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Old 09-02-2009, 06:07 AM   #1
ReeseAllen
 
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I'm working on my first batch of beer right now. Years ago I brewed a handful of small batches of wine, but it's been a long time and I've never tried brewing beer before now.

I got the beginner's kit from my LHBS last weekend which is a red ale. I used a tub of liquid malt extract and a small bag of grain that was provided, along with some pelletized hops to make the wort. I pitched the yeast on Sunday, August 30.

The house temperature was in the high 70's and the brew was close to 80 F, so I rigged up a makeshift evaporative cooling setup involving a bin of water, a box fan, a t-shirt, and an aquarium pump. That (plus a couple of trays of ice cubes tossed in the bin) brought the carboy temp down to about 72 F and kept it there.

I pitched the yeast after starting it in a shallow pan of boiled-and-cooled water on Sunday afternoon.

SG at pitching: 1.046

T+1:00 - The airlock finally starts bubbling a bit.

T+3:00 - The krausen is about an inch thick already and the airlock is bubbling faster.

T+12:00 (Late Sunday night) - Huge krausen, foam coming out of the airlock, which is bubbling pretty quickly. The cooling water already smells like beer.

T+20:00 (Monday morning) - Still foaming out of the airlock.

T+30:00 (Monday evening) - The brew is churning like crazy, it looks like a beer snowglobe. Chunks of yeast and hops are flying around and the bubbling is strong. Krausen fell a lot, only about an inch thick. Airlock still bubbling pretty quickly.

T+54:00 (This evening) - The krausen is almost nonexistent and the bubbling from the airlock has slowed a lot.

The instructions my LHBS gave me suggested that the primary "vigorous" fermentation could be done as quickly as 48-72 hours and recommended racking into a secondary fermenter once the fermentation has slowed considerably. I followed this advice, and am now wondering if it was the right choice.

I only have one carboy and one bucket, so I sanitized the bucket, racked the beer into it, then cleaned and sanitized the carboy and racked the beer back into it, minus the sediment at the bottom of the first fermentation.

SG during this racking: 1.018

The beer smelled great, very yeasty and alcoholic when I was racking it out of the carboy today. A big improvement over the fairly unpleasant smell of the hot wort on Sunday. A couple of hours have passed, though, and now I'm looking at my re-filled carboy and it appears to be dead. I see almost no bubbles rising to the beer's surface and the airlock is bubbling about once a minute compared to the previous once per second. The temperature of the brew right now is around 72 F.

I'm hoping that the yeast in suspension will come back to life soon and finish off the secondary fermentation. Please offer words of wisdom and perhaps encouragement. I'd like to buy another carboy this week and start a second batch, so I want to make sure I'm not just repeating a bad process when I do.

 
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Old 09-02-2009, 11:54 AM   #2
Falcor
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There should be no fermentation in secondary, the name 'secondary fermentation' is a bit misleading. The use of a secondary is really just to give your beer time to clear up. So don't worry about the fact that there is no visible activity - cause there shouldn't be.

But.... yes you probably did rack too soon. Just because the activity had slowed or even appeared to stop does NOT mean that the primary fermentation was complete. Only a hydrometer can tell you this. You should only move your beer from primary when you have a consistent SG over a few day period. That being said, it should probably take no less than a week before you would ever consider racking from primary: first ~4 days for the fermentation, then a hydro reading, then a hydro reading 3 days later to see if SG is the same. Even if you do it that quickly you'd still be rushing things. After the yeast have eaten up all the fermentables they will then start eating up the byproducts that they released while fermenting. I'm sure someone will be along shortly to tell you that they don't even use a secondary and leave the beer in primary for anywhere from 3 weeks to 3+ months. Lesson here, don't listen to the instructions that come with the kits.

A quick question about your racking method: why ferment in carboy, transfer to bucket, then back to carboy? Its perfectly acceptable to ferment in the bucket and then transfer to carboy and leave it. Fermenting in the bucket will give you extra head space to reduce blow off risk, you did mention that krausen was coming through the airlock. The more times you transfer will also increase your risk of oxidation.

 
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Old 09-02-2009, 01:00 PM   #3
Hang Glider
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WELCOME to HBT and your new hobby, ReeseAllen!!!
(Seattle - my hometown!)

+1 to leaving it. At least a couple of weeks before moving. This hobby is all about patience.

Also, to avoid having to clean out airlocks - get a blow off tube for the first several days of fermentation, then you can switch over to the airlock.

Blow off tube- tubing from carboy neck to growler/bucket/bottle full of water, or other similar device.

