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Old 03-18-2011, 04:07 PM   #1
Bear85
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Default Some Newbie Fundamentals Questions

Hi,

I've been reading up on homebrewing for the last couple of weeks, today is the day to head to the LHBS to pick up my beginners kit! Despite reading a lot of this forum, and How to Brew, I'm still a little confused about the fundamentals I guess. If anyone would be so kind as to answer that'd be great.

1) Is 'primary fermentation' simply from the brew day until the SG readings are stable?

2) Is 'secondary fermentation' just the period after that where the yeast is still active and as I've read here on the forum "cleaning up after itself"? What exactly does that mean?

3) My kit comes with a primary fermenter (plastic bucket) and a secondary fermenter (glass carboy). From what I've read on the forum my understanding now is that you don't need a secondary fermenter per say, but it's used to limit the exposure to oxidation? Is that right, and is that the only reason? For a first brew should I use it or not?

4) Is the primary fermenter usually the plastic bucket only because it's got a bigger volume to handle the primary fermentation? You could just as feasibly use a glass carboy for this stage?

5) Finally, when it comes to bottling, (which can be any time after the SG readings are stable, but should not really be before 2-3 weeks since brewday) you need to siphon again into a third vessel to mix your priming sugars with your beer before bottling? What do people use for this?

Ok one more question or two, about equipment.

My kit comes with an airlock, but no kind of blow-off tube. It seems like getting a blow-off tube would be a good precaution right at the start?

I also need to pick up a big pot to brew in today. Should I get a one large enough to do full boils in in future (7-8g volume?), or just get a smaller one for now?

From reading here, I guess the larger ones need a really strong heat source to get them to boil (I only have an electric stove so I'm skeptical) and also do they need an immersion cooler to cool them? The plan at the start was simply an ice bath. If they need an immersion cooler I'm sticking to a smaller pot for now. What's people's advice on this?

Thanks for any insight - apologies if these are really dumb questions.

David


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Old 03-18-2011, 04:10 PM   #2
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Oooh, sorry one more.

I live in an apartment, so it's going to be fermenting either in a closet or in the corner of a room. Whats the beer smell going to be like? If it's in a closet will everything in there end up smelling of fermenting beer?


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Old 03-18-2011, 04:17 PM   #3
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1) Primary Fermentation is what occurs after you pitch the yeast. This is done in the initial vessel. Update: Generally, the primary fermentation is up until the specific gravity has leveled off for two or three days.
2) Secondary Ferementation is the act of siphoning the beer from the primary vessel into a second vessel. There are a lot of contradicting opinion on the matter if you need to do this, but majority will probably tell you that it is not necessary unless you are dry hopping or adding fruit. This is also useful if you want to free up the primary fermentor for another batch of beer.
3) Glass carboys like the one you have has less head space in them; so the beer will have less chance of becoming oxidized since there is less oxygen in the vessel.
4) Yes. The pail has more room so when kraussen is developed during the initial stages of fermentation there is room for it to grow and it won't escape through the airlock. You can use glass carboys to do your primary fermentation; however, it is recommend that you use a blow off tube since there is a good chance the kraussen will rise out of the carboy.
5) The "third bucket" is your bottling bucket. The reason to have a separate vessel to do this in is to limit the amount of yeast that will get into the bottles; not to mention, it is always good to have an established bottling bucket so if you have multiple batches going you do not run into the problem of having your bottling bucket unusable since you are fermenting in it.
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Old 03-18-2011, 04:17 PM   #4
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Hey David,

I'd recommend picking up a book or two on brewing to answer your questions, plus many, many more brewing ideas. Here's a link to a good starting point though: John Palmer's How to Brew. As far a fermentation by-products, it can range anywhere from roses to bad farts depending on yeast primarily. Cheers!!!
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Old 03-18-2011, 04:22 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear85
Hi,

I've been reading up on homebrewing for the last couple of weeks, today is the day to head to the LHBS to pick up my beginners kit! Despite reading a lot of this forum, and How to Brew, I'm still a little confused about the fundamentals I guess. If anyone would be so kind as to answer that'd be great.

1) Is 'primary fermentation' simply from the brew day until the SG readings are stable?

2) Is 'secondary fermentation' just the period after that where the yeast is still active and as I've read here on the forum "cleaning up after itself"? What exactly does that mean?

3) My kit comes with a primary fermenter (plastic bucket) and a secondary fermenter (glass carboy). From what I've read on the forum my understanding now is that you don't need a secondary fermenter per say, but it's used to limit the exposure to oxidation? Is that right, and is that the only reason? For a first brew should I use it or not?

4) Is the primary fermenter usually the plastic bucket only because it's got a bigger volume to handle the primary fermentation? You could just as feasibly use a glass carboy for this stage?

