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Old 03-26-2010, 08:19 PM   #1
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Default A few questions on my first ferment...

Well, I brewed my first beer a couple weeks ago, and now it is sitting in my secondary...

It's a Belgian Tripel kit (w/specialty grains) from Norther brewer. The actual brew process went pretty well, probably because I had helped my cousin brew a batch the weekend before. My original gravity came in at a few points less than the box said, but I think part of that was significant wort loss. So, this brings me to my first question, is there a trick to the late hops addition (instructions in the kit were to use the 1 oz Saaz at 1 minute) that results in less trub? I did tilt the kettle to get the wort over by the side, but even then, there was such a thick layer of crud...

So, it sat in my bucket for a week, and after the week, the bubbling of the airlock had slowed way down, and shining a flashlight through side of the bucket, I could see that the krausen had fallen (it had been nearly to the top of the bucket for a few days, and had touched the bottom of the airlock. Cool!) so I decided to rack to secondary. When I took the lid off, it smelled...icky, but I figured it was normal. There was a significant layer of brown film, which looked downright nasty, and I did my best to siphon off the beer without sucking any of that crap up. I was also worried about jamming my siphon into the yeast cake, simply because between the film and how cloudy the beer was, I couldn't see it. After I finished racking, I discovered that I needn't have worried, as there wasn't anything significant. I assume this means that I racked prematurely, but I figure it shouldn't really hurt anything...There was some green sludge at the bottom, which I'm assuming is hops trub.

So, now this stuff is in secondary, and it started fermenting again. I guess I woke up the yeast, it formed a new film of icky crud on the top, maybe an inch or two deep. And I notice the beer now looks like caramel. Its that color, and approximately that opaque.

So, will this get lighter as it ages? I sure hope it gets clearer! And any tips, when the time comes, for siphoning this out of my carboy without getting the film? Or will the film sink eventually?

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Old 03-26-2010, 08:37 PM   #2
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1. moving to a secondary is almost never needed except for bulk aging, in the future, just leave it on the primary yeast cake for longer. Unless you had it already on for 4 weeks or so and wanted to bulk age it, you probably did move it prematurely, but that may or may not have an adverse effect on the beer.
2. Those things you mention as "gross" the smells and the film are normal in every brew I've done. The kraeusen only hangs around for the most active part of the fermentation and then subsides often leaving a kind of "slick" on the top. it will also eventually disappear.
3. color of a beer is significantly lighter in a glass than it is in a fermenter, the fermenter has so much liquid there it magnifies the light blockage, and makes the color seem darker.

Don't worry, it sounds like its coming out just fine. Yes you probably did wake up the yeast, Tripels are hard ones to ferment often, because of the high alcohol content. Just be careful transferring early because you can add oxygen after fermentation begins and add cardboard off flavors.

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Old 03-26-2010, 08:47 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pompeiisneaks View Post
1. moving to a secondary is almost never needed except for bulk aging, in the future, just leave it on the primary yeast cake for longer. Unless you had it already on for 4 weeks or so and wanted to bulk age it, you probably did move it prematurely, but that may or may not have an adverse effect on the beer.
2. Those things you mention as "gross" the smells and the film are normal in every brew I've done. The kraeusen only hangs around for the most active part of the fermentation and then subsides often leaving a kind of "slick" on the top. it will also eventually disappear.
3. color of a beer is significantly lighter in a glass than it is in a fermenter, the fermenter has so much liquid there it magnifies the light blockage, and makes the color seem darker.

Don't worry, it sounds like its coming out just fine. Yes you probably did wake up the yeast, Tripels are hard ones to ferment often, because of the high alcohol content. Just be careful transferring early because you can add oxygen after fermentation begins and add cardboard off flavors.
I'm thinking that moving the beer to the secondary won't make much difference because I didn't move it off the yeast cake. The yeast cake has not come to be yet, and hopefully will form in the secondary (I'm kind of wondering how long that will take!)

I'm putting it in secondary because the instructions say to do so:
Quote:
Secondary fermentation. Allow the beer to condition in
the secondary fermenter for 2 months before proceeding
with the next step. Timing now is somewhat flexible.
The kit said that it would ferment in 1-2 weeks, then transfer to secondary, and I assumed, based on how active the fermentation was for the first couple days, and the fact that the airlock had slowed down and the krausen had fallen, that it was done. But apparently not. In fact, just a few hours after transferring, I noticed a little white foam starting to form, and the next morning, it had a good inch of krausen again.

Now I'm wondering if I will want to transfer this to a second secondary (tertiary?) if it forms a yeast cake in the secondary in the next week or two. I suppose I wouldn't want it sitting on the cake for 2 months!
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Old 03-26-2010, 09:04 PM   #4
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I'm putting it in secondary because the instructions say to do so
Fair point. But kit instructions are notorious for suggesting less-than-ideal techniques. You didn't harm your beer by racking, but pompeii is correct that most brews don't need a secondary...and certainly not a second secondary.

