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I dont think my yeast is having enough babies

I've been having issues with my fermentations on mt 200L fermenters. I'm tearing down my whole process and starting from the top with hopefully a better more consistent process. I've been doing most of the steps just out of order or not on the same ferment.

Some of these are based on my specific circumstance but dont be afraid to comment if something is off.

Heres how i'm now doing it after some reading and help from the Pro corner. It has helped a great deal and exposed the issue I was having.

  1. fill tank with filtered city water- 150-180L
  2. test for PH, Chlorine, TDS
  3. add citric acid (maybe as much as 150g) to neutralize chlorine and to help invert sugar in later steps. (the plan is to drop PH way down then stabilize it at 4.5 with sodium bicarb once sugar and nute's are in)
  4. start bubbler and heater. (my heater setup is jerry rigged so I have to heat the water by cycling it thru the insta-hot heater till i get to temp. heat to 105-110 (sugar and additional water will cool as needed
  5. retest for Chlorine. treat with sodium thiosulfate for Chloramine if needed.
  6. add sugar to 1.050sg. allow some time for acid and heat to begin invert process (to some extent)
  7. add Nutes. (Tomato paste, mag sulfate)
  8. Test and Balance PH to 4.5 with Baking soda/citric acid as needed.
  9. pull bucket for pitching. Pitch 300G thermosacc. (temp should be about 90-95f at this point)
  10. (pitched per video from lallemand)
  11. add yeast when ready, mix lightly, cover and wait.
  12. +24 hours... add small amount of DAP/nutrients
  13. +48 hours... add DAP and sugar back to 1.050
  14. (future test) continue to add sugar with goal of 15% ABV yield

I've done two tests. one with creek water and one with city water using the above protocol.

one thing i did with the creek water was the accidental extra yeast addition. apparently this has a MAJOR effect on speed.

I didnt do that with the city water test at first. after 24 hours and a small move in SG i pitched and added another 300g and it took off! dropped .015 SG on one day.

I'm also adding nutrients incrementally which seems to be helping and adding sugar incrementally as well. (DAP showed up yesterday finally)

SO... my yeast is basically not growing or something and seems to be dependant on what i put in. however, I should point out that adding 600G of Lallemand's biofuel yeast at $26-30 aus with shipping raises my price per liter by $1 so it's a real problem. I'm actually far better off using bread yeast even when you balance against greater yield potential for the biofuel yeast.

any help?

TLDR....

my yeast doesnt seem to be propagating in spite of improved procedures. what can I fix?

Comments

  • Aerating while you're heating the water is useless. The heat is what's driving the oxygen out of the water. Wat until just before or after pitching yeast to aerate.

    Heating the water should drive enough chlorine out...I wouldn't add sodium thiosulfate if I didn't have to.

    110F will help dissolve sugar, but will not invert it. Inverting it is optional to some people's process. I do invert...150F until the syrup turns golden. Heat your water in your still...

    If you aim for 15% ABV, you are stressing your yeast. Most of the short and healthy (good tasting) ferments you are reading about are aiming for 10% or less and this helps finish in days, not weeks. You'd be much better off to do three 10% ferments in the time it takes to do one 15%.

    More yeast pitch gets everything started faster.

    I try to start my Ph above 5.0 and let it drift to 4.5. At 4.5, I add crushed or whole shells as a buffer. There are lots of posts on shells as a buffer.

    If you start at 4.5, you'll be under 4.0 over night! Again stressing the yeast.

    DAD... not yours.. ah, hell... I don't know...

  • I'm actually about 1/3 of the way through reading "Yeast, the practical guide to beer fermentation" and I am with Dad that you are probably well below the 8-10 ppm of dissolved oxygen that is recommended by the time you pitch your yeast.

    I can look back at most of my slow fermentations and almost always I either forgot to aerate or was lazy and did a half job. Not having enough oxygen at the beginning of a fermentation causes the yeast to be "half assed" through the entire run.

    Also with Dad that the pH needs to be around 5.2 to start because it will drop in a hurry.

  • Thats the most complicated neutral recipe I've ever seen. I was given a sample of the bio fuel yeast to try last year. It came out worse than turbo. Horrible, like drinking a glass full or European wasps and fire ants, makes a great cleaner. I wouldn't recommend doing a 200 litre batch straight up until you taste the distilled product. The guy that gave me the sample warned me but I had to see for myself. He was right.

    EC1118 25 grams to 100 litres. Good to 18%, no stress. I started out running batches at 10%. I now run at 16.5% to 17%. Absolutely no difference in taste at 10% or 17%. Just my 2 cents.

    If you do it right you can reuse the yeast. When you have about 2 days to go before fermentation is complete sg 1.005, take out 15 litres and put that into your freshly aerated, prepared new wash. Off it goes again.

