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Old 01-13-2012, 06:15 PM   #1
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Default Moving from a Primary to a Secondary

Ok, I've got my first brew under my belt and my Belgain Tripel has been in the primary since this past Sunday. Now, the confusing part. My kit says to move the beer to a secondary within 5-7..... or after the bubbling has stopped in the airlock for a period of 24hrs. In doing some online research however, it seems that may be too soon. My fermenting temp has been hovering around 70 degreees. Also, at the brewing class I attended our instructor said to forgo using a hydormeter for your first couple of brews in order to get more familar with the brewing part first. Hopefully this wasn't a mistake b/c I did not take a reading. I don't want to rush things and I'm thinking keeping it in the primary until next Sunday (2wks total) wouldn't hurt, but need some opinions from the seasoned brewers here. Thanks.

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Old 01-13-2012, 06:23 PM   #2
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Most here (who reply), but not all will tell you to skip the secondary and just rack into your bottling bucket after 4 weeks.

As for teh hydrometer, and all respect due to your instructor, not using a hydrometer is rather like learning to drive without watching the spedometer. Sure it can be done, but the flashing lights in the review are a good indication that perhaps you should have taken a look.

I will admit to starting with a mr.beer and using the 'ferment long enough and it is done' but those beers had less fermentables than a tripple.

Back to your beer. I'd look at the kits instructions (as a guide) and keep it in the primarly at least as long as the kit has for both primary and secondary (if it says 1 week primary+1 week secondary) I'd go atleast 2 weeks in the primary andthen bottle. Actually I go 4 weeks in the primary and bottle. I do that for all my beers now. Prebottle post ferment aging helps the flavors.

If you have a hyrometer, and can easily take samples, then after next week, you can bottle if you get 3 days with the same gravity (ie you measure and it is 1.015 for 3 days in a row, it is done).

Could you post the kit recipe - particulary the grain bill and yeast strain you used, The OG can be back figured off the grain bill (or list of extracts) and the yeast strain can be used to look up expected attenuation. Although the kit probably told all of that to you anyhow.

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Old 01-13-2012, 06:24 PM   #3
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If I do a secondary I always wait two weeks for fermentation to finish. You don't want to rack to a secondary too soon and loose all that great yeast that's working for you. There's no real reason to rack that soon. You could leave it in the primary for over a month with no change in taste and a triple needs more time. Be patient.

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Old 01-13-2012, 07:14 PM   #4
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Most here (who reply), but not all will tell you to skip the secondary
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Old 01-13-2012, 07:30 PM   #5
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I just brewed my first batch 10 days ago (American pale ale). Didn't take a class, just read Palmer's "How to Brew" and dove right in. The woman working at my LHBS told me I didn't need a hydrometer. She also gave me a "you really have no idea what you're doing, do you" look when I told her I was not using a secondary. As soon as I began reading threads on this site, I knew I really needed a hydrometer. And a secondary doesn't seem necessary to a lot of home brewers here. With whatever spare time you have, I recommend gorging yourself on the advice of the fellow home brewers on this site. It's already helped me tremendously.

One of the most important insights I've gotten was to not gauge the progress of your fermentation by the bubbling in your airlock. It's not a reliable indication of when fermentation is complete. Needless to say, I went right back to my LHBS to purchase a hydrometer.

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Old 01-13-2012, 07:53 PM   #6
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D,I can't believe that LHBS lady fed you that...well,BS. Some of them must not frequent the forums to stay abreast of new developments. They used to secondary asap due to the incorrect thinking that the settled yeast were dead,& cause autolysis. That one's been dead on here for a while now. Don't they stop to think that we couldn't wash & reuse yeast if they were dead?
And a hydrometer is def a nessesity,especially with higher gravity brews. They take longer to ferment than the average gravity ale. And unless I'm adding fruit,oaked whiskey,or the like. I don't secondary at all.
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Old 01-13-2012, 08:51 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by dcapozzi View Post
I just brewed my first batch 10 days ago (American pale ale). Didn't take a class, just read Palmer's "How to Brew" and dove right in. The woman working at my LHBS told me I didn't need a hydrometer. She also gave me a "you really have no idea what you're doing, do you" look when I told her I was not using a secondary. As soon as I began reading threads on this site, I knew I really needed a hydrometer. And a secondary doesn't seem necessary to a lot of home brewers here. With whatever spare time you have, I recommend gorging yourself on the advice of the fellow home brewers on this site. It's already helped me tremendously.

One of the most important insights I've gotten was to not gauge the progress of your fermentation by the bubbling in your airlock. It's not a reliable indication of when fermentation is complete. Needless to say, I went right back to my LHBS to purchase a hydrometer.
I had the same thing happen to me - I had read a lot on here before I went to get me starter kit and I had already made up my mind that I wasn't going to be using a secondary. The guy working the counter told me that I wouldn't want to drink a beer made in only a primary. A lot of people have talked about how the conventional wisdom when homebrewing first took off was to use a secondary to clear and clean up your beer, but I'm not sure how that ever morphed into people saying that you couldn't make drinkable beer unless you used a secondary. Heck, my best beers have been primary-only!

To the OP - if you don't have a hydrometer, you'll have to just be extra patient to make sure all fermentation activity has completely stopped because you have to guess when it's done. Unfortunately, when it looks like it's stopped, it's still going for at least a couple of days. With a hydrometer, you can take a reading and then come back in a couple of days and take another reading - if the numbers are exactly the same, you can transfer, bottle, or leave it to age a little while. Long story short - get a hydrometer, it's an essential tool in homebrewing and it's the only reliable way to know when fermentation is complete. In fact, get two hydrometers because you will break your first one!
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Old 01-14-2012, 06:23 PM   #8
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Thanks to everyone for the great advice. Since the brewing kit I used says to leave in the primary for a week and then the secondary for two weeks, I'm gonna try leaving it in the primary for a total of 3 weeks. It makes sense to me that the less you disturb the beer, the better it will be. Also,,,, I did get a hydrometer with my kit, but no flask. I think I'll take a run to the beer supply store and get one this weekend.

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Old 02-06-2012, 12:06 AM   #9
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Just had to stop back and say that after 4 weeks in the primary, I'm ready to bottle my first homebrew! Yeah! Also......the waiting was SO worth it. The taste of my belgain is amazing at week 4 compared to even week 3 (there was a more hard alcohol taste then) but now, even though I've got weeks of bottle conditioning ahead of me, my flat beer is already smooth and cleared up nicely! Thanks for all the advice guys fyi...hydrometer looks good as well

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Old 02-06-2012, 12:15 AM   #10
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You did the right thing, tripels need time. I know it's hard with the first batch but be sure to save some bottles for months down the road to see how they age.
Congrats and kudos - a tripel is an ambitious first beer but sounds like you did great!

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