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Old 07-03-2011, 02:08 AM   #1
1080ski
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Default Question about primary and secondary fermentation

Hey all,
I am in the process of brewing up my first beer and have a question on primary and secondary fermentation. I am currently on the first day of primary fermentation (and it seems to be working quite well) and have my brew in a large bucket with an airlock to keep all things external to the bucket from making their way into it.

For reference, the recipe kit I am using is the Home Brewery Traditional Wheat beer, and I followed the directions for extract brewing found in this forum (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/begi...g-howto-99139/) and the ones that came with the kit (for steps specific to this beer).

I want to do a secondary fermentation so that most of the sediment will be left behind in the primary fermenter, which will hopefully result in less sediment making its way into the bottles. I plan to let the fermenting wort sit in the primary fermentor for 1 week before siphoning it out into the second fermenter (which is also a bottling bucket with a spigot on it). I will let this sit in the secondary fermentor for 1 week before botteling, for a total of 2 weeks fermentation before I begin botteling.

When I was younger, I dabbled in making (very cheap) wine and one of the things to avoid was introducing oxygen during the fermentation process. Introducing oxygen, if I recall correctly, would change the chemical composition of the wine and turn it into a vinegar. I am worried that when I remove the lid from my primary fermentor to either a) check the specific gravity and/or b) transfer my brew into the secondary fermentor, that I risk introducing oxygen and adversely changing the chemical composition of the beer to something less than ideal.

Is this something that should concern me? How can I avoid this? I know that I am supposed to do everything possible during the siphoning and botteling process to not introduce oxygen into the liquid, but I am more concerned with oxygen coming into contact with the surface area exposed to oxygen.

Additionally, I have a few questions about the wort. When it was finished boiling, the word was very dark (much darker than any wheat beer I have seen) and smelled like beer that had gone bad. Obviously things will change during the fermentation process, but this is my first brew so I have not seen a beer at this stage and do not have anything to compare it to.

Any help is much appreciated!

And some random questions that are much less important than the ones above: Any suggestions for my next brew? I am interested in creating a brew with chocolate and coffee notes. Have any good suggestions?

Cheers!
-Nick

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Old 07-03-2011, 02:20 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by 1080ski View Post
I want to do a secondary fermentation so that most of the sediment will be left behind in the primary fermenter, which will hopefully result in less sediment making its way into the bottles.
Actually, if this is your goal, then Leave you beer a month in primary instead.

You'll find that more and more recipes these days do not advocate moving to a secondary at all, but mention primary for a month, which is starting to reflect the shift in brewing culture that has occurred in the last 4 years, MOSTLY because of many of us on here, skipping secondary, opting for longer primaries, and writing about it. Recipes in BYO have begun stating that in their magazine. I remember the "scandal" it caused i the letters to the editor's section a month later, it was just like how it was here when we began discussing it, except a lot more civil than it was here. But after the Byo/Basic brewing experiment, they started reflecting it in their recipes.

Fermenting the beer is just a part of what the yeast do. If you leave the beer alone, they will go back and clean up the byproducts of fermentation that often lead to off flavors. That's why many brewers skip secondary and leave our beers alone in primary for a month. It leaves plenty of time for the yeast to ferment, clean up after themselves and then fall out, leaving our beers crystal clear, with a tight yeast cake.

This is the latest recommendation, it is the same one many of us have been giving for several years on here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Palmer


Tom from Michigan asks:
I have a few questions about secondary fermentations. I've read both pros and cons for 2nd fermentations and it is driving me crazy what to do. One, are they necessary for lower Gravity beers?
Two, what is the dividing line between low gravity and high gravity beers? Is it 1.060 and higher?
Three, I have an American Brown Ale in the primary right now, a SG of 1.058, Should I secondary ferment this or not?
Your advice is appreciated, thanks for all you do!

Allen from New York asks:

John, please talk about why or why not you would NOT use a secondary fermenter (bright tank?) and why or why not a primary only fermentation is a good idea. In other words, give some clarification or reason why primary only is fine, versus the old theory of primary then secondary normal gravity ale fermentations.

