Author Topic: Fermenting-How Long?  (Read 7010 times)

Enchanted Brew

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Fermenting-How Long?
« on: February 14, 2009, 05:25:25 PM »
We're new to the forum, currently have a batch of brown ale fermenting, and we've got questions.  Our references are the guys at our brew store (a 10 hour round trip drive) and John Palmer's book.

Last Saturday was brew day.  Our beer began the fermenting process in our plastic "ale pail", tightly covered with air lock.  Today, one week later, we racked the beer from the "ale pail" into a glass carboy to let the fermenting process continue.  The brew store guys are telling us to ferment for a total of 3 weeks.  Palmer's book says a total of 2 weeks.  Which is it?  Is it possible to ferment too long?

Bruce & Barbara



Offline SleepySamSlim

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Re: Fermenting-How Long?
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2009, 07:55:50 PM »
Welcome to brewing - as you'll find out there are many opinions on every aspect of brewing beer. One rule that I've heard quite a bit is 1, 2,3.

1 week in primary
2 weeks in secondary
3 weeks in the bottle

Your best bet is to start measureing specific gravity to guide you along
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Offline Rep

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Re: Fermenting-How Long?
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2009, 07:23:33 AM »
Welcome to the BeerSmith forum.  There are some really god people here.

It was your hydrometer indicating the same readings on two consecutive days that told you that you could rack to the carboy, right?  Length of time is not an indicator.

A secondary fermentation is really used to clear the beer rather than actually ferment.  The fermentation process was completed when the hydrometer told you there was no more activity.

That said, some of us will leave our beer sit in the primary for a number of weeks and maybe not move it at all to a secondary.

I used to use a secondary and no longer do.

Enchanted Brew

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Re: Fermenting-How Long?
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2009, 08:52:20 AM »
Thanks for the replies and the help.  We'll use your advice as we fine tune our method of brewing good beer.  Do you think this batch of beer will turn out OK?  Have we compromised anything, like, quality, taste, or clarity because of what we've done or what we've failed to do?  We've racked the beer, that's water over the dam.  Should we take a specific gravity reading now?  Should we just let the beer sit?  For two more weeks in the carboy, then bottle?  What would you suggest we do from now until bottling day?

The guy at the brew store told us one week in the primary then two more weeks in the secondary.  No mention of taking a specific gravity reading after the original OG, from either the brew store guy or from Palmer's book.  Palmer cautions beginners to minimize specific gravity readings to minimize bacteria contamination.

When we racked, there was no activity in the airlock.  There is very little activity now.

Thanks for putting up with us.

Bruce & Barbara

Offline SOGOAK

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Re: Fermenting-How Long?
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2009, 09:14:52 AM »
The absolute answer is to use the hydrometer.  The good news is that with basic beers, 1-2-3 should work. 

I quit racking on basic beers too and it doesn't matter.  When you try belgians or fruit you may want to rack.  Now I jus leave my beer 4+ weeks, then bottle and in 2-3 weeks I'm all set.

You can gently swirl the secondary 1-2X a day for a week to encourage the yeast to keep working.

Welcome aboard!
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Enchanted Brew

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Re: Fermenting-How Long?
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2009, 12:12:01 PM »
So on our next batch, we check the OG when we pitch the yeast (like we did the first time, OG=1.050), then when do we check the FG?

We want to begin brewing a Kolsch recipe.  Our brew store guy says Kolsch recipes require us to boil all 5 gallons from the start.  Do you guys agree with this?  If so, can you recommend a basic beer recipe that doesn't require the 5 gallon boil so we can keep making beer?  I like the nut brown ale types, Barbara likes the Kolsch types.

Thanks, again.  We're off to swirl.

Bruce & Barbara

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Re: Fermenting-How Long?
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2009, 12:33:21 PM »
So on our next batch, we check the OG when we pitch the yeast (like we did the first time, OG=1.050), then when do we check the FG?



Bruce & Barbara

Bruce and Barbara
You made good beer, don't worry about it.  You will soon be enjoying it. 

Much of this hobby is about refining procedures and trying them out.

I check for FG once I believe the beer is done fermenting.  Then, I will even wait a week or tow beyond that until I want to begin bottling it.  About three days before bottling I will take my FG.  The next day, or even the day of bottling I will confirm that FG.  If the same I will bottle with confidence.  If the FG is not the same, I wait.  Rarely does this happen.

If you want to rack to secondary for clarification of the beer, follow the  same procedure of having two FG of the same reading.

