallon of the beer in a growler with cheesecloth rubber-banded over the mouth for the last couple months. That way you can blend to taste at bottling.
04/02/14 01:18 PM  
Re: High gravity lambic brewing?
Mike - The same BetterBottle experiment reported a lot less air contact with their "Dry Airlocks"... have you ever used these? They are expensive, but are they worth it?
Mike T
04/02/14 02:27 PM  
Re: High gravity lambic brewing?
The amount of oxygen a standard water-filled airlock lets through won't result in above-threshold acetic acid even after a couple years in my experience. If the fermentor is somewhere you don't have easy access to, or temperature swings cause suck-back water-less is worth considering, but they are pricey (nearly $50 for the PET O-Ring Closure and DryTrap Airlock for each BetterBottle).
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