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.