Author Topic: Conditioning time?  (Read 33989 times)

Offline R. Gibson

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Conditioning time?
« on: September 10, 2012, 03:57:25 PM »
I've been brewing for a few years now, but am usually too impatient, probably transferring from primary to secondary and secondary to keg weeks earlier than I should. I'm usually unhappy with the flavor of the beer until it's been kegged up for several weeks, despite force carbonating it within a few days...so I'm looking to improve my routine, and wondering what the best practice is?

What I usually do:

1) Ferment in closed primary vessel for about a week
2) Rack to closed secondary for a week or two, until all activity stops
3) Crash cool secondary in kegerator for a few days
4) Keg and force carbonate
5) Drink first beer about the 30-day mark, and usually unimpressed by flavor
6) Keep sampling beer every few days until it is gone
7) Complain that it just finally started tasting good on the last pour...  :'(

...so I have two batches in secondary right now. Both were in primary for a week, one is a Belgian Dubbel, with no signs of activity, but is still a little hazy. The other is an APA that just started dry hopping a few days ago. My plan for the APA is to rack it off the dry hops after about a week, in to a third carboy, to prevent it from getting "grassy," and let it condition out for another week or two after that.

The Belgain like I said is dark and still, but light doesn't really shine through it yet, so I guess I'm wondering if I just need to let it sit there for a few more weeks to mature and clarify? Or go ahead and keg it, and let it sit in the fridge for a few weeks instead? Will it actually mature faster at room temp in the secondary, or faster when cold and carbed in the keg?

Offline bucknut

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2012, 04:33:03 PM »
The fermentation stage is explained pretty well here http://www.howtobrew.com/section1/chapter9-3.html. Even after visual activity has stopped the yeast are still cleaning up and going through different phases. I use to check the gravity alot with a hydrometer, but since stopped. I'll ferment 3 weeks min depending on the S.G. then bottle or keg for another 3 weeks min at room temps, if it's winter time and my house is cooler, I'll let i go another week. Then it's at least a week in the fridge. It's hard to wait sometime but I've been pretty happy with all my brews.

Offline philm63

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2012, 05:25:01 PM »
Looks like you're going from kettle to keg in about 3 weeks, which many do with no problems. It also looks like you're handling the beer quite a lot.

As opposed to racking to a third carboy to pull the beer off the dry-hop and let it continue to condition, I agree with bucknut that you will want to let your beer sit in the primary for one more week to let the yeast clean up after themselves. This will make a huge difference.

This will also let you stick to your 3-week plan in that after two weeks in the primary, you've got one week in the secondary to dry-hop and it's off to the keg or bottles. If you're not dry-hopping or adding fruit or some other additives, there's no need to remove it from the primary at all until it's time to package. A recommended book on this topic is "Yeast" by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff. Eye-opening read.

Less handling = less chance for oxidation and possible contamination. Just my 0.02.
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Offline R. Gibson

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2012, 05:34:53 PM »
Thanks for your opinions guys. I'll try just doing a longer primary and no secondary on the next few batches (excluding dry-hopping or other flavoring).

What about the trub and yeast that gets sucked out of the primary though? I generally have a bit in the bottom of the secondary carboy that settles out and doesn't get transferred to the keg...?
« Last Edit: September 10, 2012, 05:36:54 PM by R. Gibson »

Offline philm63

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2012, 07:50:33 PM »
If the trub layer is hard enough; you can just rest the bottom of your auto-siphon on the cake and the siphon should not pick up any trub.

The safer bet if you're worried about sucking trub is to start your siphon up high in the primary and slowly lower it as the level goes down - be careful not to suck air while doing this, keep it well below the surface - and when you're getting close to the trub layer, start tilting the fermenter to get the last of the clear stuff and leave the rest.

What little trub may have made it into the siphon will settle out in your keg in a few days.
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Offline MikeinRH

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2012, 09:44:54 AM »
I like the part about sampling until the beer is gone. My problem is not brewing enough so I can properly condition a beer. My supply guy says never drink until the keg (force carbonated) has been conditioned a minimum of four weeks. I wish I had that luxury! Furthermore, I can always tell when I'm about to drain a keg. It's when I finally get that perfectly clear glass of beer that I wish was true for all five gallons!

