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fsinger

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Am finishing up a brew in a new fermenter, a 6-1/2 gallon thick plastic fermenter with two ball valves, one at the bottom of the cone and one just to the top of the cone for bottling, I guess.

I started with 5-1/2 gallons of brew, but by trying to drain off the lees I have ended up with only 4 gallons and going quickly. What am I doing wrong? I seem to keep getting lots of dead yeast every time I use the bottom drain. Does the crap stick to the sides??

Anyone using a fermenter - the instructions say to drain off the lees every day, maybe there is a reason for that???? I might just go back to my carboys, at least I could SEE MY BREW!!
 

tnlandsailor

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Everytime you crack that ball valve on the bottom, you're losing beer. I seriously doubt that you need to open it every day. Not to bring up the whole "is the secondary fermenter necessary" thread again, but I rarely secondary anything anymore because I just couldn't taste the difference. Now, considering that, along with the fact that most other homebrewers only rack twice (instead of only once in my case), and most competitions are won by people using either of these two methods, why would it be necessary to crack the thing open every day?

I have a suggestion for your next brew. If your bottom drain ball valve has threads on the outlet side, screw in a 6" to 8" plastic pipe and attach another ball valve on the bottom of that. Now you have a vertical leg hanging down from the bottom of the cone. Ferment with the upper ball valve open and the lower ball valve closed. When you feel the need to drain the lees, close the upper valve and open the lower one. This will drain out only what's in the 6" pipe and will minimize your beer loss. Just a thought.

Prosit,
 
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fsinger

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tnlandsailor said:
I have a suggestion for your next brew. If your bottom drain ball valve has threads on the outlet side, screw in a 6" to 8" plastic pipe and attach another ball valve on the bottom of that. Now you have a vertical leg hanging down from the bottom of the cone. Ferment with the upper ball valve open and the lower ball valve closed. When you feel the need to drain the lees, close the upper valve and open the lower one. This will drain out only what's in the 6" pipe and will minimize your beer loss. Just a thought.

Prosit,
Now that is an excellent idea! I finally racked from the fermenter to a carboy to actually see what was going on and why I was losing so much beer. If you leave the stuff on the bottom for several days without draining it off, IT STICKS TO THE SIDES! and therefor won't drain out at all. The beer just makes a tunnel through the stuck dead yeast! Now I think I understand why they say to drain daily, so it doesn't have an opportunity to condense and stick to the sides of the cone.

You don't rack your beer even once?? If that doesn't change the taste, then that is a perfect answer - I'll just let it build up and draw from the upper valve into my bottling vessel before priming. Obviously I can't prime in the fermenter with all that dead yeast.

Do you rack to another container when you add the priming sugar?
 

tnlandsailor

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Actually, I'm a dedicated kegger. I quit bottling about 4 years ago and have never looked back. Although it's not a very popular practice, yes, I only rack once. I go from kettle, to primary fermenter, straight to a keg. The beer will sit in the primary for at least 2 weeks, sometimes as long as 4 depending on the activity or my own laziness. Then, straight into a clean and sanitized keg. As I mentioned, not a real popular practice. Most folks will secondary prior to bottling or kegging, but since I have eliminated the secondary, I've noticed no real effect on the beer in either taste or clarity.

Now for some caveats: You should be using a good clarifier somewhere in your process. I use Whirlfloc and have been really happy with the results. You need to let the primary fermenter completely settle out. This takes at least a couple of weeks. I have left it as long as 5. You need to rack very carefully. When I rack, I usually put the pick-up tube in the upper third of the carboy at the start. As the liquid level drops, I lower the tube. The pick-up tube doesn't reach the bottom of the fermenter until the very end of the process. Lastly, if you have the ability to do so, you can chill the carboy prior to racking for at least a few days. This will help to settle out suspended "stuff". This is not really necessary, but sometimes I do it for light colored beers.

One final thought. In the wine and champagne industry, they do a step called riddling on bottles. This is where they force all the yeast and trub into the neck of the bottle by aging them upside down and giving them a good "thunk" a few times a day. The "thunk" is just where they rotate the bottle and rap the sides a little to help get the stuff down into the neck. You might try this on your fermenter by gently tapping on the conical part of your vessel a few times a day to see if you can get the yeast and stuff to slide down the sides. Over the course of a week, this might make a difference in how the yeast settles in the bottom.

Prosit,
 
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