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Old 10-20-2006, 01:14 PM   #1
Todd
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Default Primary, Secondary, bottle condition, What gives?

Ok, I'm to the point where I have brewed a few beers and generally either followed the 1,2,3 rule or just 2 in primary. I'd like to start figuring out why I am doing each step and how to tell when each is finished.

I was reading the section in How to brew and he says once the Krausen has started to fall we should rack, might be as little as 3 days. Then we go into the conditioning phase.

What I am not sure of is how do you tell when conditioning is finished? Is it just a matter of when the beer clears or does it have more to do with taste? After it clears should I sample it?

My first beer was very green at first and took a good 6 weeks in the bottle to taste decent. Does that mean I bottled it to soon?

We are doing an IPA this weekend which is why I'm asking now, I'll be using the carboy again and wanted to get an idea on this conditioning process.

Thanks All.

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Old 10-20-2006, 01:39 PM   #2
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Todd,

There are no hard-n-fast rules here. Well, there IS one: RDWHAHB. But other than that, it's loose to say the least. Here's my "strategery":

  • The 1-2-3 rule is just a general rule of thumb for typical ales. This can vary with specialty ales, ales with spices or other adjuncts, high-gravity beers, and lagers.
  • If your original gravity is high, you should give it more time in secondary. This also applies to beers that are intensely hopped. They can start out being very out-of-whack, but a month or two in secondary will help them immensely.
  • If you have added spices, flavoring or other atypical adjuncts, there's a great chance that the beer will be out of balance for quite awhile. This will typically require both increased time in secondary, and increased bottle conditioning.
  • Big beers like barleywine can take many months to reach their prime...sometimes even years. I recently had a homebrewed barleywine from 4 years ago, and it was magnificent!
  • As for when to rack, don't take the "when the krausen falls" rule to heart---especially when you're doing lagers . You're not going to hurt the beer by leaving it on there for a week, at least. Possibly more for high-gravity beers, where there's more sugars, and hence more work to be done by the yeasts.
  • As I said, there are no hard-n-fast rules regarding aging, so the only way to know when something has had enough bottle conditioning is to test it. Open a bottle. At the worst, you get a good beer that is not quite as good as it's going to be. Darn.
  • Clearing is hard to guage and doesn't have too much to do with the taste/smell of the finished product. Personally, I play it by ear, and bottle when all the stars align (namely, it tastes good, I have empty bottles and free time, and I feel like it's been aging in secondary long enough).
  • If you post your IPA recipe, we can weigh in on secondary aging and bottle conditioning. These forums are great, because you can get a consensus of suggestions.
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.planned:
•Scottish 80/- •Sweet Stout •Roggenbier
.primary | bright:
98: Moss Hollow Soured '09 72: Oude Kriek 99: B-Weisse 102: Brett'd BDSA 104: Feat of Strength Helles Bock 105: Merkin Brown
.on tap | kegged:
XX: Moss Hollow Springs Sparkling Water 95: Gott Mit Uns German Pils 91b: Brown Willie's Oaked Abbey Ale 103: Merkin Stout
98: Yorkshire Special 100: Maple Porter 89: Cidre Saison 101: Steffiweizen '09 (#3)
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Old 10-20-2006, 01:47 PM   #3
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Quote:
there are no hard-n-fast rules regarding aging,
Actually there is one hard & fast rule to aging: Nothing you do will speed it up!

But racking too soon can stall the fermentation and bottling too soon can cause bombs.

