Oxygenate your Wort

There are three main things that yeast needs in order to make great beer: the proper temperature, fermentable sugars, and oxygen.  I had a great brew day yesterday.  I made an original recipe of blueberry cream stout.  Well, right now, it’s just cream stout – the blueberries will be added during secondary fermentation.  I pitched the yeast around 5:00 PM and saw activity before I went to bed that night.  I woke up this morning to a very healthy fermentation and I have full faith that this beer will finish at the proper final gravity.  The past few batches of beer I have made all finished a little short and the only thing I haven’t tried to improve is the amount of oxygen in the wort.  My normal routine of oxygenating wort is to aggressively slosh the wort around in the fermentor for a few minutes right before I pitch the yeast, and what I mean by a few minutes is the amount of time until my arms get tired of shaking a glass fermentor weighing in at around 50 pounds.

Oxygen setup for wortI picked up a stainless steel air stone for a hell of a deal recently.  Sidenote: follow @homebrewfinds on twitter.  I’ve saved quite a bit of money just by following their tweets.  I bought a 0.5 micron stone with a 1/4″ barb for $5.50 (free shipping).  Once this came, I ran out to Lowe’s and picked up a disposable can of oxygen and a few feet of 1/4″ ID vinyl tubing.  I already had the regulator for the mini oxygen tank, thanks to my wife Meg (she’s a jeweler).  So that’s it – I put it all together and ran 40 seconds of pure oxygen into my wort right before I pitched my yeast.  I’m hoping this will greatly improve the amount of oxygen in the wort and the yeast will be happy long enough to consume all those fermentable goodies.  I’ll post the results in a few weeks after fermentation is complete.  What methods do you practice to properly aerate your wort?  Have you ever had this problem?  Add some comments below…

Update 1/22/2014: Good signs so far.  I brewed the beer 4 days ago and have had a vigorous fermentation.  It’s finally slowing down a little bit this morning.  This primary fermentation appears to have had a longer peak than my other previous batches.  The numbers will show when I take a gravity reading in a few days when I transfer the beer to secondary fermentation.

3 thoughts on “Oxygenate your Wort

  1. Man this is something I really want to invest in to upgrade my brew game. Unfortunately I don’t think it is possible to buy pure oxygen tanks “over the counter” in Denmark. Still researching that. Do you have any experience with the aquarium pump method?

    Do you use any kind of fermentation temperature control beyond just the ambient house temps? That is another thing I am thinking about investing in is building a fermentation cabinet.

    1. Hey Alex! I haven’t personally tried the aquarium pump method mainly because it takes longer since the air we breathe is only around 20% oxygen. I would say that using an aquarium pump would be the more cost-effective approach though and if you’re going to go that route, just make sure you get a pump that’s strong enough to pump the air through the air stone at the bottom of the fermentor. I only pumped the pure oxygen for about 40 seconds and I must say the yeast was happy as a pig in mud. During my research, I read that people using aquarium pumps leave it pumping for about 40 minutes. I didn’t know you couldn’t purchase disposable oxygen tanks in Denmark. That’s a bummer. I’d be interested to hear how the aquarium pump method turns out for you.

      As far as temperature control, I haven’t taken that journey yet. My brew room is usually in the range of 68F-70F (~20C), although I would like to get into doing some pale lagers in the future. I might just have to pick up a mini-fridge at some point.

  2. Yeah I still have to look into the availability of the tanks here. I know for sure you can’t just get them in a hardware store here. Which probably means they have to be purchased/ordered somewhere special which in Denmark means it is going to cost a fortune. On the other hand letting an aquarium pump sit in my wort for 40 minutes doesn’t sound like fun to me. I found one on a brewing site with the stone for a decent price, but man I just don’t know about having my wort sit around for that long.

    Yeah I ferment my beer in a cabinet in my office. I try to control the ambient temp in the room using the radiator to keep it around 20 C (70F). Pretty easy in the winter but won’t be so easy once the weather warms up past 20. I told my wife I need two fridges or freezers for kegging and fermenting. I am sure you can imagine what she said :)

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