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Old 05-26-2012, 05:39 PM   #21
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But, and this is a big but, I have noticed that many beers benefit from and extra week or two on the cake, 3-4 weeks total. It's not a 'clean up' thing, if there's any clean up, that happens within a day or two of FG, and really shouldn't be necessary if you're treating your yeast properly and controlling temps. It's a maturation thing, obviously if you give a beer a bit more time, it continues to mature. So if leave it a week or two longer before packaging, it'll be a week or two more conditioned once it's carbed. This can help with clarity, and honestly with flavor.
Is there any meaningful difference between letting it sit an extra week on the yeast and an extra week in the keg?

While most of my beers ferment 11 or 18 days (depending on whether I dry hop) and then cold crash for 2-3 days before kegging, I can tell that they're changing and maturing for the next week while in the keg and carbonated.

For example, I notice that my milk stout (lots of roasted grains in there) can easily be packaged in 2 weeks. It continues to change and mature in the keg and it really comes together at about the 4-5 week mark. I just see no benefit to leaving it in the fermenter for that maturation when I can just as easily get it into the keg and have room in the fermenter for another beer.
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Old 05-26-2012, 07:00 PM   #22
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Good thread, folks. I'm in your corner, and only have a little to add at the moment.

When I was at Bell's, many moons ago, we typically released beer for sale 14 days after brewing. Basically, a week in ferm, a week bottle conditioning. It was assumed that the beers would see about a week in transit from brewery to consumer, so they would then be 3 weeks brew to glass. At Rogue beers were maybe 14 days brew to release, this is typical of other packaging facilities I have worked in. Pubs tend to shoot for a 14 day flip, but I have done as little as 10 days (maybe less, I don't recall) with ales fermented in a spundig equipped tank. These beers were unfiltered, but cold crashed with a couple yeast drops for clarity. At home, I have turned a beer over in as little as 8 days (4 days ferm, 2 crashed, 2 days carbing with CO2 stone). These were pretty basic extract beers for a party... essentially ale versions of Helles and Marzen using 100% DME, noble hops and S-04. They were still a bit cloudy, not bad, but perfectly drinkable. BTW, I am not ADVOCATING an 8 day beer... those beers would have improved with another week or two in the ferm, but they were good for the party in question. The point is that it CAN be done and still have a good beer.

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Old 05-26-2012, 07:25 PM   #23
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Although I've been brewing for close to 5 years now, I like to read through the beginners forum in the hopes that I can give something back to the HBT community which has helped me out greatly over much of that time. However, I think there is a cadre of very vocal members who are giving misleading advice regarding the "aging" of average gravity ales.

Now, I understand that some errors common to new brewers (underpitching, warm fermentations, etc.) can be "cleaned up" by spending a little more time in the primary. That's helpful advice for someone who has an off-flavor, but I repeatedly see simple questions of "how long does it take?" answered with "at least three weeks in primary, but the longer the better." While that advice won't hurt the beer (much), I think it has the potential to turn off some new brewers, not to mention giving some a crutch to lean on while their process could be improved.

Furthermore, if someone - even a well respected member like Yooper - gives a more realistic answer, it's usually followed by a chorus of "why risk it?", "what's the rush?", or "patience is a virtue". So as some food for thought, I figured I'd supply some rationale for the counter-question of "why wait?"

We can brew faster; we have the technology

It seems that many of the folks who advocate extended fermentations are really just talking about waiting for the beer to clear. While that may take several weeks at normal fermentation temps, you can reduce that to a couple of days - or even overnight - if you cold crash and / or use finings. You can usually find someone unloading an old fridge for free on craigslist, so unless you live in a tiny apartment, there's really no excuse for not having the ability to cold crash. Add in the fact that once you scrounge $40 - $70 for a temperature controller, you have yourself a fermentation chamber that allows you to brew far better beer than in your closet, this is kind of a no-brainer.

Finings are a little trickier subject. Gelatin is cheap, easy to use, and will clear a cold-crashed beer in a matter of hours. But I can understand if one (or one's friends/family) doesn't want animal products used in the production of their beer. There are also vegan alternatives, but I don't know how well they work. If they do their job even half as well as gelatin / isinglass, I don't see any reason not to use them. And before anyone says "Reinheitsgebot", keep in mind that the original didn't even include yeast, so maybe we shouldn't be using 15th century provincial laws to influence our brewing.

Reducing cycle time means that you can brew more often

What's going to help a new brewer more: looking at a fermenter in their basement, or brewing another batch? There's a recent book that posits that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become truly great at something. But I don't think you can count the time it took Calloway to make your golf clubs or Baldwin to make your piano. Once you pitch your yeast, it's their beer and you might as well move on to something else.

You need less equipment to maintain a pipeline

Depending on the beer and number of other beers I have on tap, it usually takes me about three weeks to kick a keg. Luckily, it takes about three weeks to get a batch ready to serve, so it all kind of works out. If I were to subscribe to the month long primary club, I'd need more kegs and probably more fermenters. And more fermentation chambers. And a place to store more kegs and more fermenters. And god help you if you choose to bottle.

You can drink "seasonally" with less planning

Despite what that glorified rat from Punxsutawney said, we had an early spring this year. I'd hate to be stuck with six more weeks of stouts when what I'm really in the mood for is a cream ale.

You might never get to sample your beer at its peak


While the word is filtering down that Hefes and IPAs are best when they're fresh, the truth is that it's true for most other beer styles as well. Unless you're talking a really big beer, it's going to be at its prime about 3 to 6 weeks after brew day. A good example is a basic Irish dry stout. I've seen folks say that any stout needs several months of conditioning, but that's just ridiculous for a 1.038 Guinness clone. My dry stouts clock in at about 1.042 and exhibit a fantastic silky, malty character that's completely gone if I let one go as far as two months after brew day.

