First Batch - How long to ferment?

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gcdowd

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I am currently fermenting my first 5 gallon batch of beer. It's an Amber Ale (was part of a kit). I plan on going right from primary fermenter to bottling but would lik ena opinion on when to bottle. It's been in the primary for 11 days at the moment. I never took an original hydrometer reading (bad move there) and don't really want to open the fermenter to do so, at risk of contamination. Currently, the air lock is releasing gas at about a bubble every 40 seconds. Is there any way I can tell the fermentation is complete enough without taking a sample and using my hydrometer? I don't want over-carbonation when I bottle. Any help would be great!
 

NWAleDad

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The only way to tell if fermentation is complete is with a gravity reading. When you get the same reading two times in a row with 3 days time in between readings, fermentation is complete. If the airlock is bubbling, that is not a good sign to bottle. I leave my beers in the primary/secondary for at least 4 weeks. This gives the yeast time to clean up the beer and settle out.
 

HawksBrewer

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The only way to know for sure when fermentation is complete is to take subsequent gravity readings and look for constant gravities over a 2-3 day period. You will not likely contaminate your beer by opening your primary, dipping a sanitized hydrometer in, and sealing up again. That said, if you want just wait until 3 weeks in primary and you should be safe to go from there, but I would still check your gravity at bottling to ensure a low enough FG for safe bottling.
 

NWAleDad

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LOL to funny! :mug:

An alternate method to taking a gravity reading while still fermenting is to use something like a wine thief and graduated cylinder. Works perfect every time!
 

nefarious_1_

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I would wait at least 2 weeks before bottling, but that's just me. I usually go 3 or 4 weeks in primary.
That said, use your hydrometer: consistent readings over a few days indicates fermentation has stopped. The airlock is merely a CO2 vent.
 
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gcdowd

gcdowd

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Ok thanks. Maybe I'll just open it and take a gravity reading anyway. Would it be wise at this point to just extract a sample as a satellite and check the gravity of that (as opposed to continually opening the fermenter)?
 

NWAleDad

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I'm a fan of removing a sample from the primary fermenter and taking readings that way. But ultimately it is personal preference. But i would again i will push the wine thief method.
 
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gcdowd

gcdowd

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Ok and correct me if I'm wrong but it does not matter if the satellite gets contaminated right? It will still ferment normally?
 

NWAleDad

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You throw away the sample after taking the reading. Take just enough to get a proper reading...taste and discard. Repeat 3+ days later ;)

Maybe i misunderstood what you meant by "satellite" sample...just follow the above process using sterilized tools and minimize the time you are in the fermentation chamber and you will be fine.

http://www.stormthecastle.com/mead/using-a-wine-thief.htm
 

beerkrump

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For simple brews below 1.070 OG, my mantra is brew-primary three weeks-bottle three weeks- drink - repeat.

After fermentation, beer is a pretty inhospitable place for micro organisms. It's covered by a layer of CO2 and full of ethanol. If your ladle is clean and sanitary, you shouldn't have to worry about popping open your fermentation bucket to get a sample/sip.
 
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gcdowd

gcdowd

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Oj,i want going to throw the sample away. I was just going to let it continue outside the fermenter....
 

Lind13

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If you dont think you can do it without contaminating it trust in the fact that if it is still bubbling every 40 seconds your not done, i have also forgotten to take a gravity sample in the beginning, a good "rule of thumb" is to bottle after seeing about 1 bubble in a 5 minute period.
 

beerkrump

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If you dont think you can do it without contaminating it trust in the fact that if it is still bubbling every 40 seconds your not done, i have also forgotten to take a gravity sample in the beginning, a good "rule of thumb" is to bottle after seeing about 1 bubble in a 5 minute period.
NOOOOOO!!! Cut off that thumb!!

Your yeast will stop actively generating enough CO2 to cause your airlock to bubble after only one week, or less. Yes, bubbling airlocks are an indication of active fermentation, but not a tool to use to determine that fermentation is finished.

Give your beer time to clear in your primary, and not rush things, and you will be much happier with the end product. Don't worry so much about contaminating your beer. Just take the need precautions and you'll be fine.
 
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gcdowd

gcdowd

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Ok, I am convinced that I will take a sample out, check the gravity, taste it and then repeat after 3 days. Thanks all!
 

drathbone

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I use a clean/sanitized turkey baster to take my grav readings. I extract the sample, squirt it in the hydrometer container, take the reading, drink the sample. Easy enough, never had any infections yet.
 

NWAleDad

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Forgot about the turkey baster, I used that until i purchased a wine thief. And thank you beerkrump for setting this thread straight. i stepped away from computer for a few hours and the new brewer got some really bad advice ;)

:mug:
 

mcaple1

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This is your first brew....honestly....brew a second...it should take your mind off your amber ale. With it chilling up there, you're going to want to bottle that batch every damn time you look at it...so get another one going, and with it happily bubbling away, it will take your mind off it long enough for the yeast to clean up the first. ;)
 

NWAleDad

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This is your first brew....honestly....brew a second...it should take your mind off your amber ale. With it chilling up there, you're going to want to bottle that batch every damn time you look at it...so get another one going, and with it happily bubbling away, it will take your mind off it long enough for the yeast to clean up the first. ;)
Great advice! i did the same thing after my first batch. I fell in love with brewing so i picked up a carboy and another kit the very next saturday. plus, practices makes perfect :ban:
 

mcaple1

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Thanks all. I'll have to get another fermenter!
Trust me...if you loved brewing your first batch as much as I did...you will end up getting another primary/secondary set down the road anyway. Just do it now so you don't end up in the loony factory with padded walls. :rockin:
 
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