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Old 08-02-2012, 03:56 PM   #1
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Default wine -> beer, understanding yeast and gravities

I'm starting my first pre-hopped extract mr. beer this weekend. However, I've been doing tons of reading and am hoping to have some more experienced brewers clear some things up.

I've been making some wines, and it's make, pitch, forget, rack till clear. This however, gets rid of all yeast, and wine is fermented till dry anyways.

If a "good rule of thumb" is about 2-3ish weeks in primary, do the non-wine yeasts not ferment the beer dry? I'm hoping this is the case? (I do have a hydrometer to check for fermentation stopping). As I'm used to that time frame being under 1.000...
If a beer is left to clear, or racked to secondary for additions for a while, wouldn't enough yeast drop out that it would affect bottling and bottle conditioning? How would this be fixed without kegs/co2?

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Old 08-02-2012, 04:05 PM   #2
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Whereas you may rack a wine 2, 3 or 4 times to clear it (and possibly use finings), beer is usually much faster. Many people primary for 3 or 4 weeks, then go straight to bottling or keg. Often a cold crash is used to drop as much yeast as possible prior to this racking out of primary. Even if you rack to secondary for a month or two, there is enough yeast left in suspension to reproduce and carbonate with the priming sugar addition. Fresh yeast at bottling is often recommended when you secondary for more than 2-3 months. Usually a 1/4 or 1/3 of a dry packet will suffice in these instances.

Most beer yeasts cannot approach the FG of wine yeasts because there are more unfermentable sugars in beer. Some belgian yeasts and some sour yeasts may get the beer close to 1.000, but they do not dip into the .0990 range like wine does. I made an Apfelwein with Windsor beer yeast (notorius for high FG in beer) and it fermented it all the way to 0.0990.

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Old 08-02-2012, 04:06 PM   #3
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Unfermented beer (wort) contains sugars, proteins, and long-chain dextrines that are not fermentable by brewing yeast. As a result, normal brewing yeast will stop fermenting and the beer will be "finished" at anywhere between 1.003 and 1.018ºSG. There's no need to remove the yeast or try to stop fermentation early. Instead, brewers can affect the mouthfeel and sweetness of the beer by mashing their grain at higher temperatures (causing fewer of the long-chain dextrines to convert to fermentable sugars) or can add unfermenatable sugars like lactose back to the beer after fermentation has completed.

You also ask whether a beer can still be bottle conditioned if it is left to clear "for a while." The answer to your question is "how long is a while?" Clearing a beer for a few weeks or even a couple of months in normal conditions will leave enough healthy yeast in solution that the beer can still self-carbonate in the bottle. Clearing the beer for more than three months or in conditions that will cause the yeast to die (excessive heat, cold, or alcohol in solution) may present a problem.

If you're working on your first brew and you want to be CERTAIN that your beer carbonates, there's nothing wrong with rehydrating some dried brewing yeast, and adding a quarter packet to your finished beer before bottling. Make sure it percolates throughout the entire bottling bucket before you start packaging. You almost certainly won't have needed the extra yeast, but it makes some people feel more comfortable, and the only downside is a very little bit of extra yeast cells coating the bottom of your bottle when you drink.

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Old 08-02-2012, 05:02 PM   #4
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Awesome info!

It makes sense now as to why the majority of beers won't ferment so dry compared to wines. I can't say I was going to be worried about carb in my first attempt, but I was just thinking in general, 'cause I know at some point I'll try something crazy with additions/secondaries, where only time will tell.

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