View Full Version : No bubbling in airlock

11-06-2007, 12:54 PM
I started my first batch of JAO about a day and a half ago, following the directions as written. I did a three gallon batch, in a four gallon food-grade airtight bucket. My problem is that the airlock hasn't started bubbling yet, and that has me a bit worried.

My best guess is that I didn't aerate the must enough initially. Before I do anything, I want to know what others with more experience have to say.

11-06-2007, 01:22 PM
First, before you panic, make sure the bucket is actually sealed. Does the trap show an imbalance that would indicate pressure is being held? If it does and you still aren't getting bubbling, then aerate the heck out of it...

Good luck,

11-06-2007, 06:12 PM
Most likely the gravity in the must is too high. Try adding water or pitching a yeast with higher gravity tolerance. There is a small possibilty that the yeast is just moving slowly, if that is the case you are likely to have further probems down the road even if fermentation starts with no intervention.

11-06-2007, 06:35 PM
"Airtight" buckets are known to leak badly. Badly enough that the airlock never kicks in. Always double check your seal around the rim of the bucket and lid for any particles that might be causing the leak. And double check the fitting for your airlock too.

And while you have the lid off checking the seal, look at your must. Is there foam on top of your must? If you put your ear up to the bucket, can you hear a sizzle? These are your best signs of early fermentation. It won't hurt to aerate it again while you've got the lid off too.

And what is the ambient temperature in your fermenting room? And in your must?

No need to panic yet. It always helps to check the simple things first.

11-06-2007, 11:47 PM
Also post up your exact recipe please. We see a lot of folks who say they're making Joe's Ancient Orange, but when the recipe is examined, the ingredients are very often not in synch with the actual recipe.



11-07-2007, 11:02 AM
For reference, the recipe:

10.5 pounds clover honey (Billy Bee brand)
3 large oranges
3 small handfuls of raisins
3 sticks cinnamon
4 whole cloves
Pinch nutmeg, pinch allspice
1 teaspoon Fleismanns bread yeast
Bottled spring water for balance to three gallons

Everything's multiplied, except for the yeast, which according to all advice I've seen shouldn't need to be scaled.

Yesterday I aerated the heck out of it, added a little more water in case it was the gravity that was part of the problem. Airtightness of the bucket itself shouldn't be an issue as I've taped around the edge and made sure that there are no leaks. No "burping" in the airlock that I've observed firsthand, but there are now small bubbles forming on the inside wall of the bell.

The must does have foam on top of it (yesterday it was about 1cm thick, today it's probably more like 2cm), and that faint sizzling sound is present. The room's set to about 70.

11-07-2007, 12:20 PM
The must does have foam on top of it (yesterday it was about 1cm thick, today it's probably more like 2cm), and that faint sizzling sound is present. The room's set to about 70.

When you have this level of cap (2 cm is a significant amount of foaming), and a noticeable fizzing sound, you have active fermentation. I believe that despite your best efforts, you do not have a completely sealed container. Heed Wildaho's note -- these bucket tops are known to leak like sieves, especially if there is no O-ring seal incorporated into the lid. Trust all your senses, rather than relying on an airlock bubble rate, to indicate whether fermentation is happening or not.

11-08-2007, 02:58 PM
I had the exact problem as Lokis--no bubble in the air lock. I used a plastic bucket, with O ring fitted lid. Now, it is 2.5 weeks into fermentation and it is almost done. All this time, no bubble. So, it seems to me the bubbles are largely effected by the equipment used and may not be reliable as a sign of fermentation. Following others' advise, I got a hydrometer and now I consider hydrometer reading as an definitive gauge of fermentation strength.

I am about to start a batch of JAO. Joe said repeatedly don't mess with the must once it is set up. None of you seasoned brewers mentioned taking hydrometer reading here. I take it as not an appropriate measure for JAO. Am I reading you right?

It will be interesting to make JAO, no chemical, no gadget, just the good old senses...including a sense of humor.

11-08-2007, 06:44 PM
plunging a sanitized hydrometer to take a reading is not a problem, so don't hesitate to do it - Joe won't mind ;)
Furthermore it'll allow you to monitor what's happening.

On the leaky bucket/bubbles thing, had the same problem using 30Lt pails, was solved by sealing the o-rings to the cover with a dab of silicon glue. (now know why these are cheap.)
All meadmakers have a god-given right to bubbles, don't let a mere pail deprive you of that soothing sight :tongue3:

11-09-2007, 12:34 AM
I just want to say thanks to everybody for the support and advice. This is my first attempt at brewing anything, so I've got that whole beginner's worry going. I feel better knowing that it's just the equipment I'm working with at the moment rather than my doing anything wrong. I fully intend to get some glass carboys for future batches.

So far, so good. Airlock's still not working as it should, but things seem to be going well otherwise since aerating the must a bit better :)

Dan McFeeley
11-09-2007, 04:11 PM
I think you're doing alright. You had foam, you could hear the slight sound of fermentation, it should be alright.

I'd suggest this. Look for jug wine, Carlos Rossi, et. al. Buy two jugs. Drink the contents (please, not all at once!). Now you have two glass carboys, close to a gallon each. Once activity in your plastic bucket seems to have ceased, rack the contents to the two carboys, slosh a bit of the spillage in homage to Oskaar, drink the rest, then seal the two carboys with air locks. Wait for the contents to clear, then rack to bottles.

That should work, barring any other difficulties.

That's been my practice with JAO -- ferment the batch in two glass carboys, recyled from jug wine, when the fermentation is complete rack the lot into a single jug carboy and let it settle out. With all the orange and other stuff taking up space in the fermenting jug wine carboys, the amount left over nicely fills a single jug wine carboy, with just enough left over for spillage and sampling.

11-09-2007, 07:46 PM
Did someone say spillage?? Color me there!!! :cheers:


11-10-2007, 12:20 AM
Hey, I'm getting ready to bottle about 15 gallons this weekend. The spillage will be phenomenal!! :drunken_smilie: