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Old 10-05-2009, 10:19 PM   #1
drycreek
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Default When to rack to secondary?

Did my first boil on Friday, 5 gallons of blonde ale from AHS. The recipe is:

5 lb malt extract
1 lb corn syrup
14 oz alcohol boost sugar
1 oz bittering hops
White Labs German Ale / Kolsch yeast
BrewVint yeast fuel (1 capsule)

So I have it in the primary fermenter right now and from the looks of the airlock, it's chugging along as expected. Question is, what is the best way to know when to transfer to the secondary fermenter?

I have several books that say fermentation time should be anywhere from 7-14 days. One resource just says to do 7 days in the primary and then 7 days in the secondary as a rule of thumb. However, I feel like this brew should ferment slightly faster due to it have a relatively low alcohol content (4.3%) and I am more than eager to bottle it and get it closer to the day I can drink it. Of course I don't want to rush things and screw it up, so I'm looking for the smart way to find the balance, instead of just needlessly adding extra days for the sake of playing it safe.

So can I use my hydrometer as a good indicator? The recipe tells me what FG to expect, so do I need to be close to that before racking, or is it reasonable to still be higher and let it decrease more during secondary fermentation?

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Old 10-05-2009, 11:27 PM   #2
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if your hydrometer reading hasn't changed for more than 3 days your done fermenting. in general your FG should be less than or equal to 1/4 your OG before bottling. its not necessary to rack to a secondary and its mainly a matter of preference. seeing as your new to brewing let it sit in the primary for at least 2 weeks or until your gravity readings level out for 3 days, then bottle.

if your fermenting for more than a month (which will most likely never happen with beer) then you should rack after a month.

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Old 10-05-2009, 11:35 PM   #3
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I personally don't use secondaries anymore. I just bottled an amber ale that spent 5 weeks in primary. the last two weeks were an aggressive dry hopping schedule. Prior to bottling I move my fermenter into the fridge for two days of cold crashing. I find that my beers are cleaner tasting when I leave it on the primary cake for a longer duration.

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Old 10-06-2009, 12:04 AM   #4
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On a regular bodied beer in the range below 1.060, my primary fermentations at ale temps usually run about 4-5 days, but I leave it in the primary for a week, then siphon over to secondary.

If it's a bigger beer, you may have to let it sit longer in the primary. With that said, once you stop seeing co2 coming out the bubbler, wait a day and then siphon it over.

cheers

~r~

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Old 10-06-2009, 01:02 AM   #5
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When you're out of primaries, and you need to brew but you're not ready to bottle. Then you secondary.

-OCD


Edit: oooh lucky post - 333!

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Old 10-06-2009, 01:28 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beerocd View Post
When you're out of primaries, and you need to brew but you're not ready to bottle. Then you secondary.

-OCD


Edit: oooh lucky post - 333!
Exacary - cept I keep running out of secondaries too. So I have hit up LHBS and get more glass.

Who said this was cheap anyways?
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Old 10-06-2009, 01:35 AM   #7
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There are alot of brewers who say if you leave a beer on the yeast cake for longer than a week you get off flavors. But from watching my step Dad and with my brewing I have found letting it sit on the yeast makes it a cleaner beer. I only go to secondary after fermentation is done and I'm dry hopping

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Old 10-06-2009, 01:49 AM   #8
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I don't bother racking to secondary with most of my beers. I leave them sit in primary until they are good and clear and then rack to a keg. The taste and quality as well as clarity of my beers improved greatly when I stopped getting in a hurry and let nature take its course with my beers.

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Old 10-06-2009, 04:55 AM   #9
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I honestly don't think the vast majority of people can tell if a beer has sat over four weeks in primary. The "Basic Homebrewing" guy's did an experiment on beers that sat a long time in primary and most people couldn't tell at all, but a writer for "Brew Your Own" (or was it the other one) was able to tell. I've only did a secondary twice, once was a beer that needed to clear due to an over fine crush of steeping grains and then with a Abby that needed to age, but I could have put it in bottles just as well, but the area I store bottle in wasn't air conditioned and from what I am told bulk aging gives more uniformity.

Someone said not to leave on the cake over a week. I respectfully disagree. The yeast clean up byproducts after themselves if left alone and one week isn't enough time for that to happen. As a matter of fact, if you ever get into lager you will find that you ferment cold for several weeks in primary, then raise the temps so the yeast can clean up for a few days, then rack and store cold in secondary for a long time. There should be no fermentation going on (with certain exceptions such as added fruit) during "secondary fermentation". That really is a mislabel.

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Old 10-06-2009, 05:48 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beerocd View Post
When you're out of primaries, and you need to brew but you're not ready to bottle. Then you secondary.

-OCD
Edit: oooh lucky post - 333!
I actually just wanted to post in the "Beginner's Beer Brewing Forum" so I could feel like I hit a milestone....

But honestly, the pros will tell you to not rack to a secondary. Your LHBS (local homebrew shop) sold you a secondary because that's an extra 30$ for a cool looking 5 gal carboy. It will come in handy later because of what I've quoted from beerocd. I'm not just quoting it because it's funny, I'm quoting it because that's exactly when I rack to a secondary.

By pros, I mean the guys that do podcasts/radio shows at http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/

A few times I've heard them say that racking to secondaries is just asking for trouble if you don't have a lot of experience with sanitization.

For my personal purposes, the only time I rack to a secondary is when I REALLY need a carboy and they're all taken. I have that damn 5 gallon carboy that my LHBS guy sold me so hey, might as well make some use from it. Folks might say "rack when you want a REALLY clear beer". But the dudes from the above will say that your racking to a secondary will result in yeast and sediment being agitated that had settled to the bottom of your primary.

The only argument I think is worth much is getting your beer off your trub for lagering (aging.... again find a show on the above link about what that is). And that only if you bring all the crap from your boil kettle into your primary.

In any case, I'm no where near most of the guys here in brew-awesomeness. But here's a for sure, the crap I've brewed has been very good and has been adjudicated to be excellent in some local competitions. Not world class worshipped stuff mind you... In any case, don't worry too much man. Unless you really screwed up (like dumping hamburger in your primary or something) you are fine to leave it in your primary.

- Noleaf
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