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Old 02-18-2010, 12:21 AM   #1
celts
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Default Bulk Aging v Bottle Aging

I'm part of a small homebrew club at my college. We're trying to present a topic each meeting for our members to think about. I'm going to present the pro/con discussion thats oh so familiar to this board of fermenting in a primary fermenter to completion v using a secondary fermenter. I guess my question to those who adhere to using only a primary is "What is the advantage of bulk aging higher gravity beers for months at a time in a secondary compared to just bottling?" I'm just trying to fully understand Revy's last point here. http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/seco...0/#post1438252

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Me personnally I leave nearly all my beers in primary for a month and then bottle and only use secondary, if I am lagering in the cold for several months, adding something like hops or fruit or oak to the beer to flavor it, have had a lot of fruit like pumpkin added to the boil that carried over into the fermentor, or if it is a huge beer that I feel benefits for months of bulk aging time.......
and perhaps I'm taking out of context. If so, let me know.

Oh and since I have your guys attention, I have a club member who asked about brewing a barleywine. He read something about adding a second packet of yeast sometime after he transfered his brew to conditioning tank. Is this right? I haven't brewed something like that.
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Old 02-18-2010, 01:01 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by celts View Post
What is the advantage of bulk aging higher gravity beers for months at a time in a secondary compared to just bottling?" I'm just trying to fully understand Revy's last point here.

Oh and since I have your guys attention, I have a club member who asked about brewing a barleywine. He read something about adding a second packet of yeast sometime after he transfered his brew to conditioning tank. Is this right? I haven't brewed something like that.
Conditioning in bulk leaves less room for oxidation since there is a smaller surface area where the beer is exposed to air vs in individual bottles. Sitting on the trub over a prolonged period of time also changed the flavor of the final beer. The yeast are given more time to soak back in extra compounds which can be considered undesirable in a green beer as well as the yeast cells lysing and releasing an "earthy" flavor back into the beer. For large beers >6.5% (leaving out fruit additions and dry hopping) i will use a secondary (after a month of primary) for anywhere from 2 months all the way to 8 to very good results. It also give the fusel alcohols which are produced during fermentation to fade away faster and give you a more accurate idea of what the finished beer is going to taste like. If an uninteded flavor is left, it can still be corrected. When i age for this amount of time, most of the yeast flocculated and drops out of solution, which means that unless i keg and carbonate, i will need to a small amount of fresh yeast in with the priming sugar. This step can be skipped however carbonation takes much longer otherwise and i find the taste to be much cleaner with fresh yeast.
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Old 02-18-2010, 01:12 AM   #3
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This is an excellent question and I am very interested in what everyones opinions are.

EDIT. I have nothing else to add

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Old 02-18-2010, 02:46 AM   #4
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It's all about flavor and how you think you can best get the flavor.

I think there is a general misunderstanding among new brewers that additional fermentation takes place in the secondary fermentor. Fermentation should always be completed in the primary unless you are adding more fermentables (like adding fruit) or doing a lambic where fermentation continues to take place for an extremely long time.

Like was said above, whether you stay in the primary longer or go to a secondary, it's about getting rid of potential off flavors. Bigger beers have more potential for off flavors because they are more likely to develop fusels (hotness/alcoholic flavors) in addition to all the regular bug-a-boos.

There are risks with either staying on the yeast longer or going to a secondary. They scarey boogyman of staying in the primary too long is autolysis (yeast eating dead yeast because they have run out of nutrients in the beer). Autolysis happens but is rare.

The boogymen of racking to a secondary are oxidization (wet cardboard taste) and wild bacteria infection from bad sanitization. Both of those are also rare. You have to splash a lot of beer to get oxidization coming through and you have to have bad sanitization practices infect a beer that already has alcohol in it and +70% of the fermentables consumed.

So for most beers it comes back to personal experience. How do you think your beers turn out best? I think my beers turn out better with 2 - 3 weeks in the primary and 2 - 4 weeks in a secondary. But I have left beers in the primary for 6 - 8 weeks and gone straight to bottles.

