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Old 03-12-2009, 08:58 PM   #1
pnj
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Default What exactly am I do to my beer by going to secondary early?

I don't know if this should be in the Extract area or here. I have always used grains of some kind but mostly just steeped them. Only recently have I done partial mashes.

I have always left my beer in the primary for a week, then transfered to the secondary. My beer has always been good tasting (a mothers son is never ugly) but I'm wondering if I should be leaving it longer in the primary..?

Should the beer be done fermenting before it's tranfered to the secondary? I always check before bottling but I assumed it was supposed to finish it's fermenting in the secondary..

thanks again.

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Old 03-12-2009, 09:03 PM   #2
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it depends on what you're trying to achieve with your secondary. i think one of the original reasons for secondarys is/was to get the beer away from the trub and let it keep fermenting (moving it before fermentation was complete). i think most people use a secondary as a place for the beer to clear after primary fermentation is complete. could be wrong on the former, tho.

many would say you're just as well off (and some would say better) leaving it in the primary longer...more yeast mass in primary to work its magic, less chance for oxidation and infection during transfer to secondary, etc. i've been convinced and now only go to secondary if i'm going to dry hop. it's also one less step, which is nice!

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Old 03-12-2009, 09:27 PM   #3
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Yes, a beer should be done fermenting before it's racked from the primary.

This is one reason why you should know the OG and your yeast attenuation. Once the OG is reduced by that number (your target FG) then you can rack. Example: OG: 1.060 or just 60...attenuation 75%...divide OG by 4 = 15...this is your projected FG. Once the brew has hit 1.015 it's done and ready to rack to the secondary.

A secondary is NOT a secondary "fermenter". Fermentation is complete already. It's really a clearing tank. It's a place off the old used yeast where it can sit to age, blend and mellow in peace. As this is taking place more yeast is falling out of the brew to produce a CLEANER and CLEARER beer.

The cleaner the brew going into the bottle the better the brew going to the glass.

By racking to a secondary early, or not knowing what the gravity is is not a good thing. For one, you're removing unfermented sugar water off of hard working yeast. Let the yeast do its job. Fermentation is a natural process...and MOST of us know that natural processes can not be changed and should be respected. RDWHAHB!!

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Old 03-12-2009, 09:58 PM   #4
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For my first 12-14 batches I was moving to secondary after about 10 days (checking the gravity before racking to be sure it was done), that gave me a satisfactory result - but the last 3-4 batches I've been busier and was leaving them in primary for 14-15 days. The biggest thing I've noticed so far is that I'm getting on average 2-3 points lower FGs for the same recipes I'd made before. I should know more in a week or two if there's much difference in taste.

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Old 03-12-2009, 10:25 PM   #5
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I always rack to a secondary but it is at least 14 days after I put in the primary. Fermentation is always complete and the beer will sit in the secondary for 3 to 4 weeks. I then keg, and force carbonate for a week and enjoy.

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Old 03-12-2009, 10:54 PM   #6
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Ok, good stuff to know. Looks like I'll have to get a few more primary buckets...

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Old 03-12-2009, 11:39 PM   #7
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I've usually racked to secondary after the kraeusen falls and bubbling has slowed significantly (say, once every 30 seconds or less often). This tends to be within a week (6 days is quite convenient), though most of my beers have been in the 1.038 - 1.052 range or so. My attenuation has been on par with expectations for the most part, so I'm not convinced that this isn't best practice.

In my defense, I will quote John Palmer (whose book and/or website I highly recommend):

Quote:
As the primary phase winds down, a majority of the yeast start settling out and the krausen starts to subside. If you are going to transfer the beer off of the trub and primary yeast cake, this is the proper time to do so.
How to Brew - By John Palmer - Primary or Attenuative Phase

I'm intrigued by the responses on this post, though, and may experiment with letting beer sit in primary longer. I've got a coffee porter that hit about 1.055 OG; I might let it sit for a while longer in the primary.

I've also let beer sit in the primary the entire time with no problems. If you're busy, and you're not producing a very high gravity beer, there's probably no harm in doing this.

More often than not, my racking to secondary is out of necessity. I need the primary for the next beer that I've brewed.
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Old 03-12-2009, 11:51 PM   #8
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I don't use a secondary. 4-6 weeks in a primary. I filter and keg.
If I didn't filter I would only use a secondary as a clearing tank.

So, yes, you need to let it finish fermenting. Yeast do more things once they make the alcohol. They clean up some wast byproducts etc. And the autolysis thing is way way over rated. Unless you are storing your beer somewhere very warm. (Should be at cellar temps if long time on the lees).

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Old 03-13-2009, 12:10 AM   #9
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Default All good advice

The brews that I make are either PAs or IPAs and have an OG of between 1.055 and 1.049. I always use dry yeast. I use either Nottingham or Fermentis US-05. I Leave the beer in the primary for 21 days and I get a FG of between 1.010 and 1.008. I then rack to a secondary and leave for 3 more weeks to age and clear. Since I started this process I noticed that my beer is smoother and more flavorful.

Some batches I bottle and others I keg and cask condition. I have found that cask conditioning gives a finer carbonation bubble and a nice smooth head. Cask conditioning adds another 3-4 to the process so either way from start to drinking my beer sits for a minimum of 9 weeks.

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Old 03-13-2009, 12:28 AM   #10
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As far as time goes, as long as conditions are right you can leave your brew in a secondary for a long time. I usually lager for 100 days.

I am getting ready to keg a Chocolate Coconut Stout tonight. Brew date: 22 Nov 08...that's almost 4 months.

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