5) Finally, when it comes to bottling, (which can be any time after the SG readings are stable, but should not really be before 2-3 weeks since brewday) you need to siphon again into a third vessel to mix your priming sugars with your beer before bottling? What do people use for this?

Ok one more question or two, about equipment.

My kit comes with an airlock, but no kind of blow-off tube. It seems like getting a blow-off tube would be a good precaution right at the start?

I also need to pick up a big pot to brew in today. Should I get a one large enough to do full boils in in future (7-8g volume?), or just get a smaller one for now?

From reading here, I guess the larger ones need a really strong heat source to get them to boil (I only have an electric stove so I'm skeptical) and also do they need an immersion cooler to cool them? The plan at the start was simply an ice bath. If they need an immersion cooler I'm sticking to a smaller pot for now. What's people's advice on this?

Thanks for any insight - apologies if these are really dumb questions.

David
1. Basically, there is no set time for primary, but most ferment 3-4 weeks.

2. Yes, although secondary is not really necessary unless adding fruit or dry hopping. The yeast will clean up fermentation byproducts, for instance? Diacetyl. This will happen regardless if you rack to a secondary fermentor or leave it in the primary. Again, most just leave it in primary.

3. The glass Carboy is your fermenter, the bucket is for bottling. You don't need to worry about oxidation in primary because he headspace in the Carboy will be filled with co2 during fermentation, displacing the oxygen. Risk of oxidation rises slightly by racking to secondary.

4. Carboy is your fermenter, bucket is for bottling.

5. For bottling, mix priming sugar with boiled water, then dump in bucket. Siphon beer from Carboy to bucket? Taking care not to splash, and making sure priming sugar is adequately mixed. Use the bottling want and valve on the bucket to fill bottles, then cap. Store for 3 weeks at 70 degrees, then drink away.

6. Blow off tube is good to have, and they're cheap.

7. Buy a bigger pot, but be aware, you will probably not be able to do full volume boils on the stove. My electric stove can barely boil 3 gallons, and it takes over an hour to get there. A propane burner or heat stick will fix that.

8. Chillers are nice to have, but not necessary. Plenty of people just use ice baths.
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Old 03-18-2011, 04:23 PM   #6
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Blow off tube: If you plan on using your carboys for primary fermentation then I recommend picking up a blow off tube since carboys generally have less head space. However, if you are going to be using the Ale Pails, you should be fine with just the standard airlock.

Pot: I'm the type of person that would rather buy the larger equipment now so I don't need to buy it later. That being said, this is kind of a personal preference scenario and how much you want to grow your brewing experience. If you think you are going to be doing extract boils (usually 2.5 gallon boils) for the next year, then I recommend just going with a smaller pot and investing in something bigger in a year; heck, you might have something good enough at your house. However, if you are looking to go into all-grain brewing as soon as you can, then I would recommend looking into a turkey fryer kit that will come with the burner, stand, and 7.5+ gallon pot.
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Old 03-18-2011, 04:25 PM   #7
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Is there a spigot in your bucket?
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Old 03-18-2011, 05:05 PM   #8
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To be a little more accurate, secondary fermentation, as used in the most of these answers is a misnomer. Secondary fermentation occurs after the initial primary fermentation, and can happen in the original fermentation vessel.

A "Secondary Fermentor" is really a clearing tank/carboy/bucket that is used to age the beer so the primary vessel can be cleaned and reused.

Secondary fermentation has nothing to do with where the beer is located. It has to do with the internal dynamics of the beer.
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Old 03-18-2011, 05:33 PM   #9
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I would go with a 5 gallon pot unless you plan on getting a burner and brewing outdoors soon (which isn't practical in an apartment). My electric has enough trouble boiling 4 gallons, and the pot uses almost all the available vertical space above the burner that I have.

Get a blowoff tube to be safe. They're very cheap and good to have on-hand as security.
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Old 03-18-2011, 09:16 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the answers - this is by far the most friendly and helpful place on the internet I've ever seen!

Just picked up the kit, the bucket doesn't have a spigot, so I guess that just makes the bottling have to be done with a siphon instead.

We got a 5 gallon pot so only partial boils for now, based on the advice I don't think there is any way my stove would boil a full boil sized pot.

The LHBS was out of stock of gaskets for the primary fermenter (the seal between the lid and the bucket), he said it wouldn't stop him using it, it'd just mean the air lock wouldn't bubble. Can I trust that advice and use it without risk of infection?

I think we'll use the secondary fermenter, I guess we need to use the primary bucket for bottling too.

Thanks again for all the advice, very much appreciated.

EDIT - He also forgot to give us the thermometer we'd asked for. Is it ok to try brewing without one?



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