You can rack a 3 days or 3 weeks, bottle at 2 weeks or 2 months; the ale will be ready when it finishes. If you have the carboys, you can leave the ale in the bright stage (wrongly called secondary) until it is TASTES right, then bottle.
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Old 10-20-2006, 01:48 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan!
Todd,

There are no hard-n-fast rules here. Well, there IS one: RDWHAHB. But other than that, it's loose to say the least. Here's my "strategery":
  • The 1-2-3 rule is just a general rule of thumb for typical ales. This can vary with specialty ales, ales with spices or other adjuncts, high-gravity beers, and lagers.
  • If your original gravity is high, you should give it more time in secondary. This also applies to beers that are intensely hopped. They can start out being very out-of-whack, but a month or two in secondary will help them immensely.
  • If you have added spices, flavoring or other atypical adjuncts, there's a great chance that the beer will be out of balance for quite awhile. This will typically require both increased time in secondary, and increased bottle conditioning.
  • Big beers like barleywine can take many months to reach their prime...sometimes even years. I recently had a homebrewed barleywine from 4 years ago, and it was magnificent!
  • As for when to rack, don't take the "when the krausen falls" rule to heart---especially when you're doing lagers . You're not going to hurt the beer by leaving it on there for a week, at least. Possibly more for high-gravity beers, where there's more sugars, and hence more work to be done by the yeasts.
  • As I said, there are no hard-n-fast rules regarding aging, so the only way to know when something has had enough bottle conditioning is to test it. Open a bottle. At the worst, you get a good beer that is not quite as good as it's going to be. Darn.
  • Clearing is hard to guage and doesn't have too much to do with the taste/smell of the finished product. Personally, I play it by ear, and bottle when all the stars align (namely, it tastes good, I have empty bottles and free time, and I feel like it's been aging in secondary long enough).
  • If you post your IPA recipe, we can weigh in on secondary aging and bottle conditioning. These forums are great, because you can get a consensus of suggestions.

I don't have it with me but it is the bell's two hearted from byo. I want to say it calls for dry hopping for 3-5 days. My thought was I would dry hop with 3-5 days of conditioning left, then bottle. I think this is to retain as much of the aroma as possible, right?

So what you are saying is in order to know when to bottle I really need to sample the beer and be sure it tastes right? If not let it in longer?

I just really want to understand why I am doing steps, not just follow what I am told. For example does beer always get better the longer you let it in secondary? I thought beer has a limited life so ideally once it is finished conditioning you want to drink it.
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Old 10-20-2006, 02:01 PM   #5
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Limited life is 6-10 months for an ABV of 5%.

Understanding the multiple and overlapping processes in brewing will take some reading. Palmer's How to Brew is a good source. In the USA at least, http://www.siebelinstitute.com/ is the tops for brewing science.

The FOUR yeast stages.

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Old 10-20-2006, 02:10 PM   #6
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Quote:
"I thought beer has a limited life so ideally once it is finished conditioning you want to drink it."
Again, when you get into brewing and beer appreciation, it's problematic to think of "beer" as this singular thing. Some types/styles of beer have a shelf life of several months, others can last for 10 years. With lighter ales and lagers, the shelf life is apt to be shorter. Not always, but alot of the time. What is unknowable is whether the test bottle you're drinking is "as good as it's going to get", or whether it's going to keep getting better. For instance, my first brew was a basil pale ale. I drank the first bottle 5 days after bottling, and loved it. Of course, it was my first taste of the first beer I'd ever brewed, but even my family all loved it. Then, a month later, I thought, damn, this is excellent! It's done conditioning! And yes, it was awesome beer, and so I drank most of it. But I had a bottle 3 or 4 weeks ago, and I'll be damned if it isn't even better now. The basil has integrated itself even more, and it really does taste like a great microbrew. So you never know.

I wish I could give you somoe sort of hard process by which to go, but I'm afraid that the best you're going to do is to post a recipe and ask for consensus based on various experiences.

The reasons for secondary aging and bottle conditioning are probably quantifiable, but I'm no biologist or physicist, so I don't know exactly why. All I know is that the flavors and aromas tend to mellow out and integrate better, and the beer gets more balanced. I don't have a scientific explanation, but surely, someone on these boards must have a better explanation than mine.

