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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > questionable primary lid & more
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Old 02-03-2013, 06:49 PM   #1
milesBC
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Default questionable primary lid & more

Hi HBT Forum,

I've had a 23 litre batch of nut brown sitting in the primary for about 5 days now. I've resisted posting each of the one thousand small questions that have crossed my mind through my first 23 liter batch, usually able to pull answers out of past beginner forum threads. I never quite reach certainty in my conclusions though, so I'm going to post a few points of my process and the amateur reasoning that has led me to these conclusions (haha, now that it's probably too late to remedy any issues that I've created for myself!). If anyone has any pointers or suggestions, please do share!

So all of my past batches have been 1 gallon in glass carboy, with the yeast pitched directly into the carboy, tube inserted for two days for early fermentation, a switch to airlock for the remainder of the two weeks of fermentation and, finally, batch priming and bottling. I got very comfortable with this process and wanted to increase my production.

The 23 liter nut brown was grain and extract and I used the plastic bucket for my primary. My brewing bucket has no lid and the brewing shop nearby suggested that if I use a pot lid and tape it onto the bucket well, the fermentation gas would find it's way out through the tape and I should be good. Threads I've read led me to believe that this should work fine, as the CO2 would sit on top and maintain a barrier of sort for the fermenting beer. So, first of all... thoughts on this MacGuyver lid of mine and what it may do to my beer?!

I have a large glass carboy and had planned on siphoning the primary to it, but after reading a number of threads I've learned that many people use ONLY a primary. Now I'm thinking about leaving it in the primary for a full 3 weeks, hoping for a good conditioning period. Some threads suggest that moving to a secondary and further oxidizing the beer can be a bad thing. Plus, I don't have a typical airlock set-up, so part of my logic was that I may as well maintain the integrity of the CO2 layer and undisturbed lid setup that I currently have. Any thoughts on the pros & cons of keeping my lid in tact, using a secondary, etc? I've been in that primary for 5 days now.

I'm quickly feeling like I don't like about this set up with the silly taped lid. For one, I don't have any feedback on the yeast activity (possible pro of switching to secondary is that by opening it up, I can ensure that the yeast has been active. I also just feel more "proper" with a real airlock, glass carboy, etc. I think in the future I will get a lid that can accommodate an airlock. Any other suggestions? And as for whether I will use a secondary or not, that is still up in the air! I probably need to brew a few more large batches to develop an opinion on that one.

One other area that has been a bit grey for me is sugars for fermentation and also for batch priming. I did not add an sugars before pitching the yeast, figuring the wort itself was enough (or that the extract component of the grain / extract recipe would be enough for the yeast to feast on). I've made 1 gallon batches that had me add a sugar before pitching yeast though... which of these is more common, and are both acceptable depending on the recipe? And after fermentation, I plan to batch prime as I usually do. I was going to reference something like Northern Brewer's sugar calculator to determine the amount of maple syrup or honey to use (http://www.northernbrewer.com/priming-sugar-calculator/). Is this a safe bet, or is there a better resource I should consider?

Apologies for the lengthy post, but any feedback would be much appreciated! Learning to brew has been a great experience and I am glad that there are forums like this to help uncertain newbies like myself! Cheers.

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Old 02-03-2013, 08:19 PM   #2
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Hello, welcome!

As for your lid issue, I would sanitize a piece of aluminum foil. I keep a spray bottle of star san and would spritz it good and them cover the bucket with that. That should be sufficient for your primary fermentation. Get yourself a lid though when it becomes available. As you do bigger beers it will become a sanitation issue and you will want to keep the krausen contained inside the fermenter.

I would rack the beer to a carboy though in your case after primary ferment is complete (your hydrometer will tell you when you're getting close). I'm not totally sold on the benefits of doing a secondary and I do it for about half of my batches.


Priming sugar is usually reserved for after the fermentation is over and added to give your yeast just a little more sugar to carbonate your bottles. It sounds like you've added priming sugar during the regular fermentation before. Right before bottling, add your priming sugar to about 2 cups of water and boil it on your stove for a few minutes and cool it off. Add it to a bottling bucket and add your beer to the bucket with the sugary solution. Then bottle. Sorry if I may have misread your question.

Happy brewing!

oh, and Northern brewers calculator should be fine!

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Old 02-03-2013, 10:09 PM   #3
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I'd def get a grommeted lid for the pail. surer seal to my thinking. And the kit or recipe will say if you need to add anything,or they'll provide in a kit. Dextrose (corn sugar) is common for bulk priming. The NB calculator is ok.http://www.tastybrew.com/calculators/priming.html
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Old 02-05-2013, 09:57 PM   #4
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Thanks for the feedback. I switched to secondary (glass carboy) after seven days in the primary and a hydrometer check to confirm that I had hit FG. I've read that it's best to check for a few consecutive days before drawing conclusions about gravity readings, so in the future I will plan to do this instead of the single reading. And I've heard a bit about the possibility of welcoming oxidation by making the move from primary to secondary, but I am hoping that the seven day switch reduces the oxidation risk because an early switch means there'd be marginally more activity while in the secondary to purge some of the surface oxygen. Anyways, I'll find out before too long!

The advice has inspired a few upgrades to my process and equipment. Though I think my MacGuyver lid hasn't ruined this batch, I'm going to pick up a grommeted lid for my next batch. I also don't have a spray bottle with sanitizer, nor have I used Star San (or any no-rinse sanis), so I'll be giving that set-up a try. And today I picked up a glass turkey baster (for basting glass turkeys, right?), so in those anxious moments I can peek through the grommet and steal a sample!

After some reading and feedback on priming sugars, I feel better prepared for bottling when the time comes. I've learned that I was probably not letting my bottles sit for long enough, not leaving them in quite the correct temperature environment. I look forward to making those adjustments and reaping/drinking the rewards!

Thanks again everyone, cheers.

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Old 02-06-2013, 03:45 AM   #5
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Good man, you'll have beer in the end. I would stress too much about it.

Through my experience, I only do secondaries when I plan to dry hop or have a lot of hops and trub to begin with. Next time your at the home brew store check out the fermtech thief. It's a pretty handy tool. I take most of my hydro readings with one.

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