View Full Version : Foaming in the Primary

04-21-2011, 09:08 AM
Hey all
great site!

This is my FIRST batch. It's going well...I think. I'm on day 9 after pitching. On day 7, my little 2gal fermenter began bubbling erratically and foaming up into the water in the airlock (2 chamber plastic molded type). I've cleaned and re-watered the lock up to twice a day since it started and found that swishing the bucket a little caused the foaming to stop; after which normal, regular bubbling to continue.

Is this foaming normal? Should I let the foaming happen? Am I handling it properly?

Unfortunately I have no hydrometer reading for reference (n00b :confused: ), but here's what i have of the log.

Papazian's Traditional Recipe from Joy of Hombrewing (reduced to 1gal batch)
3lbs local honey
1 scant tsp acid blend
1/20oz yeast extract
a pinch of irish moss
1 packet champagne yeast

15min boil, skim
transfer and cool to sub-80F
pitch and cover

Due to a n00b mistake an extra 0.3 gallons was added before pitching making this batch roughly 1.3 gallons, at least until racking.

Ambient temp ranges from 68F to 75F
when it's not foaming, the airlock is averaging a 20-25s bubble

Medsen Fey
04-21-2011, 10:20 AM
Welcome to GotMead!

It is common to have some foaming, though usually after boiling and skimming there is a lot less.

You need a hydrometer. Without one it is hard to tell if a batch is done or if it is stuck. It is the single most important tool a mead-crafter needs.

Your recipe looks very light on the nutrients and you may want to add some more yeast extract.

If you haven't taken a look at the NewBee guide (see the link in the column to the left) it is well worth reading.

04-21-2011, 10:41 AM
I concur on the need to use a hydrometer. In fact, you might get two. If you own only one, you'll break it; if you own two, you won't break either one (Murphy strikes again).

I wouldn't necessarily call it a "nOOb mistake" to start out a bit above 1 gallon. I routinely plan to start with a little more than 1 gallon (in a wine bottle under airlock after the primary) so I can use that for toppin up for later racking.

04-21-2011, 11:44 AM
thanks to you both. acquired hydrometer and it's reading roughly 1.060. Estimated due to foam. The GM calc says I'm targeting .083

Medsen Fey
04-21-2011, 11:57 AM
I would add some nutrient here - you are 9 days in and barely have 1/4 of the fermentation done. The final gravity here should be something below 1.000 so you still have a long way to go. What do you have?

The acid blend you added may be slowing things down as well. Do you have pH strips available?

04-21-2011, 12:02 PM
I have a bag of Fermax nutrient. I don't have Ph strips but could probably find some around town.

How much Fermax do you think I should add?

Medsen Fey
04-21-2011, 12:06 PM
I'd say about 6 grams (roughly 1.5 tsp) of Fermax would help.

04-21-2011, 12:19 PM
Added. Thanks!
If the pH is too high or low, what then? baking soda? vinegar?

Medsen Fey
04-21-2011, 01:47 PM
Too high is not an issue for pH.
Too low is the issue that sometimes can interfere with yeast. If the pH is less than 3.1, I'd consider adding potassium bicarbonate (preferably) or calcium carbonate in small amounts to get the pH up to 3.3-3.4 which should allow the yeast to function efficiently.

The Fermax should bump the pH up a bit, so I would add the Fermax and see how things progress and measure the pH after the Fermax.

Edit - one other small tip. Dissolve the Fermax in a little water and add it slowly so you don't get a Mead Eruption Accident (MEA).

04-21-2011, 03:46 PM
Very good recommendations there. I, personally, tend to use calcium carbonate, but the purpose is the same - to ensure that the pH doesn't get so low that it inhibits the yeast. If I recall correctly, Ken Schramm (Compleat Meadmaker) recommends dissolving 1/2 tsp calcium carbonate is 1/4 cup water & mix that in, then test the pH again. That is, go slowly; don't try to make a major change in one big jump.

Medsen Fey
04-21-2011, 04:26 PM
Going slowly is especially important if you use calcium carbonate (chalk). Chalk does not dissolve well in water and it takes time for it to be completely incorporated into the solution and for the solution to reach equilibrium. Adding it too quickly can cause over-shoot.

Potassium bicarbonate is much more soluble in water and reaches equilibrium faster. In addition, potassium is an important intracellular ion that they yeast need to take in to offset the electrochemical gradient that a low pH creates across the cell membrane. For these reasons, it is preferable to use this rather than the calcium carbonate.

04-21-2011, 05:22 PM
I took a second hydrometer reading to double check my method. This time I got an .040 (better but needs work. In addition, I purchased pH strips and calcium carbonate (store didn't have the potassium compound). I did two tests. The one on the sample taken before the Fermax was added yielded a pH of approx 2.9. The test taken from the must directly (post Fermax and stir) yielded what looks to be a 3.8 or 3.9.
What scares me is that it appears that all airlock activity has ceased. Did the Fermax cause the yeast to go to an aerobic stage? Is it time to re-pitch?

Medsen Fey
04-21-2011, 05:31 PM
If you just added the Fermax and the pH is now okay, just sit back and give it some time. Check the gravity tomorrow and see how it goes.

04-22-2011, 04:49 PM
SG 1.030 (.010 less than yesterday)
pH holding around 3.7
Avg. 12s/bubble


04-26-2011, 10:24 AM
SG 1.020

It sound like ferm has stalled again. I've only dropped .010 in 4 days. Do I need to repitch to finish the batch? Add more nutrient? help?

Medsen Fey
04-26-2011, 07:49 PM
What temperature are you maintaining?
Are you sure the pH reading is accurate?

Yeast hulls at 1 gram per gallon can help a slowing fermentation by binding yeast toxins, so adding some now might help. Re-pitching is rarely the answer because whatever is impacting your current yeast will be hammering the new yeast you pitch as well - generally you need to re-pitch with another strain that is more hearty, but if you are already using a Champagne there aren't too many that are stronger.