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Old 07-05-2011, 06:05 PM   #1
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Default secondary fermentation

I just brewed my second batch, a summer ale, so I'm quite inexperienced. I had it in the primary for 7 days and transferred to secondary. After reading more in the forum, I realize that probably wasn't long enough. How long should I leave it in the secondary and how long should I condition in bottles? Also, my friends that walked me through the brewing process told me not to bother with SG readings so I didn't use a hydrometer. Sounds like another rookie mistake!

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Old 07-05-2011, 06:12 PM   #2
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Let'ssee here.

Yes, that was too fast.
I'd give it at least two more weeks in the secondary.
Count on three weeks in the bottle (just a rule of thumb, you can sample them after about a week).
SG readings are an absolute MUST when you're starting out. Otherwise, how are you to know where it started and when it's done?

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Old 07-05-2011, 06:17 PM   #3
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Hello, In general I leave all of my ales in the primary for 3 weeks...two weeks for fermentation to complete and 1 week for conditioning...Ales generally enter a vigorous fermentation from 2-6 days then slow down but continue to ferment...after the fermentation is complete, the yeast are still working and start devouring heavy sugars and byproducts from the fermentation, so if you were to transfer to a secondary this would still happen but at a reduced rate, due to the reduced amount of yeast.
So you should have left your beer alone for three weeks, this would be different if you were making a fruit beer than it would be two weeks in the primary and 1 week in a secondary (to remove the beer of the fruit)....chances are your beer wasnt quite done fermenting, so you should do some gravity readings now to see where the beer is at and subtract it from the OG that your recipe calls for, it would have been beneficial for you to have the OG from your beer, but sometimes that happens and if you believe you followed the recipe correctly than it should be in line with the recipe and you can use that.

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Old 07-05-2011, 06:23 PM   #4
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1. Ignore your friends.
2. Use your hydrometer.

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Old 07-05-2011, 06:47 PM   #5
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Primary fermentation only takes about 3 days in most cases. When you pitch your yeast into a brew it goes through three basic stages. The first 12-24 hours the yeast multiplies like mad. A this point it is not eating sugars, just multiplying. Once the oxygen in the brew has been consumed, the yeast switches to primary fermentation. This is when the yeast eats the easily digestible sugars in you wort, this takes 2-4 days on average. At this point you should rack into a clean carboy or bucket (just like you did). Many of the yeast cells die at this point and fall to the bottom of the fermenter, which is why you should rack it at this point. During secondary fermentation the remaining yeast cells eat the less digestible sugars in your wort. Because they are more difficult to process, secondary fermentation can take 1-2 weeks.

Using a hydrometer throughout the process will help you determine when this secondary fermentation has ended and it is safe to bottle.

Leaving a brew in the primary fermenting vessel for more than 2 weeks is risky. When primary fermentation is over and the yeast cells begin to fall to the bottom, many live cells will fall with them. If these live cells are trapped in a blanket of dead cells, they will begin to autolyze (cannibalize). This can cause some really funky flavors in your finished beer. It is always best to rack into a secondary within a week.

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Old 07-05-2011, 07:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishbrewer11 View Post
P
Leaving a brew in the primary fermenting vessel for more than 2 weeks is risky. When primary fermentation is over and the yeast cells begin to fall to the bottom, many live cells will fall with them. If these live cells are trapped in a blanket of dead cells, they will begin to autolyze (cannibalize).

There's been a shift in belief over the past few years, now most of us leave our beers in primary for a month rather than rack to a secondary, and find our beers are better for being on the yeast that time. And clearer.

You're going by outdated information.

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.
This was confirmed on a March episode of Brew Strong where John and Jamil talk about how secondary fermentation is an outdated homebrewing technique. John even says that the information in the 1st edition of How to Brew (the web version) is no longer relevant.
Quote:

John: And unfortunately I'm an perpetuator of the myth at HowtoBrew.com. The 1st edition talks about the benefits of transferring the beer off the yeast.

Jamil: Well that was the popular way of doing things. But that was what, the 1st edition? Stop getting the thing off the internet. Buy yourself the 3rd addition copy and get the updated information.

John: As we've gotten more educated on how much good healthy yeast you need for optimum fermentation the advice that we used to give 20 years ago has changed. 10 years ago, 20 years ago, homebrewers were using with a single packet of dry yeast that was taped to the top of the can. There weren't as many liquid yeast cultures available.

Jamil: People didn't make starters either.

John: Right. So the whole health and vitality of yeast was different back then compared to know. Back then it made sense. You had weaker yeast that had finished fermentation that were more susceptible to autolysis and breaking down. Now that is not the case. The bar of homebrewing has risen to where we are able to make beer that has the same robustness as professional beer. We've gotten our techniques and understanding of what makes a good fermentation up to that level, so you don't need to transfer the beer off the yeast to avoid autolysis like we used to recommend.

