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Author Replies
WitSok
08/23/07 09:54 PM  
Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Thought I would start a new thread on "Ambient Fermentation." I decided to review some climatic data based upon SteveG's and MarkO's repsonses. I did notice some similarities.

SteveG - Inoculation end of November / begining of December for Best results:

For SteveG's approximate location:

November - Normal High (NH) 53, Normal Low (LH) 32, Cooling Degree Days (CDD) 0

December - NH 41, NL 22, CDD 0

MarkO - End of October to end of March

For MarkO's approximate location

October - NH 64, NL 45, CDD 0

November - NH 53, NL 40, CDD 0

March - NH 56, NL 39, CDD 0

April - NH 61, NL 41, CDD 0

* Temperature shown are in degrees F

Hypothesis - Timing of inoculation of ambient ferment is best after the first month of no CDD (cooling dgree days). In addition, the normal high ideally should not exceed mid 50s. Normal low should be 40 or lower.

Assuming this hypothesis is true, for my location the best time to inoculate a starter would be the end of Novemeber, with the endo of the season around the end of March.

My plan is to try to inoculate a small starter 1/2 pint to a quart size, at the end of Novemeber. Wort will be place in shallow pan with cheese clothe cover, exposed for one evening. Transfer to small fermentation vessel. Sample at end of March, if results are promising add previously used oak chips from a batch of wine. The oak chips would serve as the mother for future inoculations. Add starter to fresh batch for a local wild brew. Add oak chips from previous wine ferment to serve as a host for future wild inoculations.

If it is bad, well then I dump it and try again. Perhaps starters could be staged each month to identify the best period.

Any thoughts?

Cheers,

Dan

Mike Mraz(cuda)
08/24/07 12:36 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
WitSok, thanks for the post. I have been thinking alot about the Spontaneous fermentations. More about time of year and temps(what is the best time of year) so thanks for the info. I plan to do 3-4 this year most likely starting in Oct maybe one a month. I brewed a batch of wort with 60%pils, 40%wheat, and aged hops this month but chicked out and added the dreggs of my Russian River sour beer that you tasted. I felt it was to hot outside this time of year for Spontaneous fermentations.
SteveG
08/24/07 07:03 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Neat way to break it down Dan. There is one variable though that I should mention. Scattered throughout this board and the other are referrences to my great brewing distaster that introduced lambic bacterias to my basement. In time I believe they adapted to fit their new environment, so I have a basement that always threatens contamination. In time I learned this could work for me.

The variable: my beer never goes outside. My basement is not as consistent temperature-wise throughout the year as I'd like. It can get pretty warm in the summer, in the winter will drop to the mid to high 50s. The point is if I placed the wort outside theres a good chance it would be exposed to sub-freezing temperatures. Not so in the basement.

I should also restate that Nov and Dec are not the only months that are cool enough, I think Jan is mostly safe as well - probably Frb too. Its not just the temperature of innoculation, the other issue is how far along the fermentation has gone by the time warm air bacteria fly north. Part of Vinnies presentation described the amount of air that various fermentation vessels allow in. Even glass will allow a bit (probably through the cap). When you have a fermentation going that slow (months), the process needs to be mostly complete come spring.

WitSok
08/24/07 10:11 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
MarkO reports a similar experience with being able to inoculate later in the winter months too. However, both of you and Mark mention the time that you felt you had the best results. In both cases, the timing happens to be late in the year at the endo of the month with typically no CDD (ie the normal temperature never exceed 65).

I suspect this timing inhibits most of the acetobacteria, yet has sufficient other good bugs we want. I may try several small starters to try to captive qualitative difference in the months of the spontaneous season.

I will ferment indoors, but I will expose my starter outside for one day in an attempt to simulate the coolship as used in Brussels. After the inoculation period, the starter would be brought indoors, airlock fitted, and allowed to grow.

Question - should the starter be oxygenated? Or will a large surface area exposed to the atmosphere provide enough oxygen for propigation of the wild yeast and bacteria?

Dan

SteveG
08/24/07 02:43 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Its hard to believe oxygenating could do anything bad here. BTW I heard homeland security has made it hard to get O2 tanks, word is you can't at Home Depots any more. Have you bought some recently?
WitSok
08/24/07 03:03 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
It has been a while, I usually buy them in bulk when they would go on sale. Actually I was planning to get some this weekend, I'm down to two cylinders.
SteveG
08/24/07 03:36 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Please let me know how that goes. I'd love to hear that news of O2 being deemed dangerous is greatly exaggrerated.
MarkO
08/24/07 06:35 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Nice presentation of the stats there, WitSok. I was actually considering a month-by-month control comparison this year too, starting at the end of October and running through early March.