  • @mickiboi Great post as I am going to be using EC1118. Rock and roll.

  • edited October 2016

    I too am using EC-1118 for my 100 liter runs of Aces Foolproof Neutral @ AD at a pitch rate of 35 grams seeking a 12% product. Additionally, I use the Scott Labs - GO FERM product during the rehydration process. Yes, a little more cost but I feel it's worth it in the end. I then add 4 tsp White Labs Yeast Nutrient WLN1000-HB.

    As @dad and @FloridaCracker said, oxygenating the wash just before or after the yeast pitching is critical. I use a repurposed medical oxygen cylinder with an 2 micron diffuser on the end of a 24 inch stainless tube inserted in the cooled wash at a flow rate of 2 for two minutes. The yeast babies are jumping for joy after about two hours, as am I. Ferment out at 25C - takes 4 or 5 days to finish, another week to clear.

    I use @punkin's suggestion of using malted wheat for the grain addition, substituted for the barley. I've settled down to the concept of simplicity throughout the process. This makes a great product and always gets me two thumbs up from my buddies.

  • edited October 2016

    I regularly use 500 grams in in 2000 liters - 25g/100l.

    That's a crazy amount of yeast, 300 grams in 200 liters - 150g/100l.

    Doubling my pitch rate typically cuts 1 day off fermentation. In the real world it's 4ish days on the smaller pitch and 3ish days on the larger.

  • @grim said:

    That's a crazy amount of yeast, 300 grams in 200 liters - 150g/100l.

    You don't want to know how much I use in my rum washes :)

    Just read in the yeast book that adding more oxygen 12 hours after first pitch (after first set of new cells are made) can improve the fermentation.

  • edited October 2016

    ...at the expense of trading alcohol for increased yeast biomass, at least how I understand it.

  • That doesn't sound good. Maybe one of those things that is good for beer and not spirits.

  • edited October 2016

    Couple of comments for clarity

    1. I'm making biofuel/chemical grade ethanol
    2. adding more yeast makes a big difference in turn around times, thats why I've been trying it. it's killing my margins tho so it has to stop.
    3. ABV is important in that I save a bit of energy in distillation. the real goal is to reduce the price per liter down as far as I can get it while still producing acceptable volume. i need the balance between proof and production. (I have 6ea 200L fermenters, it takes me 4 days to distill those (stripping off at 95%). the more alcohol I can produce from those distillations the better. My operational flow rate is 4-6l/hr.)
    4. CHLORINE: I followed the protocol above and the citric and heat had not killed the chlorine/chloramine. we added a small amount of sodium thiosulfate and retested negative at that point. the new testers are the bomb!
    5. using process above we finished in 6 days

    Adjustments:

    I shall try moving the aeration stage to just before adding yeast. hopefully we can reduce yeast useage.

    Also, I shall try the 5.0 PH thing. I may have some crushed shells around here somewhere I could add too. i saw exactly what you described with the PH crash and had to adjust PH on three fermenters as a result.

    Can I just hang a bag of crushed shells in there and reuse it after washing?

    Great Ideas!!

  • Ok. I thought you were drinking it, making spirits for human consumption. My misunderstanding. You should call Llalemand and speak to one of their bio fuel experts. They have a great technical support team.

  • If yeast cost is hurting, are you cropping yeast?
    If taste isn't a factor the utilising the sludge out of a fermenter might be worth a try.
    I don't know how many you have but a few more plates will increases the efficiency of the column too.
    Your 95+ will come off quicker for the same energy in. You'll get away with a lower RR to maintain 95+ and your run time will drop.

  • In my experience 9 times out of 10 stuck fermentations are cause by the pH of the ferment drifting too low. 4.5 at the outset is great. Monitor the pH during the ferment. As it goes down adjust accordingly.

    “Do I have to explain everything? Can’t you just be amazed and move on?”

  • edited October 2016

    Ferments well at pH range of 3.5-6.0. However, a pH of 3.5-4.5 is more optimal for fermentation.

    From the Lallemand data sheet for Thermosacc which can be found here (PDF).

  • Fuel ethanol? Why the heck wouldn't you be recycling yeast and using backset as part of the nutrient protocol?

  • @grim said: Fuel ethanol? Why the heck wouldn't you be recycling yeast and using backset as part of the nutrient protocol?

    The internal combustion engine that this is going to feed might appreciate a better tasting fuel.

  • edited October 2016

    I mean, you could easily do 10-20% backset, significantly reducing water usage, nutrient, and acid. Save $$.

    You could run a whole month of fermentation on a single 500g packet of yeast. Save $$.

    Fuel ethanol is a numbers game, you are already at a major disadvantage trying to do this in a small batch operation. You need to save every penny possible.