Jamil: Unless you are going to do long term at warm temperatures, but even then we are talking over a month. I thought about this as well and I think one of the reasons autolysis....and the fact that people were using weak yeast in inappropriate amounts and the transfer would add some oxygen to it which would help attenuate a few more points. I think that was part of the deal why transferring was considered appropriate years ago.

John: But these days we don't recommend secondary transfer. Leave it in the primary, you know, a month. Today's fermentations are typically healthy enough that you are not going to get autolysis flavors or off-flavors from leaving the beer on the yeast for an extended period of time.

Jamil:
And if you are using healthy yeast and the appropriate amount and the thing is... homebrew style fermentors..if you are using a carboy or plastic bucket which have that broad base when the yeast flocculate out they lay in a nice thin layer. When you're dealing with large, tall...one of the things you know people go "Well the commercial brewers they remove the yeast because it is gonna break down, die, and make the beer bad. We should be doing the same thing." That's where alot of this comes from. But the commerical brewers are working with 100 bbl fermenters that are very tall and put a lot of pressure on the yeast. The yeast are jammed into this little cone in the bottom and they are stacked very deep and there is a lot of heat buildup. The core of that yeast mass can be several degrees C higher than the rest of that yeast mass and it can actually cook the yeast and cause them to die faster and cause those problems with flavor and within a couple of days the viability of that yeast which the commercial brewers are going to reuse is going to drop 25%, 50% over a couple of days so they need to get that yeast out of there. You don't have that restriction as a homebrewer. You've got these broad fermenter bases that allow the yeast to be distributed evently. It's an advantage for cleaning up the beer. You have the advantage that the yeast don't break down as fast. You don't have as high a head pressure. There are a lot of advantages.


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/secondary-not-john-palmer-jamil-zainasheff-weigh-176837/

he autolysis from prolong yeast contact has fallen by the wayside, in fact yeast contact is now seen as a good thing.

All my beers sit a minimum of 1 month in the primary.
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. But after the Byo/Basic brewing experiment, they started reflecting it in their recipes.
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Old 07-05-2011, 07:19 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Irishbrewer11 View Post
Primary fermentation only takes about 3 days in most cases. When you pitch your yeast into a brew it goes through three basic stages. The first 12-24 hours the yeast multiplies like mad. A this point it is not eating sugars, just multiplying. Once the oxygen in the brew has been consumed, the yeast switches to primary fermentation. This is when the yeast eats the easily digestible sugars in you wort, this takes 2-4 days on average. At this point you should rack into a clean carboy or bucket (just like you did). Many of the yeast cells die at this point and fall to the bottom of the fermenter, which is why you should rack it at this point. During secondary fermentation the remaining yeast cells eat the less digestible sugars in your wort. Because they are more difficult to process, secondary fermentation can take 1-2 weeks.
You're definition of secondary fermentation is also not correct either;

"Secondary fermentation" is part of the normal yeast life cycle, one of the stages of fermentation.Which is done in your bucket or carboy.


The secondary People get confused about is also called a "brite tank" it is the carboy where people move their beer to clear, or to add fruit, or hops for dry hopping... and to let the yeast and other things fall down...

There is a "secondary fermentation stage," but it happens in your primary along with lagtime, and reproductive phase. It is part of the life cycle of the yeast, and it all happens before it is time to move it to a clearing tank, (secondary vessel or brite tank"

Here's John Palmer's explanation of the Secondary fermentation Phase

Quote:
The fermentation of malt sugars into beer is a complicated biochemical process. It is more than just the conversion of sugar to alcohol, which can be regarded as the primary activity. Total fermentation is better defined as three phases, the Adaptation or Lagtime phase, the Primary or Attenuative phase and a Secondary or Conditioning phase. The yeast do not end Phase 2 before beginning Phase 3, the processes occur in parallel, but the conditioning processes occur more slowly. As the majority of simple sugars are consumed, more and more of the yeast will transition to eating the larger, more complex sugars and early yeast by-products. This is why beer (and wine) improves with age to a degree, as long as they are on the yeast. Beer that has been filtered or pasteurized will not benefit from aging.

The reactions that take place during the conditioning phase are primarily a function of the yeast. The vigorous primary stage is over, the majority of the wort sugars have been converted to alcohol, and a lot of the yeast cells are going dormant - but some are still active.

The Secondary Phase allows for the slow reduction of the remaining fermentables. The yeast have eaten most all of the easily fermentable sugars and now start to turn their attention elsewhere. The yeast start to work on the heavier sugars like maltotriose. Also, the yeast clean up some of the byproducts they produced during the fast-paced primary phase. ...
It's easy to see how confusing the terms are...that's why we try to get outta the habit of saying secondary fermentation...and just say secondary...or bright tank (mostly just secondary, dropping fermenter or fermentation, since fermentation should be finished before you rack it to the secondary. After the hydrometer reading stays the same for 3 days.

