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Old 07-07-2009, 01:19 AM   #1
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Default When to rack to secondary?

I'm in the middle of brewing my second batch. My first batch came out really great, although slightly over-carbonated. I think I didn't let it ferment long enough (12 days). I didn't transfer it to a secondary fermenter on my first batch, but I want to do it for this batch.

My second batch is a Scotch Ale, and it has been sitting in the primary fermenter for about 4 days. Violent krausen occurred in the first 2 days, but has subsided now. There are still bubbles in the airlock, but are about one-minute apart right now.

(1) When should I rack to my secondary fermenter, and (2) how long should I leave it in the secondary fermenter? (i would rather avoid taking hydrometer readings).

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Old 07-07-2009, 01:23 AM   #2
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I go 3 weeks, every beer except wheats. I don't do secondaries anymore unless I'm lagering for extended periods (i.e., > 3 weeks).

So, my recommendation to you is to leave it alone for 3 weeks, then bottle. Not only does this ensure complete fermentation, but it will allow sedimentation, clearing of your beer. If you are careful during bottling, you can end up with a very clear beer!

I usually add gelatin after 2 weeks, then crash cool my beers.

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Old 07-07-2009, 01:27 AM   #3
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First off...welcome.

Secondly, if you prefer to NOT use a hydrometer then you're not going to be consistent and it will show in your beer.

The time to rack to a secondary is when the OG reaches the projected FG.

To get this number you take an OG reading. Most yeasts attenuate at about 75%. To get an FG divide the OG by 4. Example: OG=1.048 divide 48 by 4 = 12. Your projected FG should be 1.012.

At this point you brew is basically done fermenting.

Racking to a secondary is actually to give the brew time to mature and clear. This is when the yeast falls out of suspension to produce a clear beer. This time period is really based upon how cold the room is while it's setting there. It could take 3 days or 3 weeks. To speed up the process many brewers will cold crash by placing their carboy in a fridge where the yeast will fall out and become clear.

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Old 07-07-2009, 01:32 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by passedpawn View Post
...So, my recommendation to you is to leave it alone for 3 weeks, then bottle. Not only does this ensure complete fermentation...
Three weeks does not ensure complete fermentation.

No amount of time ensures that.

Without taking a gravity reading you don't know (for sure) if your beer is done fermenting...you're only guessing/hoping it's done.

If you don't take a reading and rack to a bottling bucket with priming sugar added you may rouse some yeast up (or the temp will rise) and the yeast will become active again...after you bottle this you are risking bottle grenades (explosions).

Take gravity readings to be sure. Let it take all the guess work out of the equations.
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Old 07-07-2009, 02:54 AM   #5
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I readily admit to a lot of guessing and hoping. I'll continue with the 3-week rule until I run into a problem.

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Old 07-07-2009, 04:11 AM   #6
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Bill is correct, hydrometer is the only way to know. You can ferment for 3 weeks or 3 months but if you have a stuck fermentation, bottling can have dangerously explosive results.

To the OP - if you are not going to take a reading, three weeks in primary is minimum. After that it is up to you whether you want to move to secondary, leave in primary longer, or bottle.

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Old 07-07-2009, 04:30 AM   #7
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Just remember the reason for racking is to get the gop (highly technical term) at the bottom out of the beer. If you rack before fermentation is complete you will have two fermenters with gop on the bottom albeit the second fermenter will probably have a little less gop. The second reason is to recover some of the yeast for your next brew.

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Old 07-07-2009, 04:30 AM   #8
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I readily admit to a lot of guessing and hoping. I'll continue with the 3-week rule until I run into a problem.
Granted, whatever process you use is yours...we're only sharing our vast stores of knowledge so you don't have to repeat mistakes already made and remedies already identified...meaning...we're here to help.

With that said, if you run into a problem it may be too late to solve and you'll be dumping 5 gals or beer and supplies down the drain. We don't want that happening to anyone.
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Old 07-07-2009, 05:50 AM   #9
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So using the hydrometer is the way to go, huh?

I have only a vague idea on how to use a hydrometer. Here's what I think I'm supposed to do:

(1) Take a reading after my boiled wort has been chilled to somewhere below 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Record that reading.

(2) Take a reading after about 12 days of fermentation. Then again after 3 days. Once the hydrometer remains stable for 3 days, the beer is ready to bottle.

Is that right? If so, my only question is regarding what numbers I supposed to be checking for at the fermentation reading. Right now, I'd be confused. For example, if my reading after boiling was 1.010 and my reading during fermentation was 1.130, I'd be like, "okay... I've got these numbers, but what are they supposed to be telling me?"

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Old 07-07-2009, 06:54 AM   #10
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Download a free trial of Beersmith. Put in your recipe, and it'll tell you what your target OG (original gravity) is. It'll also tell you what your target FG (finished gravity) is. You're shooting for both of those numbers, +/- a few thousandths.

The OG will be the higher number. The FG will be (depending on the yeast and other factors) roughly speaking, 25% of your FG (the digits to the right of the decimal).

The difference between the two will tell you your alcohol content.Beersmith will figure it out for you, or you can figure it out with the formula (OG - FG)*131 = ABV%

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