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michaewa
11/02/10 08:58 PM  
Ambient Ferment Question(s)
I was inspired by a few posts I saw out here and tried an ambient ferment last week. I took a quart of starter, poured into a flat baking dish, covered with cheesecloth, and let sit overnight in my neighbor's "orchard" which is really just two cherry trees and an apple tree.

That was one week ago, and I've not seen any traditional signs of fermentation - no bubbles, krausen, no dusting of settled yeast on the bottom, etc. There are a few specs of mold and some blobs that look a bit like a cobweb just below the surface, and the color of the wort has lightened just a tad.

The smell is not terribly distinct, it smells a little sour.

So I guess my question is this: how do I know if it worked? I'm a bit spooked to taste it for fear of inspiring a trip to the ER. Is the appropriate next step a gravity reading? The starter was in the 1.030 range to start with. Is there a 'safe' amount that it would have dropped that I can taste it relatively risk free?

Thanks!

SteveG
11/03/10 10:21 AM  
Re: Ambient Ferment Question(s)
I never actually used a starter, but that's a good idea. Ambients don't always work out, if the starter can indicate potential failure then that will save you the heart break of pouring our gallons.

But ... this orchard, where is it? Round these parts its been pretty cold aside from a few unseasonably warm days a week or 2 ago. If the temperature was too low any airborn life might not have been sufficiently active. Aside from that I'll say I have usually waited a few weeks before any naked eye activity was apparent.

WitSok
11/03/10 11:24 AM  
Re: Ambient Ferment Question(s)
My starter took quite awhile to get going. Though my outdoor half showed mold and a mold like scum after a couple weeks as I remember. Took a good month before I saw bubble rising like "normal" fermentation. I have more info on my blog at the MoreOver Buzz site. If you look up ambient here on hBBB you should find a link.

michaewa
11/03/10 11:32 AM  
Re: Ambient Ferment Question(s)
Thanks gentlemen. I guess I'm early here at a week in, I'll let it sit for a while longer.

I read some of the guidance here and picked a night here in SW Missouri that was very clear and cool (40F) without freezing and very low humidity.

I'll probably let it sit for another two or three weeks and then take a gravity reading if it shows any signs of life.

Thanks again.

WitSok
11/03/10 08:26 PM  
Re: Ambient Ferment Question(s)
Now that I'm home, it is easier to post links.

http://morebeer.ning.com/profiles/blogs/ambient-spontaneous-wild

http://morebeer.ning.com/profiles/blogs/ambient-spontaneous-wild-1

http://morebeer.ning.com/profiles/blogs/ambient-spontaneous-wild-2

http://morebeer.ning.com/profiles/blogs/ambient-spontaneous-wild-3

SteveG
11/04/10 09:43 AM  
Re: Ambient Ferment Question(s)
michaewa, thinking back I recall asking the same thing years ago. It was Todd Ashman who told me that I need to throw away what I think I know about time frames when going ambient. Nobody knows what entities are swimming in your soup, thus since bacteria behavior can vary nobody can tell you what a real time frame will be. But painting with a broad brush ... long!
michaewa
11/04/10 01:03 PM  
Re: Ambient Ferment Question(s)
Thanks very much again for your replies. WitSok, I had read that thread previously, it was a big part of my inspiration for trying this.

Apparently all I had to do was talk bad about the sample in public. The day after I started this thread I checked on the flask and sure enough there was a steady stream of bubbles rising from the bottom - it looked a lot like a starter of Brett B. I did recently. Now there is a thin head on top, like a mini-krausen. I'll post a picture when I get back home.

I think I'll let it sit for another week or two, then rack it into a fresh quart of wort assuming it tastes ok. My logic there is the wild yeast will have a better chance to overcome anything else crawling around in there. If all goes well I'll give it a rip in a 5-gallon batch and see how it goes.

Cheers!

michaewa
11/08/10 01:47 PM  
Re: Ambient Ferment Question(s)
When I got back in town this had pretty much settled down, and had a dusting of yeast on the bottom.

I just poured off a sample and tasted it, I was very impressed. It is mildly tart, with a strong flavor / aroma of peach. I can't detect any harsh / bad / medicinal flavors, which is kind of what I was expecting after smelling it when it was several days old.

I fed it a fresh dose of starter wort, and once that settles out I'll give it a try in a 5 gallon batch.

I'm thinking a pale / blonde beer so I can highlight whatever profile the yeast wants to provide. Any thoughts / suggestions for recipes are most welcome.

Cheers...

SteveG
11/08/10 01:49 PM  
Re: Ambient Ferment Question(s)
I always based mine off a gueuze. I figure if its going to be good its because of the fermentors, so I never went wild with the recipe.
michaewa
11/25/10 09:50 AM  
Re: Ambient Ferment Question(s)
My sample developed a nice white pelicle on top, so I decided to pull the trigger. I did a turbid mash (thanks Liddil Lambic Lesson!) yesterday for a net 6 gallons.

Pitched my ambient starter and hoping for the best. That turbid mash definitely made for my longest brew day ever.

It seems to be consuming oxygen as the fluid level in the airlock is trending the wrong way which isn't terribly encouraging but I'm confident it will catch up based on how vigorously the starter fermented when I fed it some additional wort.

 
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