 
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Old 09-02-2009, 01:11 PM   #4

+1 on the advice above re: using your bucket (if you have a lid with a grommeted hole for an airlock) for fermentation - you won't have nearly the problem with blowoff and losing beer!

Your beer will be fine - it would be a better practice to leave it in primary longer than you did, but you didn't do any harm!

FYI, sometimes breweries use the phrase "brightening tanks" instead of secondary fermentation. This makes more sense to me. As explained above, lots of stuff is still happening, it's just not as visible.

Cheers!

 
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Old 09-03-2009, 02:29 AM   #5
ReeseAllen
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Falcor View Post
Lesson here, don't listen to the instructions that come with the kits.
Lesson learned. The hard way.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Falcor View Post
A quick question about your racking method: why ferment in carboy, transfer to bucket, then back to carboy?
Since this is my first batch, I wanted to be able to see what it's up to without having to open the bucket. It's my understanding that typically the bucket is used for primary and the carboy is reserved for secondary. I can see why, now.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hang Glider View Post
Blow off tube- tubing from carboy neck to growler/bucket/bottle full of water, or other similar device.
I used this method a few years ago when I brewed a bit of wine and it was pretty effective. I'll have to rig up one of these next time, and save the airlock bubbler cap for the secondary.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pappers View Post
Your beer will be fine - it would be a better practice to leave it in primary longer than you did, but you didn't do any harm!
What kind of prognosis am I looking at here? Assuming the beer doesn't get contaminated or oxidated, I am guessing that racking to secondary "fermentation" early will mean a weaker (ABV-wise) and sweeter beer, since the sugars have not been fully processed into ethanol by the yeast. Or will it slowly ferment over the next few weeks until the SG stabilizes at roughly the same point that it would have stabilized at more quickly in the primary fermenter?

I'm definitely willing to leave this carboy full of proto-beer in a closet for as long as it needs to if it means I'm going to get something worth drinking out of it eventually. As far as I'm concerned, most of the work involved has already been done and the only thing I stand to gain by dumping this batch is freeing up the carboy to use on another brew. I plan on picking up additional buckets/carboys and doing a second and maybe even third brew this weekend, so if this first batch needs to sit for a month or two before bottling, I'll (hopefully) get these new batches right and get to taste my own beer by the end of September. And then maybe this batch will come of age to surprise me later this fall...

 
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Old 09-04-2009, 03:01 AM   #6
ReeseAllen
 
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Anyone care to speculate?

 
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Old 09-04-2009, 03:20 AM   #7
rhulbert
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ReeseAllen View Post
What kind of prognosis am I looking at here? Assuming the beer doesn't get contaminated or oxidated, I am guessing that racking to secondary "fermentation" early will mean a weaker (ABV-wise) and sweeter beer, since the sugars have not been fully processed into ethanol by the yeast. Or will it slowly ferment over the next few weeks until the SG stabilizes at roughly the same point that it would have stabilized at more quickly in the primary fermenter?

Your beer should finish fermenting down in the secondary just fine over the next days. I don't think it will be weaker ABV-wise.

 
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Old 09-04-2009, 03:26 AM   #8
BioBeing
 
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Let it sit a week (or two), then take a hydrometer reading. Take another the next day, and then another. If they are the same, then you can bottle. If it is still dropping, wait a week, then repeat. The yeast will do their job, and there is no harm in letting them have 2, 3 or 4 weeks to do it. A bit extra allows for them to clean up after themselves too. Sounds like you are on the right track - so relax, and just think about that first sip of homebrew...

 
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Old 09-04-2009, 02:17 PM   #9
david_42
 
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Yeast are very good at fermentation. Racking when you did just means it will take longer to finish.

Kit instructions are written on the assumption that you're in a big hurry and will drink anything.
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Old 09-04-2009, 02:28 PM   #10
Boerderij_Kabouter
 
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bah! I hate how people just say, 'there should be no fermentation in secondary." That is wrong. You may not do it that way, but that doesn't make you always right.

What you did is close to perfect if you are going to use a secondary fermenting vessel. PLease read my blog for a quick snippet of how a secondary fermenter should be used.

http://blogs.homebrewtalk.com/Boerde...akes_me_crazy/

I do not advocate the "Just leave it in primary" technique unless you are unsure of what you are doing. It will not ruin your beer to leave it in primary for extended aging, but it isn't helping either. The only yeast that are doing significant conditioning are in suspension, not the yeast that have gone dormant and dropped to the floor. The attitude of secondaries are dumb gets my goat around here.

Cue Rev's entrance (seriously, I am right)

 
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