Primary, Secondary, Bulk Aging, and Bottling: Help a guy out

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TheDogsRump

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Hi all,

I used to do BIAB and have now switched to all electric with the GrainFather, but my question is about fermentation.
I've never done secondary, and most of what I read seems to suggest that it is okay to get away with this. Most stress that you should do three weeks in the primary though, if skipping secondary. I do wonder if this advice is primarily for kegging (it doesn't usually specify).

I have always done (roughly, depends on the beer of course) 2 weeks primary and 2 weeks bottle conditioning at fermentation temps before moving the bottles to the fridge.
  • Is this not technically 4 weeks of fermentation? 2 In primary and 2 in the bottles? Thus, LONGER than the three weeks I often see advised.
  • If I adjust my technique to do 3 weeks in the primary, do I still need a full two weeks for bottle conditioning? I brew sake and I am used to waiting months for results, but 5 weeks for a beer seems too long.
Can someone maybe explain to me what I am missing?
 

doug293cz

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You want your beer to completely ferment before bottling, so that when you add sugar to carbonate at bottling, you know exactly how much sugar is in the beer, and that it will create the correct amount of carbonation. If the beer hasn't completely finished fermenting before bottling, then you will have more sugar than you want for carbonation (after adding priming sugar), and you beer will end up over carbonated. This can be dangerous (bottle bombs) if there is significant residual sugar from the original fermentation.

To know that your primary fermentation has completed, you should take SG readings every 72 hrs or so. When you get two readings the same, then fermentation is complete, and it is safe to bottle. Yeast work at their own speed, and can't read calendars. If you want to ferment based on time, add about a 100% buffer to what you think you need for fermentation time.

After you bottle, you have to keep the beer warm until the yeast have had a chance to ferment all of the priming sugar. This can take anywhere from 2 to 5 weeks or more, depending on the beer and the amount of residual yeast. Some brewers fill one PET bottle to monitor the fermentation progress of the priming sugar. When the PET bottle gets hard, bottle conditioning is essentially complete. Waiting an extra week to be sure all the priming sugar has fermented is probably a good idea.

Brew on :mug:
 
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TheDogsRump

TheDogsRump

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You want your beer to completely ferment before bottling, so that when you add sugar to carbonate at bottling, you know exactly how much sugar is in the beer, and that it will create the correct amount of carbonation. If the beer hasn't completely finished fermenting before bottling, then you will have more sugar than you want for carbonation (after adding priming sugar), and you beer will end up over carbonated. This can be dangerous (bottle bombs) if there is significant residual sugar from the original fermentation.

To know that your primary fermentation has completed, you should take SG readings every 72 hrs or so. When you get two readings the same, then fermentation is complete, and it is safe to bottle. Yeast work at their own speed, and can't read calendars. If you want to ferment based on time, add about a 100% buffer to what you think you need for fermentation time.

After you bottle, you have to keep the beer warm until the yeast have had a chance to ferment all of the priming sugar. This can take anywhere from 2 to 5 weeks or more, depending on the beer and the amount of residual yeast. Some brewers fill one PET bottle to monitor the fermentation progress of the priming sugar. When the PET bottle gets hard, bottle conditioning is essentially complete. Waiting an extra week to be sure all the priming sugar has fermented is probably a good idea.

Brew on :mug:
Thanks! I should have clarified: I bottle once I hit my FG. This just usually is after about 2 weeks. I guess the essence of my question is this: What does an extra week in the primary achieve flavour wise in bulk ageing that a week in the bottle doesn't?
 

doug293cz

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Ok, understand the question now. Yes, the time bottle conditioning counts as maturation time. The yeast, and other things reacting, don't have any idea if they are in a plastic bucket, glass carboy, or glass bottle. They'll do what they're going to do either way (assuming similar temperatures.)

Brew on :mug:
 

Vale71

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I guess the essence of my question is this: What does an extra week in the primary achieve flavour wise in bulk ageing that a week in the bottle doesn't?
Mostly increased autolysis flavors and/or oxidative damage, depending on what type of vessel you use as a fermenter.
 

Calder

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Leaving beer on the yeast supposedly allows the yeast to clean up some undesirable flavors created during fermentation (acetaldehyde - apple flavor comes to mind). If you bottle and take the beer off the yeast, it does not have the chance to clean up these off flavors as you have removed the majority of the yeast. 2 weeks should be enough time to complete fermentation and have the yeast clean up the flavors, however, if you under-pitch, or ferment at too high a temperature, the beer may need more time before bottling.
 

Jag75

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I'm a 3 week fv brewer. One thing a little extra time in the fv helps with is less sediment in your bottles.
 

Vale71

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Does temperature have an impact on autolysis damage?
It sure does. Everything becomes slower the lower the temperature gets, including death. Well, for single-celled organisms anyway... ;)
 
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