Palmer answers:

These are good questions – When and why would you need to use a secondary fermenter? First some background – I used to recommend racking a beer to a secondary fermenter. My recommendation was based on the premise that (20 years ago) larger (higher gravity) beers took longer to ferment completely, and that getting the beer off the yeast reduced the risk of yeast autolysis (ie., meaty or rubbery off-flavors) and it allowed more time for flocculation and clarification, reducing the amount of yeast and trub carryover to the bottle. Twenty years ago, a homebrewed beer typically had better flavor, or perhaps less risk of off-flavors, if it was racked off the trub and clarified before bottling. Today that is not the case.

The risk inherent to any beer transfer, whether it is fermenter-to-fermenter or fermenter-to-bottles, is oxidation and staling. Any oxygen exposure after fermentation will lead to staling, and the more exposure, and the warmer the storage temperature, the faster the beer will go stale.

Racking to a secondary fermenter used to be recommended because staling was simply a fact of life – like death and taxes. But the risk of autolysis was real and worth avoiding – like cholera. In other words, you know you are going to die eventually, but death by cholera is worth avoiding.

But then modern medicine appeared, or in our case, better yeast and better yeast-handling information. Suddenly, death by autolysis is rare for a beer because of two factors: the freshness and health of the yeast being pitched has drastically improved, and proper pitching rates are better understood. The yeast no longer drop dead and burst like Mr. Creosote from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life when fermentation is complete – they are able to hibernate and wait for the next fermentation to come around. The beer has time to clarify in the primary fermenter without generating off-flavors. With autolysis no longer a concern, staling becomes the main problem. The shelf life of a beer can be greatly enhanced by avoiding oxygen exposure and storing the beer cold (after it has had time to carbonate).

Therefore I, and Jamil and White Labs and Wyeast Labs, do not recommend racking to a secondary fermenter for ANY ale, except when conducting an actual second fermentation, such as adding fruit or souring. Racking to prevent autolysis is not necessary, and therefore the risk of oxidation is completely avoidable. Even lagers do not require racking to a second fermenter before lagering. With the right pitching rate, using fresh healthy yeast, and proper aeration of the wort prior to pitching, the fermentation of the beer will be complete within 3-8 days (bigger = longer). This time period includes the secondary or conditioning phase of fermentation when the yeast clean up acetaldehyde and diacetyl. The real purpose of lagering a beer is to use the colder temperatures to encourage the yeast to flocculate and promote the precipitation and sedimentation of microparticles and haze.

So, the new rule of thumb: don’t rack a beer to a secondary, ever, unless you are going to conduct a secondary fermentation.


I get little if any sediment in my bottles, simply by opting for a long primary. This is my yeastcake for my Sri Lankin Stout that sat in primary for 5 weeks. Notice how tight the yeast cake is? None of that got racked over to my bottling bucket. And the beer is extremely clear.



That little bit of beer to the right is all of the 5 gallons that DIDN'T get vaccumed off the surface of the tight trub. Note how clear it is, there's little if any floaties in there.

When I put 5 gallons in my fermenter, I tend to get 5 gallons into bottles. The cake itself is like cement, it's about an inch thick and very, very dense, you can't just tilt your bucket and have it fall out. I had to use water pressure to get it to come out.



This is the last little bit of the same beer in the bottling bucket, this is the only sediment that made it though and that was done on purpose, when I rack I always make sure to rub the autosiphon across the bottom of the primary to make sure there's plenty of yeast in suspension to carb the beer, but my bottles are all crystal clear and have little sediment in them.

Half the time I forget to use moss, and you can't tell the difference in clarity.

I get the barest hint of sediment in my bottles....just enough for the yeast to have done the job of carbonating the beer.

THIS is where the latest discussion and all your questions answered.
We have multiple threads about this all over the place, like this one,so we really don't need to go over it again, all the info you need is here;

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f163/sec...-weigh-176837/
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Old 07-03-2011, 02:32 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1080ski View Post
When I was younger, I dabbled in making (very cheap) wine and one of the things to avoid was introducing oxygen during the fermentation process. Introducing oxygen, if I recall correctly, would change the chemical composition of the wine and turn it into a vinegar. I am worried that when I remove the lid from my primary fermentor to either a) check the specific gravity and/or b) transfer my brew into the secondary fermentor, that I risk introducing oxygen and adversely changing the chemical composition of the beer to something less than ideal.
Um, opening the bucket and "exposing the wine to oxygen" is not what caused your wine to turn to vinegar, aecetobactor, more likely from a fruit fly's feet did that. Actually poor sanitzation was the cause of it.

