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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > Knowing When to Rack to Secondary... w/o a Hydrometer
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Old 04-23-2010, 09:50 PM   #1
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Default Knowing When to Rack to Secondary... w/o a Hydrometer

This is my first foray into home brewing, so of course I made a silly mistake early on in the process. I wanted to measure gravity continuously, so I sanitized my hydrometer and stuck it in the glass carboy I'm using as a fermenter. I forgot about that stuff called krausen. Doh! What's worse... I don't have any tongs that can fit through the narrow opening to fish it out.

I'm brewing an IPA and wanted to transfer the brew to another vessel so I can dry-hop and condition while getting a new batch started. How will I know when it is time to rack to the secondary? Is there a downside to doing it too soon? I got a lot of trub in the fermenter and don't want the yeast to start snacking on that junk as they deplete the sugars.

Fermentation was very vigorous in the first two days (gas and goo were shooting out of my blow off hose), but since then the pace has tapered off and I have been getting a steady bubble out of the hose every 5 seconds for the last 5 days. Today is the 7th day of fermentation, so I think the action should be winding down in the next few days. Unfortunately, I have no way of checking changes in gravity from day to day. I guess I could go buy another hydrometer, but I'd rather not.

Any advice? From what I've read, I probably I need to be patient for a while and RDWHAHB. But I don't have any HB's (since this is my first), so a Sierra Nevada Torpedo will have to suffice.

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Old 04-23-2010, 10:08 PM   #2
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If don't want to get a hydrometer, wait 10 days to 2 weeks and you should be good for racking to secondary. It cannot be said enough....time is your friend, why waste a bottle drinking mediocre beer (you can buy that)....if you plan on giving it 6 weeks (3 weeks in primary/secondary and 3 weeks conditioning) you will be much happier with the result. More may even be better for some varieties, but that has been a minimum for something I would be proud to share with my friends. Of course I get impatient, I try a bottle at 5 weeks, but it is only ok and kind of watery and flat because the tastes have not melded together, and it is always much better a week later.

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Old 04-23-2010, 10:12 PM   #3
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I would just let it sit on the yeast for another week or 10 days, or until the yeast starts falling out on its own (you will see the beer darken as the white yeast cells drop out starting first at the surface) then rack to the bottling bucket or the keg. Most folks skip the secondary anyway, and I dry hop right in the primary.

There is a downside to racking your beer too soon, it can keep the yeast from cleaning up the off-flavored compounds they made when reproducing early in the fermentation process... they will clean that up, to an extent, if given time and a constant temp. Let her finish, then a few more days. You'll know when cause the yeast will start dropping out.

Also, do yourself a favor and get a wine thief so you can pull a sample to test, much easier.

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Old 04-23-2010, 10:37 PM   #4
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just dont rack it to secondery at all. wait 3 to 4 weeks and then bottle - keg

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Old 04-23-2010, 10:45 PM   #5
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all the answers so far are right. since you want to dry hop and condition a bit, I'd say 10-14 days in primary, then rack to secondary.

if you weren't going to dry hop, I'd go with Clayton and just ride it 3-4 weeks in primary, then bottle.

that said, I almost always do a secondary, because I personally just get noticably clearer beer. I usually can't avoid racking some yeast from primary...

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Old 04-23-2010, 10:57 PM   #6
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to get back to the hydrometer, cant you bend a shirthanger? does it have a loop on the top? why do you need tongs?heck even if it doesnt, i'd still try a schmootz of gum, or double sided tape.

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Old 04-23-2010, 11:17 PM   #7
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There should be a little bit of the hydrometer sticking out of the top, so sanitize your hand really well and pull it out (if you are really concerned, throw on some disposable gloves that you have sanitized). There should be enough alcohol in there to ward off any infection from the tip of your finger. Right?

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Old 04-24-2010, 12:41 AM   #8
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Soon as the bubbling is down to 1-2 per minute you can rack it to a secondary. If you want to wait a day or two after that, it wouldn't hurt.

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Old 04-24-2010, 01:32 AM   #9
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Thanks for the advice, everybody!

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