Offline MaltLicker

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Re: Fermenting-How Long?
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2009, 12:47:10 PM »
...from Palmer's book.  Palmer cautions beginners to minimize specific gravity readings to minimize bacteria contamination.

I personally like the illustration on page 87 of Palmer's book.  It describes fermentation as three over-lapping stages, which sorta reveals that there is no clear-cut "moment" to transfer or bottle.  In general, however, you can potentially do more harm from racking or bottling too quickly compared to taking more time.  The yeast may be done eating most sugars, slowing airlock activity, but the more complex sugars may remain, and the by-products of the ferm that the yeast clean up later may still remain.  Better to let the yeast do all the work.  If you're skipping secondary and bottle too quickly, those residual sugars might add to the priming sugars, creating potential bottle bombs. 

If you took gravity readings only when you thought the beer needed attention, you'd be fine and not over-doing it. 

For this chore, a refractometer is great b/c the sample size is drops versus four ounces to fill a hydro tube.  Three hydro samples and you've drunk a full beer. 

deerelk4x4

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Re: Fermenting-How Long?
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2009, 10:50:04 AM »
Bruce and Barbara, Welcome to the forum.

The brown ale you brewed should still be ok, as even if you transferred it early, it will take yeast that is still in suspension and use it in the secondary to finish the fermentation.  The best way to tell if your fermentation is finished, is to use your hydrometer.  I have a pale ale house beer that i have stopped using my hydrometer to measure and will usually transfer after one week, and keg one week later.  The one week secondary seems to be the minimum amount of time for kegging for this beer since it has a green flavor if kegged earlier.

As for the 1-2-3, I don't know really one way or the other.  I had a couple of beers that took two weeks before i could transfer to the secondary.  Two weeks in the secondary is usually good for most ales, remember that if you try a lager, it will usually require a significantly longer time in the secondary, usually at least a month up to 10 or more months.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask them.  MaltLicker and the others here are very knowledgable and more than helpful.


Offline UselessBrewing

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Re: Fermenting-How Long?
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2009, 08:22:26 AM »
Hi Guys/Gals
Welcome to the forum!

We usually tell those new to brewing to use the 1-2-3 system because it's easy to remember, keeping it simple is paramount in the beginning. One of the hardest things to do is wait for that first beer.

As there are many different styles of beer, there will be many different variations on how to brew the beer you and your wife like. Brewing better beer is a journey that we all embark on and learn along the way. Some beers 1-2-3 will work fine, others, not so much! As others have stated, using the Hydrometer should predict when you can rack off the primary to secondary, or not even not rack at all. I personally do not subscribe to the camp that does not rack off the primary. Why? I like clear Beer.

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Do you think this batch of beer will turn out OK?
Yes as long as you kept everything clean and sanitized.
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Have we compromised anything, like, quality, taste, or clarity because of what we've done or what we've failed to do?
Doubtful.
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We've racked the beer, that's water over the dam.  Should we take a specific gravity reading now?
Don't worry about it until you are ready to bottle. Take a reading before you add the Priming sugar. If your reading is above 1.018. DON'T ADD THE PRIMING SUGAR OR BOTTLE! Call your Home Brew Store and ask for help, or post here and we will help
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Should we just let the beer sit?  For two more weeks in the carboy, then bottle?
See above answer.
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What would you suggest we do from now until bottling day?
Wait... Drink different styles of beer to see what you like, or don't like (for "Future Reference" of course!)
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When we racked, there was no activity in the airlock.  There is very little activity now.
This is actually normal. It does not necessarily mean that the beer is still fermenting. There may be some residual Co2 "gassing Off" from the primary fermentation process.

Cheers
Preston
The woodpecker pecks, Not to annoy, But to survive!

Offline MaltLicker

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Re: Fermenting-How Long?
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2009, 09:17:57 AM »
As an example that each batch is unique, I just bottled the Belgian wit brewed on the 9th (ten days ago). 

OG = 1.048
FG = 1.010, so Apparent Attenuation % was (48-10)/48 = 79%

The AA% range for WLP400 is 74-78%, so the yeast outperformed, another way of determining it was done.   (I was slightly low on OG during the boil, so I had added two ounces of cane sugar, which boosted the AA%.)  The taste test last night confirmed it was dry, tart and crisp with no off-flavors, so all was good for bottling today. 

And since I had only ~4 gallons of 1.048 wort, and the wit style should have some peppery phenolics from the yeast growth, I did no starter this time and it went well.  Once you get the basics down, you'll learn to experiment and make each beer your own. 


 

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