In homebrewing there is so much that we advise folks not to do, yet the one thing that EVERY book, podcast, magazine and website talks about is gravity readings....

How do you think we get them?

Do you think the advice to take them is a vast conspiracy by us old timers to ruin millions of new brewer's batches, so that they flee the hobby and give it a bad rap? Or so they make crappy beer and we kick your asses in contests?

With simple sanitization practices openning the fermenter to take a reading is perfectly safe. You won't spoil your beer.

This is what I use, and it works with both buckets and carboys. And probably FV's whatever the heck those are....

I replaced the plastic one a year ago with an extra long stainless baster from a kitchen ware store and it is awesome. But the plastic one from any grocery store works fine.



And



Here's what I do....

1) With a spray bottle filled with starsan I spray the lid of my bucket, or the mouth of the carboy, including the bung. Then I spray my turkey baster inside and out with sanitize (or dunking it in a container of sanitizer).

2) Open fermenter.

3) Draw Sample

4) fill sample jar (usualy 2-3 turky baster draws

5)Spray bung or lid with sanitizer again

6) Close lid or bung

6) add hydrometer and take reading

It is less than 30 seconds from the time the lid is removed until it is closed again. More like 15 if you ask me.

Probably less if you have help. And unless a bird flies in your place and lets go with some poop, you should be okay.

ANd then you drink the sample....don't pour it back in....
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Old 07-03-2011, 02:39 AM   #4
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Listen to Revvy... Since I started going with the long primary method my brews have improved. I've since done other things to make them even better, but that's for another thread... You can safely go 4-8 weeks on the yeast without issue. Many have gone longer than that without any issue. Well, unless you count having a mind-blowing great brew as an issue.

Follow proper/smart sanitation rules and you'll be fine. Many of us use StarSan as our sanitizer of choice. A lot of us have a spray bottle of it on hand at all times (never know WHEN you'll need a quick spritz of it)...

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Old 07-03-2011, 02:51 AM   #5
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Revvy,
I appreciate the extremely helpful and in-depth post. You certainly seem to know quite a bit about the subject. I probably should have looked around a bit longer to find the thread that you linked to (as a member of other forums online, I know how annoying repost questions can be).

I read through a few pages of the thread posted (through page 6.5) and it definitely seems that leaving it in the primary for a longer period of time is the way to go. Unfortunately I do not have 1 month to wait, as I will be leaving my current location in 18 days, but I will leave it for as long as I can in the primary and then bottle on the 18'th. I'll bring my equipment to where I am heading for month after I leave and brew a batch there. Here, I will have time to leave it for a month before botteling.

Thanks again for the help!

EDIT: Golddiggie, thanks to you as well! Its also good so see a member from MA

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Old 07-03-2011, 02:55 AM   #6
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IF the brew was a relatively low OG, it could be ready for bottle in 18 days. Post up the recipe, as well as OG numbers so we can see. If it was a moderate, or high OG batch, then don't bottle it so soon. You run a real risk of bottle bombs (or beer that won't be nearly as good as it could have been at best)...

Personally, I wouldn't have started a batch within 1-1.5 months of moving. Even then, only if I'm going to keg the entire batch.

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Old 07-03-2011, 03:08 AM   #7
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The OG reading was 1.042 (and FG, as approximated by the directions for the kit, is 1.010). The ingredient kit came with my home brew kit, and is fairly vague on the exact ingredients, but I will post them as detailed as possible.

ingredients:
1 package of Cara-Pils malted rains
1 package containing a mixture of wheat dry malt extract, malto-dextrin, and bittering hops
1 package of irish moss clarifier
1 package of hope pellets for finishing
1 package of ale yeast
3/4 cup priming sugar

I plan on buying my own ingredients for all future batches.

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Old 07-03-2011, 06:03 AM   #8
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After some thought, I am going to let the brew sit in the primary for the 4 weeks. I'll be able to return home every sunday, so I'll have to head back and bottle on the first sunday that I can. From there I'll let the bottles sit for 3 weeks, and by that time I should be at home until I return to uni in the fall. Then I can enjoy my brew and then look forward to starting my next batch first week back at uni! I guess its best to not rush it so that the final product will be as good as it can be. I may buy another primary fermenter bucket so that I can get two batches going at once this year at uni, where i'm sure the extra volume of beer will be appreciated :P.

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