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Brewing Topics => Brewing Discussion => Topic started by: rjreusch on May 23, 2015, 05:50:12 AM

Title: Bottle Conditioning
Post by: rjreusch on May 23, 2015, 05:50:12 AM
I read a lot about very short times between fermentation and ready to drink. 1-1/2 to 2 weeks even for beers with original gravity in the 1.065 range. I bottle condition my beers. I usually leave the beer in secondary for about a week after fermentation has ended then bottle. Primary fermentation is usually 2-3 days and a week or so in secondary so I have a pretty good fermentation. I pitch adequate yeast with a starter and oxygenate well. I always need about 6-8 weeks to reach optimum flavor profile. These are usually IPA or pale ale type beers in the 1.060-1.065 OG range. Is there something different about bottle conditioning (with corn sugar) other than the few days to a week needed to actually carbonate the beer that requires such a long maturation time?
Title: Re: Bottle Conditioning
Post by: durrettd on May 23, 2015, 10:41:54 PM
Many (I suspect most) brewers no longer use a secondary. There's more yeast in the primary, so fermentation can complete sooner if you don't transfer to a secondary.

Historically, beer was transferred for two reasons:
1. so the yeast would not rot (autolysis) and contaminate the beer. Supposedly, contemporary strains of yeast are less susceptible to autolysis so the beer can be safely left on the yeast (depending on who you ask) for 8 to 12 weeks.
2. to allow the beer to clear faster. Most brewers report their beer clears just as rapidly if left in primary. I let my beer sit in primary for a minimum of fourteen days AND until the specific gravity is unchanged over a three-day period plus seven days and is somewhere in the neighborhood of the expected final gravity.

I ferment at or a couple of dergrees (F) below the lower limit of the published temperature range for the yeast strain until the gravity stabilizes (fermentation is finished). Then I raise the temperature to the top of the published temperature range. Others recommend raising the temperature when the gravity is 75% of the way between the starting gravity and the predicted final gravity. Whenever you decide to raise the temperature, I suspect it's a good idea to give the beer a total of AT LEAST 14 days in the primary. Even if final gravity has been reached in four or five days, the yeast still metabolizes undesirable products produced early in fermentation.

After my 14-day minimum, I chill the beer (still in primary) to 35 - 40F to force the yeast to go dormant and settle out. At that point I keg, carbonate, and age - then immediately sample freely to observe the maturation process. Yeah, right. I start drinking it early. Since you're bottling, you would transfer to a bottling bucket, prime, and bottle. Then, you let it carbonate for another fourteen days, refrigerate and age. I don't see a way to get bottled beer ready to drink in less than 28 days. But, that's assuming you do it my way.

If you want your beer ready faster, I recommend you leave the beer in the primary and abandon the secondary; cold crash to clear the beer, and store your bottled beer at 75F or above to accelerate carbonation. I don't doubt there are brewers drinking their beer at two weeks, but I don't know how to do it.
Title: Re: Bottle Conditioning
Post by: rjreusch on May 25, 2015, 07:13:12 PM
Thanks for the response. I do not use a secondary. I have a conical and leave the wort on the yeast for approximately 14 days. This is approximately 7 days after reaching FG. This is for my average beers (1.060-1.065 OG). At that time it actually has a nice flavor (uncarbonated). Then I prime and bottle. It then seems to go through a "bad" period again from about 1+ weeks to about 6 weeks. This seems like a long time and I'm mostly convinced that the yeast again produces some unwanted compounds even though it is only fermenting corn sugar. I am then guessing that it may take more than the assumed additional 10-14 days to carbonate and again reach condition because you have so little yeast and I think even more yeast is pushed out of suspension when the beer carbonates....thus the longer time. It makes sense that force carbonating really speeds things up. What do you think of that theory? I guess there is no big reason to know why it takes so long other than finding techniques that will reduce the wait.
Title: Re: Bottle Conditioning
Post by: durrettd on May 26, 2015, 12:40:20 PM
I agree that the small amount of sugar you're fermenting for carbonation shouldn't affect the flavor to a large degree. I remember bottled beers requiring what I considered a long time to condition after carbonation was complete. But, I've been kegging for so long I've forgotten a lot of the details. I used a conical for a couple of years, but I was going from the conical to a keg and I don't remember those beers needing extra time to condition.

I'm GUESSING that part of the reason your bottled beer takes some extra time to condition is the slightly higher gravity of the beer you're brewing. Lower gravity beers are generally said to reach their peak flavor faster.

You're probably already doing it, but if not you might accelerate maturation by refrigerating the bottles once they've completed carbonation.

Some of the stories you're reading about two weeks from grain to glass might be just slightly exaggerated. I'm usually a bit cynical about much that I read: newspapers, Internet blogs, and brewing magazines included - except of course for my own posts (?).