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Old 04-29-2013, 04:06 AM   #1
BrewerBS
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What is the best way to age a beer? Primary, secondary, bottle or a combination of them all. Cold or room temperature? New to brewing and looking for your opinions and wisdom on this subject.



 
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Old 04-29-2013, 04:17 AM   #2
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Also, how long do you leave the beer at each step?



 
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Old 04-29-2013, 04:28 AM   #3
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It all depends on the beer. Bigger beers can benefit from more conditioning. Some beers like hefeweizen are best when they're younger and shouldn't be conditioned long at all.

In general, I like to bulk age for about 3 weeks before bottling. Then you need at least 3 weeks in the bottle (at 70 degrees F) to properly carbonate.

I've found that bulk aging seems to work faster than aging in the bottle after carbonation. For example, I'll brew a beer, do the usual time in the carboy and then bottle. After 3 weeks it'll taste green and won't taste right for another month or two. Then when I brew the same recipe and give it an extra week or so in the carboy and it's good after the 3 weeks in the bottle.

As for primary or secondary... that's really up to you. I still use a secondary, mainly because I'm kind of sloppy with my siphon and tend to suck up some of the yeast cake so the secondary lets that settle back out. TONS of folks here have totally given up on using a secondary and just leave it in the primary for 3 weeks or so.

BIG high gravity beers can definitely benefit from extended time in the carboy for a month or more before bottling. In that case, I'd definitely go with a secondary after a month or so.
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Old 04-29-2013, 05:20 AM   #4
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Nice advise, cat. I'm new myself and was wondering the same. Ive had great experience aging bottles from another home brewer, they shifted to something strangely awesome and divine around two years in bottle, no way of knowing what they originally were unfortunately. I'm currently aging a brewers best weizenbier kit in secondary for a month or so just to see how that turns out. EXPERIMENT!

 
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Old 04-29-2013, 05:25 AM   #5
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I've had bottles of my saison and my chocolate stout after a couple years that were freaking amazing. Then I've had bottles of my brown ale that were ok. My apa after a year or more... bleah. Generally... hefes and wheat beers are best very young. Anything with hop aroma are best somewhat young and fresh. High gravity beers or beers that derive a lot of character from their yeast can be very interesting as they get older.
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Old 04-29-2013, 06:10 AM   #6
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Thanks Cat. My first batch I made last month I had in the primary for two weeks, secondary for a week, and bottle for two weeks. I did notice that it became better with time. Unfortunately I didn't have the patience to let I age....it was my very first batch. I have about 16 bottles left that I am going to try and let age in the bottle for a bit longer. I just made a new Extra Pale Ale last week and I am going to try and leave it in the primary for a month. Do you think it is more important to primary on the trub longer than secondary to let the yeast clean up after themselves?

 
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Old 04-29-2013, 06:20 AM   #7
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Also, vanilla and other spices will fade with aging so try them at intervals to see what your recipes sweet spot is.
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Old 04-29-2013, 11:32 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrewerBS View Post
Thanks Cat. My first batch I made last month I had in the primary for two weeks, secondary for a week, and bottle for two weeks. I did notice that it became better with time. Unfortunately I didn't have the patience to let I age....it was my very first batch. I have about 16 bottles left that I am going to try and let age in the bottle for a bit longer. I just made a new Extra Pale Ale last week and I am going to try and leave it in the primary for a month. Do you think it is more important to primary on the trub longer than secondary to let the yeast clean up after themselves?
Your extra pale ale probably won't benefit from the month in the primary, at least not as much as a darker beer. Assuming you fermented at the proper temperature you could leave it for 10 days to 2 weeks, dry hop it for 3 to 7 more days and then bottle it. You aren't trying to meld the complexity of the dark grains since you should have none in a extra pale.

 
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Old 04-29-2013, 12:55 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrewerBS View Post
Thanks Cat. My first batch I made last month I had in the primary for two weeks, secondary for a week, and bottle for two weeks. I did notice that it became better with time. Unfortunately I didn't have the patience to let I age....it was my very first batch. I have about 16 bottles left that I am going to try and let age in the bottle for a bit longer. I just made a new Extra Pale Ale last week and I am going to try and leave it in the primary for a month. Do you think it is more important to primary on the trub longer than secondary to let the yeast clean up after themselves?
Thing is, every beer is different. Even "same recipe" batches can have significant variables that add up to differences in flavor. Freshness of extract, hops and yeast. Yeast strain. Fermentation temperatures. Water chemistry differences. Variables in any grains used. Mash temperatures for all-grain. Every variable can have an impact, and we can't control all of them. It's not about finding some magic number of weeks in this or that, it's about observation, patience and tinkering. "Secondary", as described by most folks on here is just bulk aging in a second carboy after fermentation is complete. True secondary is a transfer just after the high kreusen (peak fermentation) begins to fall. This allows the rest of the ferment to continue off of the trub, but still leaves behind residual yeast to "clean up" or absorb off flavor compounds. Those who transfer when the beer reaches final gravity are really just bulk aging in a second vessel, and depending when they transfer may be preventing their yeast from the chance to do this clean up. Read the book "Yeast", by Chris White and Jamil Z. It will really help you understand the variables that are most important to a quality ferment. It's all about yeast health and performance. Anyone can give you their preferred number of days or weeks or preference of secondary or primary only, but understanding the true beer makers, yeast, is the true path to great beer!

 
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Old 04-29-2013, 01:16 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Demus View Post
Thing is, every beer is different.
This! I suggest letting your taste buds be your guide. After years of brewing, I still find it amazing how the beer changes with time and temperature.



 
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