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Old 01-11-2006, 03:43 PM   #1
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Default Question on primary v. secondary fermentation

I have a general question on primary versus secondary fermentation that i have always been curious about. For most ale-style beers I brew, my general method is to pitch a liquid yeast in the primary fermentation vessel (glass carboy), let ferment 3-4 days with a blow-off tube, replace with air lock, ferment for a total time of 1-2 weeks in primary and then rack to a secondary vessel (glass or plastic) for another 1-3 weeks before kegging.

Living in New England and depending on time of year, there is a fairly wide range of temperatures my house is at for fermenting--all are within range of the requirements of the yeast package, but if it's closer to 70 things tend to ferment more quickly than if they are at 65. Bottom line is, sometimes my primary fermentation is not completely done after two weeks in the primary, yet I have always been encouraged by the various brew books and other "brewing experts" to rack the beer into the secondary after two weeks so as not to pick up off flavors from the trub collecting in the bottom. Inevitably when i do this, the airlock never moves again on the secondary. So:

Am I better off leaving the beer in the primary until the fermentation is complete (via gravity reading or lack of activity in the airlock)?

Does racking the beer while there is still active fermentation kill the fermentation or is the secondary fermentation so minimal that it does not generate enough pressure to move the airlock?

Other thoughts/comments? Either way, I have never ruined a beer, just curious what the "right" method is and if other people experience this.

Thanks,

Jeff

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Old 01-11-2006, 03:49 PM   #2
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Personally I leave mine in the primary until bubbles are at least two minutes apart and the krauzen is long gone...lately for me that's been three weeks or so. Some feel strongly that you should get the beer off the trub as quickly as possible, but I haven't seen any cites at all that point to autolysis being a problem any earlier than 4 weeks or so.

And as far as the "right" method...it's whatever is working for you.

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Old 01-11-2006, 04:31 PM   #3
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i agree w/ EP. i allow mine to ferment in primary for average of 4-7 days, until i see no visible signs of activity and the kraeusen has fallen. then i rack to secondary for at least 7 days (all for average strength ales). SG reading is always best to be 100% certain of this. some very experienced brewers will leave their's in primary for weeks, then go straight to keg w/ no noticable off-flavors. i prefer to go to secondary to allow for some additional conditioning and clarifying prior to kegging.

sounds like your system is working good for you. i wouldn't change a thing.

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Old 01-11-2006, 05:11 PM   #4
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Twice now, I have been at my home brew retailer and he has talked me out of buying a glass carboy for use as a secondary fermenter, basically because he convinced me that if you like how things are coming out and have no specific need to change your process, then why bother?

I guess the general guidance is, stick with what works. By the way, my retailer did convince me that next time I make a fruit beer or use any kind of rice solids, I might get some mileage out of a secondary.

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Old 01-11-2006, 07:09 PM   #5
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Default Hmmmm.....

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveM
Twice now, I have been at my home brew retailer and he has talked me out of buying a glass carboy for use as a secondary fermenter, basically because he convinced me that if you like how things are coming out and have no specific need to change your process, then why bother?
Well a secondary allows things to mellow out without fear of the beer aquiring odd tastes by the yeast and junk that settled on the bottom. There are certainly many who never use a secondary. The beers I have brewed always needed some time. When your talking about more then a few weeks, its best to get it off the what is sitting on the bottom of your primary.

Another reason for a secondary is that you may not be done with the recipe. The cherry wheat I am doing now for instance...... I let it ferment and now its in the secondary with cherry puree on the bottom.
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Old 01-11-2006, 07:22 PM   #6
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well, living in upstate NY i run into the same issues
i primary for about a week, even in my closet at 62F its done after 7 days (this includes most of my *big* beers) then rack to a secondary and forget about it for as long as i can, or until i need another carboy to use

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Old 01-11-2006, 07:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
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Twice now, I have been at my home brew retailer and he has talked me out of buying a glass carboy for use as a secondary fermenter...
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Old 01-11-2006, 08:50 PM   #8
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I can't say if using a secondary improves the beer, but if I don't use one, I run out of primaries or beer

-a.

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Old 01-11-2006, 08:59 PM   #9
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Thanks for the replies. It sounds like most of you rely on the secondary mainly for conditioning and further settling, and/or to add dry hops or fruit, as do I.

As a follow up, have any of you seen a further drop in gravity between the time you rack into the seconday and the time you keg/bottle?

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Old 01-11-2006, 09:01 PM   #10
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I normaly get a 1 or 2 degree drop in secondary. I think the racking starts a small ferment again.

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