I have actually only tried using a starter once, last spring: I grew a sourdough starter (pretty easy -- flour and water in a thick dough left open in a bowl until it starts to bubble and rise), and have used it for some decent bread. Judging from the taste, it seems to have a great deal of lactobacillus, as well as saccharomyces. I am waiting until fall to taste the results of this beer, it had a peculiar fermentation, quite vigorous for a very long time, in comparison to just leaving the beer to collect microbiota on its own. I am worried about the lactobacillus, though, as that has never really treated me very well in brewing.

WitSok
08/26/07 01:50 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Missed the sale, but I did pick up four more tanks of O2.

Back to the thread - From your other successful ambient ferments, how would you describe them? Aroma profile, Flavor profile, Mouthfeel, etc...

Al B
08/27/07 07:15 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
<<BTW I heard homeland security has made it hard to get O2 tanks, >>

No problem Getting O2 cylinders @ Lowes or at Ace Hardware.

SteveG
08/27/07 10:17 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Awesome, thanks for the great news! Gotta get me one then.
HeatherP
10/13/07 11:16 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Just as a note- for spontaneous wine fermentations we first innoculate with a low level of SO2 to inhibit unwanted wild yeast(and acetobacter) and thus encourage the better yeast (which have been bred to be more sulfur resistant). You might try it if your having problems, but I know beer yeast are less sulfur resistant than wine yeast- so I wouldn't use much.
SteveG
10/13/07 07:07 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
The disconnect here Heather is that the wine world fears brettanomyces like bananas fear monkeys! Brett can do some wonderful things in the beer world though. It can do damamge as well, but it can also accomplish things more conventional yeasts cannot. In our case we would rely on all the bacteria agents that present themselves for spontaneous fermetations. The trick is in the timing. Although in Belgium the window that seems to be open for 6 to 8 weeks for me is nearly half the year.

Its also worth mentioning that if levels can be kept very low (again, a timing thing) then acetobacter can be a big asset in the right beer.

WitSok
10/13/07 10:04 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Grapes have abunant natural (ambient) yeast on their skins. These yeasts can lead to spontaneous fermentation. I consider this a little different since natural yeast does not survive into the wort. Either yeast must be pitch, or it comes from the equipment, or the surrounding environment. Yes, sulfites can inhibit undesirable microbes giving the desirable yeasts a head start, but you need the desirable yeasts too.

Another factor is the pH of wort is conderably higher than must. So it may actually take more sulfite to inhibit some of the "bad" bugs. I could potentially see it having a benefit in the suboptimum months. Might be worth experimenting with. Certainly can help scavange O2, and hopefully limit acetobacteria. I agree some is good, but it doesn't take much to go over the top.

BTW, when I make wine, I use sulfites but also pitch a commercial yeast. I know several home vinters that rely on the "natural" yeast. More often than not, they end up under attenuated (sweet) and have poor storage life.

Thanks for the input HeatherP. Like I said, I think it may consider some merit.

Cheers, Dan

Al B
10/15/07 12:31 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
If I can squeeze it in, my plan is to transport the fresh wort in a bucket to a nearby apple orchard/berry farm for ambient inoculation. Once CO2 begins, rack to a carboy to minimize Acetobacter. If things aren't progressing or I panic or something, I have my own bio-farm at my disposal for inoculation.

3 - gal

60% pils, 40% unmalted wheat, 2.5 oz oxidized Strisselspalt hops

Al Buckethead

SAH
10/15/07 11:34 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Al B,

I was planning on doing what you are trying at the research facility I work at that has an apple orchard on-site. I'm not sure when the best time to try it is though, I live in western Maryland. Also, my plan is to bring the carboy of wort out into the orchard with cheesecloth/or like over the mouth to prevent bugs/etc from entering while allowing the wild yeast to enter. How long should I leave the wort in the orchard? Any other tips or things I should know? This will be my first try at an ambient ferment.

Al B
10/16/07 08:18 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
SAH,

This will be my first go at it as well. There is little I can lend to for tips, but I think a bucket or tray rather than a carboy will work alot better due to a larger surface area. Placement under an apple tree maybe a good thing or at least down-wind. Since lambic producers cool overnight, perhaps 8-12 hrs would be a start? Obviously longer the better - lambic producers have the cool-ship and building bugs that probably inoculate the wort too.

As to when......late Oct. - early Nov. when yeasties are blossoming on fallen apples (although that probably also will have Acetobacters too). I think it would be important to observe for fermentation and take appropriate action to prevent Acetobacter from making vinager (hence racking to a carboy once CO2 decreases).

Al Brussels

WitSok
10/16/07 08:42 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Based on the experience of Steve and Mark, I'd suggest:

<<>>Timing of inoculation of ambient ferment is best after the first month of no CDD (cooling dgree days). In addition, the normal high ideally should not exceed mid 50s. Normal low should be 40 or lower.<<>>

I'm going to try late November and start with a smaller volume to serve as a starter. If things appear to be going bad, then I don't have to sweat wasting an entire batch.

