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Old 04-23-2012, 03:15 AM   #1
amcclai7
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Default Is secondary fermentation an absolute must for high gravs?

I have brewed quite a few batches of beer and have never used a secondary fermentation. I care absolutely nothing for clarity. In fact, I prefer a slight haze in all my beers. Call me crazy but I think it adds flavor and mouthfeel.

However, most of these batches were extract and low-mid grav brews. The beer I'm doing now went in at 1.067 and with a high attenuating yeast is supposed to finish at 1.016 (6.7%) Add the .3% from the priming sugar and we're looking at a full 7%. Provided the thing ferments out to 1.016, or very close, within a week do I really need to use a secondary?

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Old 04-23-2012, 03:27 AM   #2
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A secondary is not required. Higher gravity beer will require more time in the fermenter to get it to final gravity. You will see this when you take your gravity reading. Usually 10 days to 2 weeks in primary and 3 to 4 for higher gravity beers. It has been shown that beer sitting on the yeast cake for up to 4 months have not produced any weird taste in beer.

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Old 04-23-2012, 03:29 AM   #3
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I would say no. The only reason I move mine to secondary are if I want to add additions like oak, vanilla, etc. or if I plan on conditioning in carboy before bottling. I don't like to keep my beer in primary for more than 4 weeks.

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Old 04-23-2012, 03:35 AM   #4
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Awesome! Thanks for the replies.

Any idea on how long it will take? I've never done a beer quite this big before. It's going from 1.067 to 1.016 and I used Safbrew S-33 which is a high attenuating yeast. Temp is right about 70F.

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Old 04-23-2012, 03:37 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kvess View Post
A secondary is not required. Higher gravity beer will require more time in the fermenter to get it to final gravity. You will see this when you take your gravity reading. Usually 10 days to 2 weeks in primary and 3 to 4 for higher gravity beers. It has been shown that beer sitting on the yeast cake for up to 4 months have not produced any weird taste in beer.
I'm also very glad to hear this. I have been warned about this very thing many times but it never made any sense to me. I'm glad the myth has been debunked.
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Old 04-23-2012, 04:18 AM   #6
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I have to caution that I left a beer in the primary fermenter in my basement for a few months, and it ended up tasting like meat that had gone bad. I now know what yeast autolysis tastes like. It's not worth the risk, in my estimation. That batch went down the drain. A few weeks in primary, maybe, but more than that is a risk I am no longer willing to take.

Calling it a secondary fermenter is our homebrewers habit, but is not really correct. It would be secondary fermentation if you repitch with a second yeast, as in adding champagne yeast to finish fermenting a very high gravity brew. In the industry I believe they refer to them as bright tanks. The beer is moved off of the bulk of the yeast, and the remaining yeast can flocculate without worrying about autolysis. The tradeoffs are the risk of contamination in transfer, and of oxidation. I prefer to take those risks. These days I use Cornies as bright tanks.

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Old 04-23-2012, 05:05 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThreeDogsNE View Post

The tradeoffs are the risk of contamination in transfer, and of oxidation.
This is exactly why I only secondary when I'm aging for a long time or adding oak or fruit or whatever. Other than that, I've primaried for 3 months+ myself and have only positive things to say.
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Old 04-23-2012, 09:45 AM   #8
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5 days should be enough to ferment to final gravity, depending on the yeast, and 4 weeks is usually a pretty good amount of total time to wait before bottling or legging. Probably another 4 weeks before the beer starts to taste really good.

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Old 04-23-2012, 11:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amcclai7
Awesome! Thanks for the replies.

Any idea on how long it will take? I've never done a beer quite this big before. It's going from 1.067 to 1.016 and I used Safbrew S-33 which is a high attenuating yeast. Temp is right about 70F.
I would consider making a starter for a gravity that high, it's not necessary but would help ferment quicker.
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Old 04-23-2012, 11:22 AM   #10
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You can't put a specific time on beer being ready. Most wheat beers are made to go from grain to glass in 2 weeks with peek flavor being at that time. Look up centennial blond on here. The grains to glass on this is two weeks. Research has proven that with the amount of beer that a home brewer brews leaving the beer on the yeast cake does not produce off flavors. Palmer never uses a secondary. If you are getting wired taste in your beer it usually is from fermenting at the higher temp or contamination of some sort. Your grain bill also could have been messed up when it was filled.

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