How Long in Primary?

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shaneshepherd

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I've read that if you leave beers in primary too long that they can start to develop off flavors from the yeast cake...some people even mentioned a bandaid taste. For this reason, I'm alway careful to remove my beer from primary promptly at two weeks. I haven't had a problem with beers not finishing fermenting in that time, although I have noticed that some beers seem to drop a couple more gravity points in secondary.

I'm wondering if there is a benefit to leaving the beer in primary longer than I have been...and how long is too long.
 

Rockn_M

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In my opinion once the beer has stable gravity readings it's probably done. Most people won't know by tasting the beer if it was left on the yeast cake for 2 weeks or 6 weeks.

Plus by not leaving it on the yeast cake for extended periods of time you get beer quicker.
 

giraffe

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It depends on the beer. In general, you should leave the beer on the yeast in the primary until final gravity is reached and is stable. This will let the yeast clean up off flavors.

Leaving on the yeast is really not as much of a concern in a home setup (i.e. not a conical with tons of top pressure) 4-6 weeks in the primary is fine, and Ive never had it give any off flavors.
 

Rev2010

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I think that myth has been busted over and over again for many years now. Most of my typical beers are 3 weeks primary then bottle. Other beers that finish fast, like hefeweizen's, are 2 weeks then bottle. Basically, unless it's a huge beer or something I'm looking to age, if the krausen has fallen back into the beer and it's a week later since then I bottle (now to be kegging after three+ years). Of course, this is if my FG readings are where they should be. Never had a reason to secondary, and I'm surprised some online LHBS' still continue on with old instructions and ridiculously long primary/secondary/bottle conditioning times.


Rev.
 

Man-O-Leisure

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It depends on the beer. In general, you should leave the beer on the yeast in the primary until final gravity is reached and is stable. This will let the yeast clean up off flavors.

Leaving on the yeast is really not as much of a concern in a home setup (i.e. not a conical with tons of top pressure) 4-6 weeks in the primary is fine, and Ive never had it give any off flavors.
Sorry for my ignorance, but reading your post reminded me of a question that always comes to mind when reading about brewing (still planning my first brew)..

Its my understanding that you leave the wort in the fermenter with the airlock on until fermentation is finished and you bottle or secondary it, so i figure that you cant keen opening up the fermenter.. so how are you getting these gravity readings to know that fermentation is over? you cant open it up to test and then put the airlock back on if its not done can you?
 

Man-O-Leisure

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Sure you can.

Still, you only need two readings at the end, a couple of days apart. If you take a reading today, and it's 1.010, and then again on Saturday, and it's 1.010, it's done.
Thanks for that, i just imagined that opening it up would let air in and contaminate it or something.. So all these gravity readings, along the whole process when do you take them? is it just When adding the wort to the fermenter and then like you said 2 times towards the end?
 

eadavis80

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Yeah, you should be taking a gravity reading on brew day AFTER you've mixed up all your wort thoroughly (assuming you're doing a partial boil with top off water), but if you're doing a full boil, mixing up all the water doesn't matter since it was all brewing in the pot. But, this reading is taken BEFORE adding the yeast. Then, probably a week or 10-14 days later (at least a few days after the airlock bubbles stop) take your next gravity reading. Then, a day or two later take another one. If those two post-yeast addition readings are the same, the beer is done fermenting. You can let it sit there for a few more weeks or rack to secondary. Everyone has their own view of which is better and why. Try both and see for yourself. I rack because it opens up my primary which allows batch no. 2 to being sooner, which is a good thing :) To find your ABV, you'll take your first gravity reading (the one BEFORE YOU ADDED YEAST) and subtract the final gravity reading (the one that was the same back-to-back). Take that difference and multiply by 131.5 and that will give you your ABV. Cheers!
 

jspain3

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I'm going on 5 weeks in the primary for my first home brew. I plan to bottle tonight or tomorrow night. I took two readings earlier in the week (2 days apart) and the FGs were 1.012 and 1.011. I think that's pretty stable especially given the length of time it's fermented and accounting for minor differences due to margin of error reading the hydrometer.
 

Man-O-Leisure

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Yeah, you should be taking a gravity reading on brew day AFTER you've mixed up all your wort thoroughly (assuming you're doing a partial boil with top off water), but if you're doing a full boil, mixing up all the water doesn't matter since it was all brewing in the pot. But, this reading is taken BEFORE adding the yeast. Then, probably a week or 10-14 days later (at least a few days after the airlock bubbles stop) take your next gravity reading. Then, a day or two later take another one. If those two post-yeast addition readings are the same, the beer is done fermenting. You can let it sit there for a few more weeks or rack to secondary. Everyone has their own view of which is better and why. Try both and see for yourself. I rack because it opens up my primary which allows batch no. 2 to being sooner, which is a good thing :) To find your ABV, you'll take your first gravity reading (the one BEFORE YOU ADDED YEAST) and subtract the final gravity reading (the one that was the same back-to-back). Take that difference and multiply by 131.5 and that will give you your ABV. Cheers!
Thanks for explaining that so well!! Now i get it :)
 

Talgrath

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I've read that if you leave beers in primary too long that they can start to develop off flavors from the yeast cake...some people even mentioned a bandaid taste. For this reason, I'm alway careful to remove my beer from primary promptly at two weeks. I haven't had a problem with beers not finishing fermenting in that time, although I have noticed that some beers seem to drop a couple more gravity points in secondary.

I'm wondering if there is a benefit to leaving the beer in primary longer than I have been...and how long is too long.
It varies from yeast to yeast and style to style, but usually beer is fine in the primary for up to two months. As far as benefits to leaving beer in longer, you may get some additional clarity in clear beers and some slight additional flavor, but usually if you're going to age a beer longer you send it to the secondary after a month or so. For hoppy beers, you usually want a quick turn around, since the longer a hoppy beer is sitting the weaker the hop flavors get.
 
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