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Old 02-18-2010, 02:49 AM   #5
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It's been my observation that bulk aging gets a beer to it's prime faster than in the bottle. I've had a beer in the fermenter for 2 weeks and then bottled and it was about a month after carbonation that it was really good. Same recipe with 4 weeks in the fermenter and the beer was that good right after carbonation. No research or evidence to back me up, just something I've noticed.

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Old 02-18-2010, 10:45 AM   #6
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I secondary because I never have the amount of empty bottles needed for bottling. When I do have the bottles I procrastinate, and am not always in the mood to do the bottling work. I also secondary because I need my fermenting vessel for my next brew. So my secondary fermentations are usually in a state of limbo. lol. I get to them when I get to them. I also think that its a good idea to let your beer maturate as a whole in a secondary for a while rather than rushing it into single bottles. Another benefit for me to secondary is that I can't own a hydrometer because I'm always breaking them. lol Yes I'm that guy. Sorry in advance to all the text book brewers, teachers, and excited noobs. I don't feel that this is a taboo subject. Beer can be made safely without a hydrometer, I've been proving it to myself for 30 years never once had a bottle bomb. Also I love to see the beer SRM visually in secondary. The beauty of fermentation is huge for me and pleasing to my nerves, and relieves stress. I ferment, secondary, and bottle all in clear glass and love to visit and inspect at all stages. Visibility gives you an understanding and feel to where the beer is at. From high to low kraeusen in primary, to a calm clearing secondary, to seeing yeast cake form on the bottom of a capped finished bottle. I could not fathom fermenting in a bucket for 3 weeks then rack into a keg or dark bottle. Those guys are missing out on the visual aspect.

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Old 02-18-2010, 11:02 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dvdfnzwbr View Post
I could not fathom fermenting in a bucket for 3 weeks then rack into a keg or dark bottle. Those guys are missing out on the visual aspect.
Man I heard ya about missing this. I've only brewed in buckets and I can't stand it. I sometimes leave my OG sample in a cup on my counter so I can see a mini-me ferment of what's happening in my bucket. It's pathetic really. I think my next investment will be a glass or better bottle.
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Old 02-18-2010, 11:06 AM   #8
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I have loosely corked secondarys and let me tell you that fermentation is never 100 % completely done because they always release a little pressure when I remove them. Yeast will never leave your beer unless you kill it chemically and filter it. So adding yeast when racking to the bottling stage is only important if you are interested in conditioning your beer with an active fermenting yeast to wake up a long cold lagered beer.

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Old 02-18-2010, 12:55 PM   #9
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There is a certain amount of dissolved CO2 in solution after fermentation is completed, this will slowly be released until the pressure balances with the atmospher, if you cork the carboy it becomes evident...probably most of what you were observing dvdfnzwbr.

My observation is that aging in kegs has always resulted in a beer that comes into its own faster than beer that was bottled. I have not done a side by side; however, I'm half bottling half kegging a Belgian strong in the next week so if I remember I will do a side by side of the keg and 750ml bottle and post my thoughts...it will be a good night.

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Old 02-18-2010, 10:30 PM   #10
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[QUOTE=Bensiff;1891108]There is a certain amount of dissolved CO2 in solution after fermentation is completed, this will slowly be released until the pressure balances with the atmospher, if you cork the carboy it becomes evident...probably most of what you were observing dvdfnzwbr.
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Just because you can't visibly see fermentation taking place does not mean that it isn't happening on a minute scale. Please provide experimental proof or scientific data to back a statement of, "Fermentation being complete", and at which point that it can be declared.

Here is the text book definition of secondary fermentation: The second, slower stage of fermentation, which, depending on the type of beer, lasts from a few weeks to many months.

Anyone thinking that fermentation is 100% complete in the primary would find alarming results if they casked (sealed closed) a secondary carboy. Which I do not recommend trying. Take it from my experimental experience in trying to achieve better carbonation in my beer.

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