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Old 04-18-2009, 07:04 AM   #1
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Default Too long in secondary?

How long is too long for a secondary to sit?

I racked my primary at 10 days when it seemed to be mostly fermented, after that the secondary bubbled half-heartedly through the airlock for just a few hours. That was a week ago.

Now I am about to head overseas for 3 weeks, and I'm wondering whether anything bad would come from letting the secondary sit for what will be a total of four weeks. I got rid of a lot of yeast scum from the bottom of the primary, and I'm assuming one of the reasons for racking is to get that scum out of the picture so it doesnt influence the taste.

As a sub-question, when should I expect the stuff to start tasting drinkable? I took a tentative sip of what came out of the primary but it was... not nice.

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Old 04-18-2009, 09:51 AM   #2
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Default Hey, don't sweat the details!

I have only done two kits of wine, They are months and months before they are ready. One was about six months the other about three.

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Old 04-18-2009, 11:25 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zppz View Post
How long is too long for a secondary to sit?

I racked my primary at 10 days when it seemed to be mostly fermented, after that the secondary bubbled half-heartedly through the airlock for just a few hours. That was a week ago.

Now I am about to head overseas for 3 weeks, and I'm wondering whether anything bad would come from letting the secondary sit for what will be a total of four weeks. I got rid of a lot of yeast scum from the bottom of the primary, and I'm assuming one of the reasons for racking is to get that scum out of the picture so it doesnt influence the taste.

As a sub-question, when should I expect the stuff to start tasting drinkable? I took a tentative sip of what came out of the primary but it was... not nice.
To me, the only time something is too long in the secondary is when it is in there so long it starts getting infected because you (and by you, I mean me) keeps opening the airlock and smelling or sampling it that you (and by you, I mean me) get lazy with sanitary procedures and don't clean the wine thief as good as it should be. I usually get caught up in the lack of time thing and wind up having my beers sitting in primaries and secondaries longer than the ol' 1 week primary, 2 week secondary, but I still obsess about checking out what I've done and it's come back to haunt me twice when instead I should have just left it alone and got to it when I got to it. So in your case, as long as you left it sanitary, you should come home to it being sanitary and fine.

As for the taste... to me, something may not necessarily be drinkable, but it shouldn't taste like swill while in the secondary. So, the first question I have, what was your starting gravity before you pitched your yeast and what was it when you moved it to your secondary? Generally you could/should test the gravity 2 or 3 days in a row (after 7 days or so) to make sure it's stopped moving. It's at all possible your yeast had a late start, but to me 10 days should have been enough, but I don't know your fermentation temperatures and your gravities. You mentioned that it bubbled in the secondary. Airlock activity doesn't always mean its fermenting, it could have just been from the action of moving it over. So without gravity and temps (I bought a bunch of those fish tank stick on thermometers for each of my carboys), it's hard to say what exactly could be wrong. What does it taste like? Too sweet? Too bitter? Too yeasty?


<edit> wow, I suck. I thought I was of some help and then I realized it was the cider forum..... damn it, damn it... </edit>
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Last edited by janzik; 04-18-2009 at 12:57 PM. Reason: <edit> wow, I suck. I thought I was of some help and then I realized it was the cider forum..... damn it, damn it... </edit
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Old 04-18-2009, 11:48 AM   #4
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My wines, ciders, and meads are in the carboy a minimum of a year before bottling. I do rack it if I get thick lees in 60 days or so, so I might rack it a couple of times in the first six months, but I don't rack it after that. I have a rhubarb wine that's been in the carboy since June 2008, and I'll bottle it maybe next fall.

In other words, I wouldn't ever bottle a cider in just a couple of weeks. It's probably not done fermenting, and it probably isn't clear, and it's probably still dropping lees. Leave it about two months, then see if it should be bottled or left to age a bit longer.

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Old 04-18-2009, 11:53 AM   #5
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Started at 1.06 and was around 1.005 when moving into the secondary. IIRC this should be about 7% but it felt more like about 20 to my (amateur) senses. Taste is definitely not sweet, more yeasty than bitter though.
There was no action in the airlock for the first three days, it only started after I got worried and shook the barrel.
There was a tiny leak in my barrel seal (very annoying since I went out and bought a purpose-made one), which I only noticed after shaking because the juice came up to the lid and started bubbling a bit around the gap. This might be the reason the airlock did not bubble at first. After that I think the the hole was small enough that the juice dried in it and it got blocked, so the airlock was busy from that point.
I used nothing apart from sodium meta in the juice for 24hrs before pitching, and then just sprinkled the yeast on top. No pectic stuff or nutrient or anything else.
Temperature ranged between 66-77F, more toward the high end after I shook it.

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Old 04-18-2009, 11:59 AM   #6
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In a few months, that yeasty "bite" will fade and you won't taste it any more. Depending on what yeast you used, this may finish as low as .990 or .992 and it'll be really dry. I like it dry, but some people like to wait for it to be finished, and then stabilize it with campden and sorbate, and to sweeten it some. If you do that, though, you can't carbonate the cider in the bottle.

You still have plenty of time to decide how you want to finish this. You may want to do it dry and still, carbonated, sweetened, etc, depending on how you like it at the end.

Don't rush the process. Wait until it's done fermenting. Then wait for it to be crystal clear. Once it's clear and aged a bit, it'll taste much different.

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Old 04-18-2009, 09:48 PM   #7
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I did the same thing with my cider this year. As someone said, the only problem is if you keep opening it and fiddling so going overseas is probably a good thing, then you have to leave it alone! Also if you want to prime it there may not be many yeast cells left but you can always pitch a bit more yeast if you have to. Mine took about 3 weeks after bottling to get properly fizzy but is fine now.
You can get off flavors from the lees but only after sitting for months, and you have already racked once so I can't see that happening.

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