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Old 09-24-2012, 07:37 PM   #1
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Default Conditioning Questions

I brewed up an IPA with an OG of 1.068 and let it ferment for 7 days at which point I'd hit the FG I wanted for an ABV of 7%. So I racked it from the primary to a secondary. It's been sitting for one week conditioning and I plan to leave it sit for another week or two if not more. How long will you guys leave your beers condition?

John Palmers book says that toward the end of the conditioning process the yeast will start to settle out and the beer will clear. Is this generally an easy enough indicator to follow? Right now my beer is cloudy and I guess I'll see how it looks in another week or two.

I'm simply not in a rush and would like to try to let my brew hit it's peak flavor. Once its done conditioning I'll be putting it straight into a keg setup and letting it carb. So no bottle conditioning this time around. I'd just like to come up with a plan for conditioning. Whether it's a visual inspection or simply a date on the calendar I choose. Just wondering what your best practices are.

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Old 09-24-2012, 07:51 PM   #2
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For me it's 2-3 weeks in primary, then 2 weeks in secondary on your standard beers around 5% abv.

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Old 09-24-2012, 08:11 PM   #3
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Is there a reason you leave in in the primary for so long? Isn't that basically conditioning it for 1-2 weeks in the primary then another two in the secondary for 3-4 weeks of total conditioning?

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Old 09-24-2012, 08:17 PM   #4
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the final gravity you wanted might not be the final gravity the yeast wanted.
it will finish fermenting and then clear in the secondary.

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Old 09-24-2012, 08:17 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackRock View Post
Is there a reason you leave in in the primary for so long? Isn't that basically conditioning it for 1-2 weeks in the primary then another two in the secondary for 3-4 weeks of total conditioning?
Most of the brewers I know don't use a "secondary" at all (more properly called a "bright tank" or a clearing vessel).

There isn't any real reason to rack to another vessel if not adding more fermentables or doing something like oaking, unless you're aging for a long time. Beer will clear just fine in the fermenter.

I normally leave the beer in the fermenter 10-14 days, then package the beer.

A good indication that the beer is ready to package is that it's been at FG for at least 3 days (so the yeast can "clean up" after itself, including digesting its own waste products once fermentation ends), and it's clear. This doesn't take all that long in a well made beer.

For dryhopping, I will add the dryhops approximately 5-7 days before packaging the beer.

So, I'd say most beers are kegged at day 10-17 in my brewery.
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Old 09-24-2012, 08:22 PM   #6
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For the moment, forget about the distinction between primary and secondary. Your question becomes, how long do you wait between pitching yeast, and kegging / bottling? Because for the most part, the beer doesn't know the difference.

I generally go 4 weeks, then bottle. No secondary, but if I did I would still aim for 4 weeks between pitching and bottling. If it was a really big beer (or a lager of course), I would go longer.

When you transfer to secondary, make sure the yeast has reached its FG, not your FG. Your FG is just a guess or a hope, but the yeast know what they're doing.

Cheers!

ETA: As you can tell from Yooper's response, different people have different ideas about conditioning time. My "normal" time of four weeks is probably longer than most people, and I make no claim of superiority. It's just the way I do it. When in doubt, listen to Yooper!

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Old 09-24-2012, 08:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
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the final gravity you wanted might not be the final gravity the yeast wanted.
it will finish fermenting and then clear in the secondary.
I should have said "target" I guess. Day 5 my FG was 6.96 and then on Day 7 it measured 6.96 again so I called it and racked to my secondary.

My original plan was to basically keg my beer once it had 3 full weeks of conditioning after it reached a steady FG. I wasn't sure if it would be done in a few days or 10. It just turned out that it was done in a week. I wasn't going to worry about racking it to a secondary vessel but decided to start another batch.

So I'm at 15 days now from pitching my yeast and I guess I'll just watch it over another two weeks and see if it clears any. Still sorta clear as mud, but it helps to know what everyone else does. Though with a range from 10 days to 30 from pitching to keg it's still a huge range and seems more like an arbitrary choice as to when and how long you condition.
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Old 09-24-2012, 08:51 PM   #8
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I second the idea that there is little reason to rack to a secondary vessel unless adding another ingredient like fruit or oak, or if aging the beer for months. I tend to follow the 3 week guideline from pitch to packaging, but, like Yooper, I am starting to think this is unnecessary (though not bad either) and am going to try to get my beers packaged quicker by only waiting 2 weeks. The beer should be finished fermenting in only a few days, so that's still plenty of time to condition before packaging.

A quick note about the OP's comment about the beer hitting the FG he wanted...you need to be careful with this and make sure that you truly have a stable FG before packaging. It only takes a few gravity points for you to have overcharged beer and/or bottle bombs.

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Old 09-24-2012, 09:21 PM   #9
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This is definitely not a question of single stage versus two stage fermentation, simply time from pitching to packaging as Frazier put it. I only racked to a secondary for practice and to get my primary open again for another batch I wanted to make. I also read the numerous threads on the topic along with Palmer's take on it and I just felt like it was worth giving it a try moving to a secondary.

Now after hearing other peoples times maybe I should just keg it next week putting me at three weeks from pitching my yeast to packaging. I've just read all these posts where people are trying to rush their beer and want to bottle the day after brewing I'm more interested in building a process that yields good beer and if it means letting my beer ferment and condition for a full month or more from pitching to packaging then I'd simply do that.

It sounds more like I could be getting beers finished sooner though as I said my current batch of 15 days is still pretty cloudy. I'd never heard of a 3 week pitch to packaging guideline though. I'd just read the attenuative process was generally 2-6 days and conditioning was anywhere from 1-3 weeks for a standard Ale. Mine started chugging along in a few hours after pitching and bubbled vigorously till say day 4. So on day 5 I took my first SG reading. Then two days later I took a second. My guess is that most of my primary fermenting was completely in about 4 days for this batch. So as of now I've been conditioning for 11 days. Based on Yooper's timeline my yeast should have had plenty time to work through the seconds.

I guess over the next week I'll just keep watching the beer and see if it continues to clear. You guys ever start tasting your beer during the conditioning phase?

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Old 09-24-2012, 09:33 PM   #10
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Quote:
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I guess over the next week I'll just keep watching the beer and see if it continues to clear. You guys ever start tasting your beer during the conditioning phase?
I think it's pretty tough to judge clarity in the fermenter. Small potatoes anyway; it's one of those things that happens more or less automatically based on your procedures earlier in the process.

And no, I don't taste samples along the way. I'll take a taste on bottling day; that's it.

Cheers!
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