Should You Stir Your Sugar Wash? The Important Answer
While making sugar wash is a relatively straightforward process, little details can make a huge difference. Today, I’d like to address the important question of whether sugar wash must be stirred.
You should stir your sugar wash vigorously as you add the yeast to aerate and ensure no clumps appear in the wash. You can also stir again during fermentation to speed up the process if necessary.
Stirring can really help improve fermentation. However, certain precautions are essential. In this article, I will explain how and when your sugar wash should be stirred and give you some useful tips for ensuring the fermentation goes well.
Reasons for Stirring Your Sugar Wash
There are two main reasons to stir your sugar wash. First, the wash must be stirred while yeast is added to prevent it from clumping up. And secondly, stirring the wash can help you enhance fermentation.
Stir While Adding the Yeast
First of all, make sure you use turbo yeast for your sugar wash. It comes with all the nutrients your sugar wash lacks and will give you high alcohol concentrations.
Typically, yeast is introduced to the wash once sugar is dissolved and the liquid has cooled down.
Make sure to check the temperature beforehand. It should be about 68-81°F (20-27°C); higher temperatures can negatively influence fermentation, and anything around 91.4°F (33°C) or hotter will kill the yeast.
As you add turbo yeast to the sugar wash, actively stir your mixture to aerate and ensure the yeast doesn’t form clumps.
Clumped yeast dissolves very slowly due to reduced surface area, which in turn will give you trouble with reaching the desired alcohol content.
Keep stirring until the nutrients are dissolved, and no clumps are left. If later you notice the fermentation dies out before it is supposed to, check if any clumps appear and deal with those by stirring some more.
Stir To Enhance Fermentation
Typically, the need to stir your sugar wash appears when you notice that it’s not bubbling, which signifies fermentation stopped early. Sometimes, stirring can help to resolve the issue.
If it started on a better note, with active bubbling and appropriate numbers, but then stopped abruptly, you can try to reanimate your fermentation by stirring.
Gently stirring the yeast can encourage its activity and speed up the fermentation process.
However, if you do it, make sure to follow the simple tips below in order to avoid potential pitfalls.
How To Stir Your Sugar Wash
While giving your sugar wash a stir can be a simple and effective way of dealing with fermentation issues, it can have certain drawbacks. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind that can prevent such problems from occurring.
Use a Sterilized Paddle
This should be obvious, yet I can’t stress it enough: always sterilize your equipment!
Ensure thoroughly sterilizing your paddle before immersing it in your sugar wash. It is especially crucial if you stir the wash once fermentation has already started.
Neglecting this precaution can bring bacteria or dirt into your future spirit and result in contamination. Because of the high alcohol content, the drink would still be safe, but negative impacts on flavor can be drastic, ruining the entire batch.
Don’t use wooden paddles as they can easily get infected.
Wood is not a good material for brewing and distilling equipment in general (if we’re not talking about whiskey maturation, of course).
Limit the Oxygen
As yeast is added to the wash, it has to be properly aerated. Oxygen is required for the yeast to multiply and work better.
However, oxygen shouldn’t be allowed into your tun once fermentation starts.
Keeping oxygen away is essential to ensure fermentation goes well.
Yet, if the process has already been disrupted, adding some aeration can help revive yeast and therefore boost fermentation.
Still, it is essential to limit the exposure of your sugar wash to oxygen. Stir gently, and don’t let it take much time. This way, you can minimize the negative effects of possible oxidation.
Restarting Fermentation in Sugar Wash
However, sometimes you’ll find that stirring either doesn’t help revive your fermentation or is effective only for a limited time.
It usually means that the cause is more serious, so you should look for a more appropriate solution.
I’ve gathered a couple of possible reasons your fermentation doesn’t go according to plan, with some suggestions on how you can fix it.
Fix the Temperature
As I mentioned, the average recommended temperature range is 68-81°F (20-27°C). Fermentation can stop if your sugar wash temperature drops any lower, as yeast kind of falls asleep at that point and stops any activity.
If that’s the case, move your tun to a warmer spot and wrap it in blankets or something else that can insulate to prevent heat from escaping.
You can also purchase an electric tool designed to maintain fermenting temperatures; plenty are available online.
On the other hand, if, at some point, the yeast in your wash experienced a temperature of 91.4°F (33°C) or higher, they are likely dead. Your best bet would be to adjust the conditions and add fresh yeast.
Reduce Sugar Content
Sugar is absolutely essential for fermentation, as yeast uses it to produce alcohol for your spirit. People often assume that more sugar means more alcohol.
Unfortunately, more sugar sometimes means no fermentation.
While turbo yeast can survive higher alcohol content (which is why they are used for fermenting sugar wash), when ethanol level increases to more than 12-14%, they too become helpless, and fermentation slows down or dies out completely.
That is why the recommended amount of sugar in sugar wash is about 15-20% of the total volume.
If you’re experiencing such issues, definitely get a hydrometer to make your sugar content calculations more precise. The best thing to do on the spot is to add more water to your sugar wash, reducing the sugar concentration.
You should stir your sugar wash as you add yeast to aerate and ensure the nutrients are dissolved. This approach is also good for preventing clumps.You can also stir the wash a couple of days into fermentation if it seems to have stalled.
Make sure to use sanitized equipment and limit exposure to oxygen. If stirring doesn’t help, try more other solutions, such as adjusting the temperature or sugar content.