    Trying to push up yield by adding a second dose of sugar - this is uneconomical as you are trading a significant amount of additional fermentation time for a minor increase in yield. You should be able to ferment multiple batches of lower potential alcohol wash faster. Not only this, but longer fermentations risk loss of ethanol yield to bacteria. Turn those fermenters over fast.

  • I can and will mess around with using backset and previous yeast. no problems there (have tried a bit in the past). great ideas. For now I really need to figure out my process first which is why we've been blowing thru yeast. I really do like this idea and will try it ASAP, once we can get the yeast to actually propagate reasonably. I'm excited to try this.

    One of my larger concerns is power usage and heating up the 150l boiler full of wash. Heat up for each charge cost me $2.50usd and $.35usd per liter produced (assuming one run only). power is just shy the cost of labor (about $8-9 per charge). Sugar is about $1.72/l of ethanol.

    essentially it costs me 7 liters worth of power just to heat up the boiler to temp, so once its there, the more I can produce the less I pay per liter overall.

    My largest cost is sugar by far, which costs slightly more than all other costs combined. I'll have to work on that.

    As for fermentation time. It's cheap to add more fermenters, but for now the six I have going, work pretty well into a 5 day work week, single shift cycle. as long as I can keep my ferments under 7 days, it all works out great. If i added a third daily distillation to the shifts, I'd need to get my ferments down to 5 days or less and add 3 more fermenters.

    As for column height. I just added 4 plates to make it 11 total. I have room for maybe 2 more TOPS before I'd have to cut a hole and build a new roof over it. I'd love 15-16 plates tho!! I'm also in the process of developing a drying process as some folks are wanting 99%+

    My biggest problem today is that my sales just dropped to nothing and I'm sitting on a months worth of production. so time to focus on sales too!

  • We can do a side column stand for you, or you can get one done locally.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • edited October 2016

    You might want to explore continuous stripping.

    Strip 5 200l ferments with a small continuous rig and run your batch still once.

    Continuous is going to be more energy efficient than batch, as you are preheating wash by using it to cool condensers.

    I know I'm making things more complicated, but there are ways to save a ton.

  • @Mickiboi said: From the Lallemand data sheet for Thermosacc which can be found here -:

    why would fuel yeast need kosher certification?????

  • edited October 2016

    @crozdog said: why would fuel yeast need kosher certification?????

    Would YOU drive a car powered by ethanol fermented with yeast NOT blessed by the rabbi?! :-O

    :))

    “Do I have to explain everything? Can’t you just be amazed and move on?”

  • they actually list neutral spirits as a use on some biofuel yeasts.

    that and jewish cars....?!?

    Punkin- got any concept pics so I could wrap my head around that? might be a good solution

  • I suspect they just rebrand the yeast for a specific market. Could be the same as Distilimax HT.

  • So... finally got round to doing some stuff again. And... I FIGURED IT OUT!!

    B vitamin deficiency.

    I ran some old turbo yeast and added more thermosacc for good measure and let a 1.10sg sugar wash rip. Except one fermenter I added some b vites. That one took off and dropped like a rock. It was dropping SG twice as fast as the other three fermenters. Two days in to the ferment and I added the same dose to the other fermenters and they all finished in 5 days.

    Glad i finally figured it out. Was going crazy. I still have to strip it when I get a chance. I'll leave it for a few more days to clear up and then see what it tastes like. Not expecting great things but I just needed some ethanol for chemicals anyway.

    Yaaay!!

  • Also. The process was stupid simple too.

    1. add rainwater to clean fermenter and oxygenate to kill bad things.
    2. add 50kg sugar to 180l water
    3. add yeast and turbo yeast. And B vites (500ml thermosacc, 1.1L expired turbo yeast, 6 B complex vitamin pills dissolved in water)
    4. oxygenate 15 minutes.
    5. wait 5 days. (Was dropping 30-35 points a day on the gravity tester)
  • One thing I am observing throughout the thread is ..... there does not seem to be any real monitoring of temperature of ferment. Where you are has to be hot and potentially unless you are controlling your ferment vessel is outside of the recommended yeast temperature constraints.

  • Actually, how you control fermentation temperature depends a lot on where you live, whether you're time-constrained, and what time of year it is. In the US Pacific Northwest, for hobby stuff I can ferment without control or insulation in the summer, but for production we insulate and use aquarium heaters year round.

    Mostly we ferment at 84F/29C.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • In the 200l drums my temps are so stable I don't meticulously monitor unless there is a problem. I will record them when I measure ph. Typically they will range between 27-29c. It barely rises above ambient temperature.

  • Agree - during the hot and sticky Northeast summers we approach 100f, 100% humidity in the distillery when mashing. You can imagine what a 2000l fermenter would do if it wasn’t actively cooled.

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