I wanna be like Mike

I'm still one of the many who harbors delusions of going pro. Any brewer who stuck to the schedules advocated by many on this site would go broke in less than a year. Chances are that whatever your dream commercial beer is - the one that makes you say "if I could only brew like that" - it was packaged within three weeks of being brewed. There's no reason you can't do the same thing. And if you do want to turn this hobby into a living, you're going to have to figure out how.



I hope that at least some of these concepts make sense to some folks. I know that I won't be able to change the minds of the most vocal members of the month long primary club, but I hope that the more moderate members of the site might see how there might be valid reasons for sticking to a timely brewing schedule. I'm interested to know how y'all feel.
Que slow clap....
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Old 05-26-2012, 07:26 PM   #24
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Is there any meaningful difference between letting it sit an extra week on the yeast and an extra week in the keg?
No- conditioning time is conditioning time whether it happens in a bucket, carboy, keg or bottle. What IS important, though, is temperature. Beer ages faster at room temperature. For a beer that needs some aging, room temperature is great. For a beer that is absolutely perfect the way it is, it's good to slow down the aging so cellaring or even cold storage is preferable.

In an unfiltered beer, there are hundreds of billions of yeast in suspension. Nothing "magical" happens to the beer by sitting on top of flocculated yeast, so the actual conditioning is done by the yeast in suspension anyway.
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Old 05-26-2012, 07:41 PM   #25
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There are lots of great points made by all. I'm one of those month primary people because I think that's when my beers tend to taste the best. But it's definitely an issue of style and personal preference. Beers with hop character start losing that character right away so as time ticks down the beer losing some of the fresh hop quality. Personally I do a lot of malt forward beers (and very few hoppy) and I feel those tend to be best about 6-8 weeks out when the malt flavors and yeast flavors have had time to meld into a really good product. I would probably lager those beers during that time if I had the equipment.

Anything with good hop character should be out of the primary as soon as fermentation ends and you give it a few days for clean up (whether it is in primary, secondary, keg, etc.). I had an eye opening experience at the New Belgium tour. They gave us fat tire that was two hours off the bottling line. It was a completely different beer from what I've found on tap, in cans, or bottles. Lots of really good hop character. I assume they designed the recipe to taste less hoppy when it gets to the consumer but that fresh fat tire had lots of good hop flavor. I'm not a huge fat tire fan but it was actually delicious. So anything relying on hop flavor would definitely get packaged asap at my house.

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Old 05-26-2012, 07:49 PM   #26
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No- conditioning time is conditioning time whether it happens in a bucket, carboy, keg or bottle. What IS important, though, is temperature. Beer ages faster at room temperature. For a beer that needs some aging, room temperature is great. For a beer that is absolutely perfect the way it is, it's good to slow down the aging so cellaring or even cold storage is preferable.

In an unfiltered beer, there are hundreds of billions of yeast in suspension. Nothing "magical" happens to the beer by sitting on top of flocculated yeast, so the actual conditioning is done by the yeast in suspension anyway.
Well said
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Old 05-26-2012, 08:07 PM   #27
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Is there any meaningful difference between letting it sit an extra week on the yeast and an extra week in the keg?
Well, I think that depends on where the keg is. At room temp, only enough pressure to seat the seal, no. It's basically in a 'secondary' at that point. In my kegerator, carbing or carbed, being pulled to taste here n there, sure. Big difference, IMO. I think Yoop explains it pretty well so I'll avoid a second take at the details.

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No- conditioning time is conditioning time whether it happens in a bucket, carboy, keg or bottle. What IS important, though, is temperature. Beer ages faster at room temperature. For a beer that needs some aging, room temperature is great. For a beer that is absolutely perfect the way it is, it's good to slow down the aging so cellaring or even cold storage is preferable.

In an unfiltered beer, there are hundreds of billions of yeast in suspension. Nothing "magical" happens to the beer by sitting on top of flocculated yeast, so the actual conditioning is done by the yeast in suspension anyway.
Pretty much how I see it. Beers like pale ale and wheats, package 'em fast and drink 'em up, no reason not to if your process is solid. But if a beer benefits from some age (talking a few weeks here, not long term), leave it in the fermenter, no reason not to and maybe some reasons to.
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Old 05-26-2012, 08:40 PM   #28
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I have watched the wait for fermentation to finish then package faction and the you must leave your beer alone for a month faction. I have then paid attention to how my fermentations have gone. Some finish quickly and others have still been fermenting after 10+ days.

So, just to make things easy for me I ferment for about 3 weeks, bottle condition for 2 weeks and check one out.

I have a bucket, 2 six gallon Better Bottles, 1 five gallon Better Bottle, 2 three gallon water bottles and 8 five gallon buckets (but only 2 lids) which I can use for fermentation. So, equipment does not come into the picture for how long to ferment. I brew on average every 2 weeks and have about 8 varieties to choose from so getting one finished is not a high priority.

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Old 05-27-2012, 12:48 PM   #29
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This should be a sticky right beside the 24-72 hours thread and continually linked with that time heals all wounds business.

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Old 05-27-2012, 01:17 PM   #30
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I agree with this thread. I generally brew low-medium gravity beers. I'll do a week or two of fermentation, maybe three if I'm adding hops or other stuff, then bottle or keg it. If it's bottled, I'll set a few bottles aside to "age" for a few months, but if it's kegged I generally carb it up, tap it, and drink it fresh. I've got limited space and equipment, so having a pipeline of big aged beers isn't really practical for me.

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