I'd say leave it where it is for a while at let it do its thing. Don't get worried if there is less trub than what you are expecting, it'll be what it'll be. As people have told me on more than one occasion: RDWHAHB!
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Old 03-26-2010, 09:06 PM   #5
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its not moving it off the yeast cake thats that big of a deal, the yeast that's busy eating is floating around in the wort, thus making it so cloudy. Most of the yeast on the yeast cake, if I understand, has gone dormant because its done eating and its the busy stuff all in the wort that is working. The transfer can just add oxygen and risks infection more so at that point, that's all. Many people here rant at the instructions being to hasty, I tend to agree. I've left tons of brews in primary until i bottle or keg. If you want to age, then yes especially a belgian tripel will need some aging, and you want to get it off the yeast cake before it autolyzes. This doesn't need to happen until you're 100% sure fermentation is done AND the yeast has had time to clean up after itself.... 4 weeks is a good average for that. I.e. set it and forget it. Then transfer over to keg/carboy and let sit for the 2 months they mention. This ages the beer, and lets the harshness of the alcohol for a high ABV beer like a tripel smooth out. In fact often those types are aged for 6 months to a year anyway. You can't undo the move now, and likely the beer will be just fine, I'm just making recommendations that will help in the future. Yes you may need to transfer again if it ends up making a big yeast cake, but wait 3-4 more weeks, as this is like a "new" state w/ no yeast yet settling out.

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Old 03-26-2010, 09:07 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dorklord View Post
I'm thinking that moving the beer to the secondary won't make much difference because I didn't move it off the yeast cake. The yeast cake has not come to be yet, and hopefully will form in the secondary (I'm kind of wondering how long that will take!)

I'm putting it in secondary because the instructions say to do so:

The kit said that it would ferment in 1-2 weeks, then transfer to secondary, and I assumed, based on how active the fermentation was for the first couple days, and the fact that the airlock had slowed down and the krausen had fallen, that it was done. But apparently not. In fact, just a few hours after transferring, I noticed a little white foam starting to form, and the next morning, it had a good inch of krausen again.

Now I'm wondering if I will want to transfer this to a second secondary (tertiary?) if it forms a yeast cake in the secondary in the next week or two. I suppose I wouldn't want it sitting on the cake for 2 months!
Kits are notoriously wrong about fermentation schedules. I don't know why they give bad advice like "transfer to a secondary after 2 weeks" because it's just stupid. About your yeast cake: I'm a little puzzled here. Yeast cakes generally begin forming almost immediately. Maybe you sucked it all up in the siphon?

Another thing: if you must transfer to a secondary at least wait until the primary fermentation is over. Watching your airlock is NOT how to tell if your fermentation is done. Using your hydrometer, take a daily sample when you think it's done and if, for three days in a row, the gravity does not change then your primary fermentation is mostly finished. Sometimes the yeast fall out of suspension and transferring to a secondary recirculates them so you get more fermentation action.

How long do you intend to age this beer before you bottle or keg?
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Old 03-26-2010, 09:12 PM   #7
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Edit: nevermind...

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Old 03-26-2010, 09:44 PM   #8
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Kits are notoriously wrong about fermentation schedules. I don't know why they give bad advice like "transfer to a secondary after 2 weeks" because it's just stupid. About your yeast cake: I'm a little puzzled here. Yeast cakes generally begin forming almost immediately. Maybe you sucked it all up in the siphon?

Another thing: if you must transfer to a secondary at least wait until the primary fermentation is over. Watching your airlock is NOT how to tell if your fermentation is done. Using your hydrometer, take a daily sample when you think it's done and if, for three days in a row, the gravity does not change then your primary fermentation is mostly finished. Sometimes the yeast fall out of suspension and transferring to a secondary recirculates them so you get more fermentation action.

How long do you intend to age this beer before you bottle or keg?
I figured the simplest way to RDWHAHB was to follow the directions

When I transferred from my primary, what was left in the bucket was some of the slime off the top, and a very thin layer of 'stuff' at the bottom, It was green, and it was really just enough to coat the bottom of the pail. It looked like it was just bits of the hops. There was a bit of wort mixed in there, of course, but we're not talking about half, or even a quarter inch, of stuff. I actually can't see anything in my carboy, yet, either, but that might be because it is sitting in a little tray thing, so I can't really see the very bottom well. Perhaps the color, and how opaque the beer is at this point, makes it hard to see? How deep is the cake normally after 2 weeks?

I would have used the hydrometer, but a fate worse than death befell the hydrometer that came with my starter kit, and the new one just arrived. I was going by the fact that the krausen had fallen in.

As for how long I'll wait to bottle...the instructions say 1-2 weeks ferment, and 2 months secondary. Now that this is out of my primary, I'm in no hurry. (I can't drink this stuff anyway.) At this point, I suppose in 3 or 4 weeks, I'll see how it looks. If there's a significant yeast cake formed on the bottom, should I rack it to another carboy and let it sit for 2 months, or should I just bottle it and let the bottles sit for a few months? I was under the impression that bulk aging is important for something like a tripel.
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Old 03-26-2010, 10:04 PM   #9
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Treat this secondary as you would a primary. Give it 3 weeks and then rack it off the cake and transfer to another carboy for 2 months of bulk aging. By then you will have a yeast cake. It will slowly clear up as it ages.

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Old 03-26-2010, 10:12 PM   #10
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That's what I was thinking.

Now, this weekend, it's time to make something I can drink!

Hopefully, though, my next batch of beer won't need to age for so long. It is only going to be something like 1.046 OG, so it shouldn't need it.

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