New brewers often rack way too early, and often interrupt the secondary phase because of this, and that is why you often see panic threads about Krausens forming in secondary, because the yeast was really still in the primary phase of fermentation when it was moved.

And it starts building a krauzen house again....

If you do choose to use a "bright tank" it's best to wait til fermentation is complete, you know that by taking 2 gravity readings over a 3 day period. If the grav hasn't changed, then you can rack it without having a krausen develop...though sometimes it does anyway.

Many of us nowadays forgo a bright tank and just leave our beers in primary for 3-4 weeks, then bottle...We only use a secondary if we are adding something to the beer, such as fruit, dryhopping or oaking the beer, otherwise we just leave the beer alone and let the yeasts clean up the beer at their own pace. Or if we added fruit, like pumpkin in the boil and want to get the beer off the goop.

If that wasn't clear, Donman sums it up pretty well;

Quote:
dontman
I thought Palmer was actually pretty good about differentiating between Secondary Fermenting and Secondary Fermentation. I found Papazian to be less so. When I read Papazian the first time I was left with the exact impressions that you have and when I look at my brew logs from 1992 I was regularly doing 4 and 5 day primaries and then secondary. He actually made me feel like the sooner off the yeast cake the better.

You are confusing secondary fermentation with secondary fermenter. Very easy to do.

Secondary fermentation occurs while the yeast is still in solution immediately after the conversion of sugars to alcohol. During that time there is tons of proteins and partially digested sugars in solution in addition to the waste products of the yeast, plus any esters and fusel they create while they ferment. During secondary fermentation the yeast will clean up these esters, and the fusels, and reabsorb a lot of their waste products.

Once this process is complete if you choose THEN you can rack to the Secondary Fermenter. This is a also called a bright tank or clearing tank and it is where the sedimentation occurs. This is where the most of the proteins and other detritus fall out of solution and the beer clears. Yes, the yeast is still present in this tank but because the vast majority has been left behind in the primary tank any benefit from the yeast at this stage is greatly diminished.
So if you haven't figured it out, NOTHING should be happening in the Secondary (brite tank) except you beer clearing......

You will find Many of us here leave our beers in primary for a month, it is actually very good for the beer to leave it around that long...it improves taste and clarity vastly...

There are several dozen threads about long primary or no secondary, at least three a day asking your question...if you wanna know what it does and why we choose to do it, just do a thread search on those key words...there's like at least one new thread on it every 2-3 days so there's plenty of info.

This question gets asked and answered several times a week, so the info is here, Even John Palmer in "How To Brew" mentions the benefits of waiting...

Quote:
Leaving an ale beer in the primary fermentor for a total of 2-3 weeks (instead of just the one week most kits recommend), will provide time for the conditioning reactions and improve the beer. This extra time will also let more sediment settle out before bottling, resulting in a clearer beer and easier pouring. And, three weeks in the primary fermentor is usually not enough time for off-flavors to occur.
But if you do choose to rack, WAIT TIL FERMENTATION IS COMPLETE.

Me personnally I leave nearly all my beers in primary for a month and then bottle and only use secondary, if I am lagering in the cold for several months, adding something like hops or fruit or oak to the beer to flavor it, have had a lot of fruit like pumpkin added to the boil that carried over into the fermentor, or if it is a huge beer that I feel benefits for months of bulk aging time.......

If my beer is NOT meeting any of the afore mentioned conditions, which is usually 95% of my beers...then it is long primary and then straight to bottle.
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Old 07-05-2011, 07:44 PM   #8
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Very nice Revvy! Lots of good info there

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Old 07-05-2011, 07:59 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Irishbrewer11 View Post
Primary fermentation only takes about 3 days in most cases. When you pitch your yeast into a brew it goes through three basic stages. The first 12-24 hours the yeast multiplies like mad. A this point it is not eating sugars, just multiplying. Once the oxygen in the brew has been consumed, the yeast switches to primary fermentation. This is when the yeast eats the easily digestible sugars in you wort, this takes 2-4 days on average. At this point you should rack into a clean carboy or bucket (just like you did). It is always best to rack into a secondary within a week.
Wrong. Your info is quite dated and inaccurate.

To the op, it's best to leave your beer in primary for 3-4 weeks as others have stated. Do some current reading, like 'yeast' by jamil z and chris white.
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Old 07-05-2011, 08:02 PM   #10
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Primary fermentation is most likely complete after 7 days, so even though leaving it on the cake longer may improve the taste (this is debatable. Check out this thread for the raging arguement http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f13/aging-beer-facts-myths-discussion-84005/), you haven't harmed it dramatically by taking it off the yeast.

As for gravity readings, assuming that this is an extract batch, it's not too late to start. Unless you really screwed up measuring things, you can be pretty certain that your OG is whatever the recipe stated. Knowing the final gravity can tell you how that fermentation is coming along.

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