Primary ferment length vs autolysis questions

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JGlove

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Hey all,

I am on batch 6 right now, and have a wheat beer in my primary. I have a general feel for how to do all grain techniques, but there are some finer points of beermaking that escape me. I asked a question to someone that knows something, and he described it as "primary length and danger of autolysis." argument.

The homebrew shop I buy from kinda stresses a 7-10 day primary cycle, and a longer secondary if needed.

Combine that information with the fact that I had a bad experience with the yeast autolyzing back into my first batch of beer because I left it in the primary for 12-13 days. Because of that, I usually never go over 7 days for fermenting.

Now, I am doing this wheat beer (like I said above) and in a different thread, I had people saying that they never Primary ferment for LESS than 14 days, 7 days is too short, etc etc..

Now i am all confused as to what I should be doing with this hefe im brewing, and all future batches of beer. Granted, the hefeweizen yeast is supposed to be prevalent in the style, but what about some of the (my personal example) sour tasting english ale yeasts all nastifying my irish red ale.

Where is that tradeoff, and is it relatively scientific? or is it just one of those things that you only learn by making batches of nasty beer.
long story short, what are the general rules of thumb for fermentation time, accounting for styles of beer, yeast type, etc.

Any information on this would be awesome, because right now, im feeling confused to all hell on the subject, and I have a sad and lonely batch of beer sitting next to my bed :confused:
 

NitrouStang96

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I'm still rather green (though I did just graduate to kegging, woohoo!), but my last batch was in Primary for about 8 weeks or so. It's delicious.
 

BarleyWater

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Wheats typically go for 14 days in primary and straight to bottle.

As far as autolysis goes, all the text that I have read says that it is going to take MUCH MUCH longer than a week or two for autolysis to start happening, and when it does you are going to want to run for the hills because the stinch will be so god-awful.

People brewing big beers leave them in primary for a month or two sometimes with no ill effects. Taking the beer off of the yeast bed too early is actually bad for your brew. They are still cleaning up fermentation by pruducts and things even if not actively fermenting, so if it needs more than a week in primary, you should always let it saty. Remember, 3 days of the same FG readings and you will be good to transfer, and you should have no risk of autolysis. I'm thinking your problem wasn't autolysis or you wouldn't have even been able to get close enough to bottle that batch of beer.
 

PseudoChef

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What is your "fact" that you had autolysis in your first batch? I always primary for a month then straight to bottles.

Keep your beer on the yeast for at least 10 days in order to have the yeast clean up their natural by-products after the fermentation is complete.

In addition, I have had multiple batches that don't finish fermenting in under 7 days. In fact, my Belgian Strong Dark took 18 days before I back calculated that fermentation was complete (e.g., reading at day 21 was the same as reading at day 18).
 

DeathBrewer

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i've left stuff sit in the primary for a couple months without any problems. i've made it kind of a rule to transfer a beer to secondary no later than a month AFTER FERMENTATION HAS COMPLETED but not always stuck to it. I transfer sooner if i'm in a bucket instead of a carboy.

I think it would be difficult to make autolysis a problem. You'd have to have it in plastic and leave it for months. a few weeks wouldn't do it.
 

Dr_Deathweed

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+1 to all above, I am guessing that your "autolysis" problem was actually something else for all the reasons stated above. I typically keep my beers in the primary for 3-4 weeks and have never had a problem. I have also had big beers stay in the primary for 2-3 months before I racked them. Now there are some beers that I will rack earlier, wheats and now kolshes, but thats mostly because they tend to go straight to tap...:D
 

ArcaneXor

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My beer sits on the yeast for three-four weeks before bottling (I rarely use secondaries), and there hasn't been even a hint of autolysis.
 

Brewsmith

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I doubt you had autosysis in your first batch. It could have been some other contamination, or any number of things. Two weeks in the primary are not going to hurt the yeast. You would need a couple months. Just leave the beer until it's done, no matter how long it takes. I routinely leave my fermenters for two weeks without thinking about racking. Sometimes it's three weeks by the time I get around to it.
 

blacklab

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Autolysis is the sasquatch of homebrewing. My opinion is that you had some other infection or contamination. Many on this forum leave their beers sitting on yeast for a long time with no ill effects.

I think the best thing you can do to assure yourself is to use your hydrometer to determine when to transfer your beers, there is no set span of time. When your gravity is stable for two days, your fermentation is complete.
 
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JGlove

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Ive had people tell me that the problem with my first beer was autolysis. Now, I am no biologist, so I have no idea if that is actually true.

I was getting beer that just reeked of yeast in taste and smell. all you tasted was this really sour yeast. even 3 months later, i am getting this really sour taste.

At the bottom of each bottle of the beer I am getting a small yeast cake that is roughly a 1/3 inch thick.

After reading this, I think that this could be because I didnt leave it there long enough (?) maybe? I honestly have no idea.

It isnt a cleanliness issue. I kept all of my equipment rediculously clean for that batch. (less so on all subsequent batches, and I havent ever had that issue again)

I racked the beer into my secondary, and removed the yeast from there again, but I cant believe how much yeast sediment i have at the bottom of these bottles...

Does anyone have an answer to why there was so much yeast sediment at the bottom?
 

Yooper

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Autolysis is literally when the yeast begin to digest themselves. The resulting taste/smell is fecal, I understand. Yeasty/sour is NOT autolysis. Yeasty is usually from not leaving the beer ferment long enough to clear and for the yeast to drop out. Sour is due to infection usually. Sometimes, though, you can have a sour-ish green apple taste/smell that is simply just young beer and that will fade. A true vinegar-y or sour flavor (lacto usually) is infection.

You had a ton of yeast sediment in your probably due to bottling too early. Especially if it tastes yeasty.

You mentioned that it wasn't a cleanliness issue- that's probably true. but remember that sanitation is crucial, and proper and thorough sanitizing is crucial to prevent wild yeast and bacteria from infecting the brew.
 

quickerNu

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I usually leave my wheats in for 3 weeks, then bottle, with no ill effects. With other beers, I go 10-14 (usually 14) in the primary before I rack to secondary. I don't think if you had an off-flavor it was caused by autolysis after only 12-13 days.
 
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blacklab said:
Autolysis is the sasquatch of homebrewing.
I've always considered hot-side aeration to be the Sasquatch of homebrewing. Autolysis is more like the Chupacabra of homebrewing!

I too have left beers in primary as long as five weeks. The only thing that happened is that they continued to clear.
 
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JGlove

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YooperBrew said:
Autolysis is literally when the yeast begin to digest themselves. The resulting taste/smell is fecal, I understand. Yeasty/sour is NOT autolysis. Yeasty is usually from not leaving the beer ferment long enough to clear and for the yeast to drop out. Sour is due to infection usually. Sometimes, though, you can have a sour-ish green apple taste/smell that is simply just young beer and that will fade. A true vinegar-y or sour flavor (lacto usually) is infection.

You had a ton of yeast sediment in your probably due to bottling too early. Especially if it tastes yeasty.

You mentioned that it wasn't a cleanliness issue- that's probably true. but remember that sanitation is crucial, and proper and thorough sanitizing is crucial to prevent wild yeast and bacteria from infecting the brew.
i obviously had some misinformation coming my way. I'll keep it in mind for future batches. thanks a bunch :D
 

ArcaneXor

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JGlove said:
i obviously had some misinformation coming my way. I'll keep it in mind for future batches. thanks a bunch :D
By the way, Go Gators!
 
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