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Old 12-18-2012, 10:41 PM   #1
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Default Should we be racking? If so, when?

I think that we are told by generic wisdom that letting a cider sit to long in primary risks imbuing cider with the taste of dead yeast.

That being said, I have recently heard of several recipes that call for up to four weeks in primary fermentation, some omitting secondary altogether.

What do you guys think? When should we be racking the cider off of the yeast, if we should do so at all?

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Old 12-18-2012, 11:02 PM   #2
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I personally think that the fears of off flavors as a result of sitting on the lees are overblown. Some ciders and wines sit on the lees for months at a time and come out great. This practice may have en effect on the product, but I have yet to see any proven negative outcome. By comparison, four weeks is a short period.

I like to rack once the primary fermentation starts to slow, but before it stops completely. This gets the heavy lees out of the picture, while allowing the remaining fermentation to form a protective CO2 layer on top of the cider for aging. Others rack off any time the lees get above 1/2 inch regardless of the stage the cider is in.

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Old 12-20-2012, 11:24 PM   #3
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I just racked to secondary with a batch I had use champagne yeast with, at about 9 days in I had no activity in the airlock. I'm assuming the yeast is done, so wouldn't it make since at that point to transfer? Would there be any benefits of leaving it on the yeast any longer?

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Old 12-20-2012, 11:35 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigego236 View Post
I just racked to secondary with a batch I had use champagne yeast with, at about 9 days in I had no activity in the airlock. I'm assuming the yeast is done, so wouldn't it make since at that point to transfer? Would there be any benefits of leaving it on the yeast any longer?
No. There are no advantages to leaving the cider on spent yeast.
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Old 12-20-2012, 11:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigego236
I just racked to secondary with a batch I had use champagne yeast with, at about 9 days in I had no activity in the airlock. I'm assuming the yeast is done, so wouldn't it make since at that point to transfer? Would there be any benefits of leaving it on the yeast any longer?
If it's done I doubt there is any benefit but ask LeBreton AKA LeBadassBrewer
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Old 12-21-2012, 02:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigego236 View Post
I just racked to secondary with a batch I had use champagne yeast with, at about 9 days in I had no activity in the airlock. I'm assuming the yeast is done, so wouldn't it make since at that point to transfer? Would there be any benefits of leaving it on the yeast any longer?
There are some styles of wine that call for sitting on the yeast for quite some time. The yeast is stirred up daily for a few months to suspend it throughout the wine. This is called a SurLee (sp?) method. Why do it? It imparts more body and a creamy texture/mouthfeel.

Now, that may not be things that enhance a CIDER. But I did want to chime in and say that the yeast CAN play a part 'post fermentation'. Hope this gives you more info so that you can make a better choice on what you want to do with your brew! :-)
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Old 12-21-2012, 03:14 PM   #7
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Well, I just racked my cider to secondary after two and a half weeks. It was still bubbling pretty regularly too, but the lees were really building up. S.G. was down to 1.020 from 1.060. It's still bubbling a bit in secondary though. I'll let you guys know in a month how it turns out.

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Old 12-22-2012, 10:34 AM   #8
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(Thumbs up)

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Old 12-22-2012, 10:44 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by LeBreton View Post
I like to rack once the primary fermentation starts to slow, but before it stops completely. This gets the heavy lees out of the picture, while allowing the remaining fermentation to form a protective CO2 layer on top of the cider for aging.
I couldn't agree more. I think this is solid advice and the method I use.
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Old 12-22-2012, 08:29 PM   #10
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Ok, I think I'm setting myself up for a scolding here, but I need advice with a variation on the same question:

I have cider that has been in primary for a month and a half. Airlock activity has almost stopped. I can't see how deep the lees are, as the 55 gal. poly drum isn't transparent. I assume it's on a fair amount of lees. I am afraid that if I rack to secondary now, there won't be enough sugar and/or nutrients for the yeast to generate enough CO2 to protect it. (I don't have a gravity reading because I'm afraid to open it at this point.)

Here's my problem: normally I would just bottle at this point, but I'm leaving on a trip in a couple days and probably won't have time to bottle until I get back. Aside from yeast autolysis, what risk do I face in leaving it in primary for another three weeks? If I did that, it would bring it to almost three months total in primary, sitting on a big cake of lees the whole time.

If this is a terrible idea, I could bottle most of it right now, but I wouldn't have the chance to backsweeten and then pasteurize. So I would be bottling dry. (Again, I assume it's dry, based on airlock activity, but haven't actually taken a gravity reading)

So, to recap, three options:

1) do nothing, leave it on the lees for another three weeks
2) rack to secondary, risk not having enough fermentation to fill headspace with CO2
3) bottle now

Thanks for any help.

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