Two Stage Fermentation: timing

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KELLEHERC

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Hello All,

I have read a million different opinions so I will post my situation and see what people think.

SITUATION:
- We just brewed up a batch of Smithwicks Ale (clone)
SG: 1.042
- Sat in primary for 4 DAYS
- Moved to secondary
SG: 1.011
- plan on leaving there for 11 days and then bottle

QUESTIONS:
1) My SG reading could be off but seems very close to the expected final reading. Should it be bottled sooner?

2) How long do people normally leave in primary and secondary?

Thanks
 

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible

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1 week in primary, 2 in secondary is the standard answer (Or 3 weeks in primary alone). Anything longer is playing safe and good. Anything under is taking a risk unless you are very familiar with the particular brew. Risky for a beginner.
 

conpewter

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I do 3 weeks to a month in primary then bottle/keg. This allows the yeast time to clean up their byproducts after primary fermentation.
 

SpanishCastleAle

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IMHO, you don't need to do that secondary. Just leave it in the primary for 3 weeks and then bottle it. I think you aren't really gaining anything by doing it...possibly losing some beer quality...and def increasing the chance of infection (although it is still small if you practice good cleaning/sanitation).

It's just more work for no gain and possibly a loss. Not worth it imo.
 
OP
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KELLEHERC

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I have done it both ways but the reason I did two stage this time was because of the last brew. We did an Oatmeal stout and but directly into a carboy. After 9 days we bottled. In the carboy there was blow over, the lock kept getting clogged, and the top of lock blew off at one point. When we opened carboy to bottle there was about an inch of dried up foam clogging the top. in hindsight I could have run a tube to another another bucket to catch any blow over and may try that next time. I assumed two stage (which I have tried before) would give me added benefits of a clearer beer and no blow over (as long as I took sanitary precautions)

Do you loose quality/alcohol by moving to second too soon?
 

SpanishCastleAle

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The yeast produce byproducts (other than CO2 and alcohol) early in the fermentation...they then go back and consume some of these byproducts later. That's basically what people mean by 'letting the yeast clean up after themselves'. By taking the beer off the cake too soon you reduce the ability of the yeast to clean up after themselves...but you don't eliminate it because there is still a ton of yeast in suspension.

You can reduce these bad byproducts by fermenting at cool temps during the early 'vigorous' fermentation (this will also help reduce blowoffs). Try to do the vigorous part of the fermentation at cool temps...later on after it's close to finished ferementing you can let it warm up (that will actually help the yeast clean up faster).

Try to reduce blowoffs by either using Fermcap or brewing slightly smaller batches. And if you're gonna have a blowoff def use a blowoff tube. The guys who use Fermcap swear by it...but you must add it after the boil for it to prevent blowoffs.
 

conpewter

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The guys who use Fermcap swear by it...but you must add it after the boil for it to prevent blowoffs.
This is true for most setups. If almost everything from the boil kettle goes into the fermenter though the fermcap will as well. I don't use foam control in the fermenter but since the drain on my boil kettle is on the bottom I drain everything but the hops and some of the hot break into my fermenter through the CFC. I've seen greatly reduced krausens since I started using the foam control in the boil. The head retention on my brews is very good still so I know I'm leaving it behind in the fermenter.
 

ifishsum

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I like to secondary most of my beers - IMO the most important thing is that the beer is finished before racking to secondary. I usually give it at least 10 days in primary (more often 14) then 2 weeks in secondary, and check the gravity before I move the beer. Racking too early can prevent the beer from finishing completely, and you're also losing much of the benefit of the yeast consuming their own by-products and such.
 

david_42

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Think "bright tank" vs secondary. Fermentation occurs in the fermenter, the beer clears in the bright tank.
 

Revvy

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Think "bright tank" vs secondary. Fermentation occurs in the fermenter, the beer clears in the bright tank.
+1 to this...I think due to "phrasiology" this is so confused by a LOT of people....there are 3 phases of fermentation, and they all happen (or should anyway) in the primary fermenter...including the secondary phase.

"Secondary fermenter" is a misnomer, either bright tank or secondary vessel it should be called.

From How to Brew;

Leaving an ale beer in the primary fermentor for a total of 2-3 weeks (instead of just the one week most canned kits recommend), will provide time for the conditioning reactions and improve the beer. This extra time will also let more sediment settle out before bottling, resulting in a clearer beer and easier pouring. And, three weeks in the primary fermentor is usually not enough time for off-flavors to occur....

...The fermentation of malt sugars into beer is a complicated biochemical process. It is more than just the conversion of sugar to alcohol, which can be regarded as the primary activity. Total fermentation is better defined as three phases, the Adaptation or Lagtime phase, the Primary or Attenuative phase and a Secondary or Conditioning phase. The yeast do not end Phase 2 before beginning Phase 3, the processes occur in parallel, but the conditioning processes occur more slowly. As the majority of simple sugars are consumed, more and more of the yeast will transition to eating the larger, more complex sugars and early yeast by-products. This is why beer (and wine) improves with age to a degree, as long as they are on the yeast. Beer that has been filtered or pasteurized will not benefit from aging.



The conditioning process is a function of the yeast. The vigorous, primary stage is over, the majority of the wort sugars have been converted to alcohol, and a lot of the yeast are going dormant; but there is still yeast activity. During the earlier phases, many different compounds were produced by the yeast in addition to ethanol and CO2, e.g., acetaldehyde, esters, amino acids, ketones- diacetyl, pentanedione, dimethyl sulfide, etc. Once the easy food is gone, the yeast start re-processing these by-products. Diacetyl and pentanedione are two ketones that have buttery and honey-like flavors. These compounds are considered flaws when present in large amounts and can cause flavor stability problems during storage. Acetaldehyde is an aldehyde that has a pronounced green apple smell and taste. It is an intermediate compound in the production of ethanol. The yeast reduce these compounds during the later stages of fermentation.

The yeast also produce an array of fusel alcohols during primary fermentation in addition to ethanol. Fusels are higher molecular weight alcohols that often give harsh solvent-like tastes to beer. During secondary fermentation, the yeast convert these alcohols to more pleasant tasting fruity esters. Warmer temperatures encourage ester production.....
This is NOT about secondary vessels, it's about the secondary phase of fermentation....the clean up phase. People often confuse the two.

I firmly believe that it is negated by rushing a beer from primary to secondary too soon...and it comes from a "fear the yeast" mentality from over 30 years ago, when there were limited amounts of yeast availbale, and it was usually hard crappy already weakened cakes.

The irony of the situation (or the worst case scenario) is that since the OP moved the beer after 4 days, AND quite posibly fermentation didn't even begin til 72 hours after yeast pitch (as often happened) the beer may possibly have had only 1 day of real fermentation. The beer could easily be a candidate for stuck or under attenuated...

This is why across the board I tend to leave my beers in primary for a month...I KNOW that fermentation has ceases AND the yeast has cleaned up after itself...
 
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