Quote:
So what you are saying is in order to know when to bottle I really need to sample the beer and be sure it tastes right? If not let it in longer?
Yep. I just racked my imperial choco-cafe stout to tertiary, and expected it to still need more time, but after tasting it, I think it's very ready, and I'm going to bottle next week. Given the subjective nature of this hobby, sampling is simply the best way to test the aging process.
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MOSS HOLLOW BREWING CO.
Aristocratic Ales, Lascivious Lagers


.planned:
•Scottish 80/- •Sweet Stout •Roggenbier
.primary | bright:
98: Moss Hollow Soured '09 72: Oude Kriek 99: B-Weisse 102: Brett'd BDSA 104: Feat of Strength Helles Bock 105: Merkin Brown
.on tap | kegged:
XX: Moss Hollow Springs Sparkling Water 95: Gott Mit Uns German Pils 91b: Brown Willie's Oaked Abbey Ale 103: Merkin Stout
98: Yorkshire Special 100: Maple Porter 89: Cidre Saison 101: Steffiweizen '09 (#3)
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Old 10-20-2006, 02:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david_42
You can rack a 3 days or 3 weeks, bottle at 2 weeks or 2 months; the ale will be ready when it finishes. If you have the carboys, you can leave the ale in the bright stage (wrongly called secondary) until it is TASTES right, then bottle.
I think this is what I am trying to understand, beer should taste right before you bottle, correct? What I am trying to get away from in an arbitrary timeline. So if I do a high gravity or a low gravity I'm not just following the same schedule. I'm following the beers schedule.

This last beer tasted good when I bottled, now I just randomly chose two weeks in the primary then bottled. I figured it was long enough, no other reason.
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Old 10-20-2006, 02:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan!
Yep. I just racked my imperial choco-cafe stout to tertiary, and expected it to still need more time, but after tasting it, I think it's very ready, and I'm going to bottle next week. Given the subjective nature of this hobby, sampling is simply the best way to test the aging process.

thanks guys, I have been tasting at bottling but not before hand as a test of readiness, I'll start doing so.
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Old 10-20-2006, 02:33 PM   #9
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I quit tasting at bottling because it sucked so bad, I would worry for about two weeks until ready to drink. By then, all is good. The stuff I read on primary is that it's OK to leave to whenever, but what you must never do, is let the yeast get into autolysis. Sort of like the yeast going cannibal on each other. One tell tale sign is the trub color. If it's kind of orange looking, then there a probability that that has happened or is happening. Now, I've only brewed two batches so far, but I use the 1-1-2 technique that my LHBS sensei prescribed and all has been good so far. But like others have said, all beers are different and time is the key ingredient.

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Old 10-20-2006, 02:42 PM   #10
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Todd, don't let ol' grog's comments about autolysis scare you. That takes months to happen. So unless you plan on leaving your beer in the primary fermenter for a few months, which I cannot imagine you are, then you have nothing to worry about regarding autolysis.

Quote:
I think this is what I am trying to understand, beer should taste right before you bottle, correct? What I am trying to get away from in an arbitrary timeline. So if I do a high gravity or a low gravity I'm not just following the same schedule. I'm following the beers schedule.
It should taste "right", but not finished. Nothing is ever really going to taste optimally in the carboy. It needs that bottle conditioning to really step it up.

Honestly, while you shouldn't be following an "arbitrary" timeline, you cannot expect to follow a rigid one either. Somewhere in between is good. And really being able to judge it right is a skill that comes with experience...and, of course, a little help from yer friends at HBT.
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MOSS HOLLOW BREWING CO.
Aristocratic Ales, Lascivious Lagers


.planned:
•Scottish 80/- •Sweet Stout •Roggenbier
.primary | bright:
98: Moss Hollow Soured '09 72: Oude Kriek 99: B-Weisse 102: Brett'd BDSA 104: Feat of Strength Helles Bock 105: Merkin Brown
.on tap | kegged:
XX: Moss Hollow Springs Sparkling Water 95: Gott Mit Uns German Pils 91b: Brown Willie's Oaked Abbey Ale 103: Merkin Stout
98: Yorkshire Special 100: Maple Porter 89: Cidre Saison 101: Steffiweizen '09 (#3)
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