SAH
10/19/07 12:22 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Al B,

I guess acetobacter can't 100% be avoided even though the weather has/will cool? Also, will the 'good' yeast only be on the fallen apples? What about placing unfallen ones in the wort( in a bucket of course)?

Thank you all for the info, I guess I might need to wait quite a while till its cool enough.

Al B
10/19/07 08:57 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Acetobacter + other related bacteria can't be 100% avoided, but more likely minimized or reduced to a much lesser population in general during the cool months.

I'm sure a mixed population of bugs including "good" yeast will be on all apples - probably less on unfallen ones.

Baums
10/19/07 03:16 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
My understanding is that acetobacter will have basically zero effect as long as you do not provide it oxygen to play with. And I mean much more oxygen than you'd find in a gallon of headspace air.

Though if you're aging in casks or other micro-aerating vessels, there is the potential for lots of acetic.

MarkO
10/22/07 08:50 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Second to Baums's last post: everything I have tried, in terms of spontaneously fermented beers in an oak cask, has gone vinegar, or at least, almost vinegar to the point of nastiness.

The only success I have had with ambient fermentations has been in glass, stoppered up over the warm/fruit fly season in Oregon.

In fact, after this Spring's results, I am now totally swayed to SteveG's opinion that the best results, or, perhaps, the only good results, come from late autumn attempts.

Baums
10/23/07 10:45 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Mark, I could be mistaken, but didn't you say a while back that your ambient ferments are generally performed with essentially air-permeable stoppers (i.e. cloth, or nothing at all)? I would expect any beer that is aged that way(regardless of the season or container it's in) to get acetic, because there's loads of oxygen available. Have you tried your oak cask with a non-permeable stopper?
SteveG
10/23/07 01:49 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
A comment on apple skin yeasts. I make at least one batch of fermented cider every year, I always naturally ferment. Well, actually I didn't last year, I pitched wine yeast. Lets just say that this year I'm back to the natural way. Anywho, usually the cider I ferment is made with apples that never touched the ground. I don't specifically avoid windfalls, but the orchard where I get my seconds only sells hand picked ugly ones ($5/half bushel!). I always get terrific fermentations by just squeezing and sealing the juice up in a carboy. It does not work fast, but it works well. Plenty of "good" yeast is hanging on the tree.
MarkO
10/23/07 03:31 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Baums: I plan to do that very thing with my third (and final?) attempt with the naughty barrel.
MarkO
11/03/07 02:25 AM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
I should add now, after tasting the most recent results from the "naughty" barrel, that the vinegar problem seems to be done. Lesson learned, open fermentation is a no go.
MarkO
11/04/07 10:36 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
And, at the risk of monopolizing the thread, I have just today tasted a spont-ferm brewed in April of this year. I had extremely low hopes for this beer, as it absolutely reeked over the summer. Fermented in glass, closed with a stopper and fermentation lock once the fruit flies hatched -- tastes very good (or at least very promising for a 7-month old): there is clearly some very healthy pediococcus-based acidity, good brettanomyces (or whatever oxidative yeast grows here) "Barney" scent, and the beer is good enough to drink right now.

This smelled so bad over the summer that I was ready to dump it right then and there -- glad I did not.

So, in other words, I am still at a loss to explain what time of year to try the spontaneous fermentations in Oregon, but the Brussels timeframe of ~ 10/15 -- 4/15 is working well. Prior to this year, I would have said my best results were in late October, early November, but this April attempt is pretty damn good.

SAH
11/06/07 05:38 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Well my ~3 gallons are out in the orchard! Brewed today, cooled to ~120F and put the carboy out in the field. I kept it warm so that maybe the first critters in might be happier, but its ~48F outside so its going to cool quickly. My plan is to leave it out ~48 hours then into the warmth with an airlock. Right now the mouth of the carboy is only covered with cheesecloth. If this works I will be astonished and very happy. We'll see.
SteveG
11/06/07 08:54 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
Sounds likme a winning combo to me SAH. I use orchard yeasts all the time when I make cider.
SAH
11/07/07 01:32 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
<<Sounds likme a winning combo to me SAH. I use orchard yeasts all the time when I make cider.>>

SteveG, you said above that it takes a while to get going. I realize I am not fermenting in the same way as you, but how long is long?

Also, what characteristics do you get from the apple skin yeast. I'm hoping for something Lambic'ish, but maybe I'm not going to get it. Again, our methods are different, but I'm curious how your cider ends up tasting.

SteveG
11/07/07 01:56 PM  
Re: Ambient /Spontaneous Fermentation
I'm not sure I can offer a direct comparison, I am using natural orchard yeasts but they are on the skins of the apples I press. So they are in solution immediately whereas you are relying in air born innoculation.

But that being said I would expect a batch of cider to be frothy after a couple days tops. My results are very unbug-like though, I might go as far as to say clean (following a long stinky, sulfery fermentation period).

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