Offline Maine Homebrewer

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2012, 04:50:42 PM »
Brew more often, so by the time you finished a keg, the next one in line will have some age. 

I don't know what you have for equipment, but imagine something like this.  You've got a few kegs. One you're drinking from and the rest are full of beer. You've got two secondaries and a primary.  One secondary is ready to keg, but you don't have room. So it sits there and ages, as does the kegged beer.  The other secondary is empty, waiting for the brew that you started last week. 

Have a big pipe and keep it full. That way what's on tap is never green.
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Offline R. Gibson

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2012, 05:05:39 PM »
All good info guys, thanks.

I am still a little confused though about which part of the process is the most critical to conditioning though. Is leaving the beer in the primary for 2-3 weeks going to make a significant difference in flavor, compared to racking it into a secondary after a week and letting it sit in the secondary for a little longer? How much does the beer condition once it is cold and carbonated? Am I better off leaving it in the secondary longer, or better off conditioning it in the keg?

Someone I was just talking to offline somewhat validated how I have been doing it with a 1-2-3 schedule...One week in primary, two weeks in secondary and three weeks in the keg or bottle. He said he thought he read that in one of the homebrewing books by Papazian or Mosher or something...?
« Last Edit: September 14, 2012, 05:09:24 PM by R. Gibson »

Offline Slurk

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2012, 02:04:12 PM »
Hi R.Gibson,

I understand you're confused. Talking from my experience I learned to be carefull having the beer long in the primary. I have some bad experience with yeast off-flavors and since I used to do the following things:

- have new/healthy yeast
- have a yeast starter and pitch with the right amount
- areate, areate and areate during the primary (a vigorous fermentation will crowd out bacteria)
- primary not longer than 5 - 8 days
- have a diacetyl rest after primary 5 - 10 degrees F higher for 2 - 3 days (not longer) to stimulate diacetyl
  re absorption and cool down to your normal secondary schedule
- have your fermentation temperature according to the type of yeast (lager, ale etc.) but not over 65F
- secondary at least 2 weeks preferably 1 - 2 weeks longer and with lower temperatures (depending on type of
  beer and your schedule)
- conditioning in the bottle at least 2-3 weeks and store them cold

I always follow the development of my beers (taste, flavor, color etc.) during the whole process. I taste and taste and taste and try everything to taste (having some bad experience tasting sediment of hop pellets after the boil. This was very bitter and it took one day to get the taste out of my mouth. But I learned something!). It's amazing how beers can change their flavor/taste spectrum in a positive way over time.

Regards,
Slurk
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Offline tom_hampton

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2012, 11:20:27 AM »
All good info guys, thanks.

I am still a little confused though about which part of the process is the most critical to conditioning though. Is leaving the beer in the primary for 2-3 weeks going to make a significant difference in flavor, compared to racking it into a secondary after a week and letting it sit in the secondary for a little longer? How much does the beer condition once it is cold and carbonated? Am I better off leaving it in the secondary longer, or better off conditioning it in the keg?

Someone I was just talking to offline somewhat validated how I have been doing it with a 1-2-3 schedule...One week in primary, two weeks in secondary and three weeks in the keg or bottle. He said he thought he read that in one of the homebrewing books by Papazian or Mosher or something...?

Rrrrr... ( ;D)

The info you got offline does date back to Charlie P.  That book was written in 1976.  John Palmer perpetuated that in his first edition of How to Brew.  Subsequent editions have removed the advice to transfer to a secondary container. 

Quote
Is leaving the beer in the primary for 2-3 weeks going to make a significant difference in flavor, compared to racking it into a secondary after a week and letting it sit in the secondary for a little longer?

Probably.  The key is whether the fermentation is complete at the end of the first week.  If the fermentation is done, then it really doesn't matter if you move it to a secondary or not.  It doesn't help the beer in any way.  But, it does add a certain risk of infecting the beer during the transfer or introducing some oxygen. 

If the fermentation is NOT done, then you are removing a large percentage of the yeast from the beer.  This will slow down the rate of fermentation and make it take longer to complete.  If this secondary fermentation isn't done at the end of the two weeks, and you chill it, then you end up with a sweeter beer than you planned on.  Worse yet, if the beer had some diacetyl in it when you racked it to the secondary...there may not be enough yeast to clean it up.  In that case, you end up with a buttery beer.

The point is that there is NOTHING to be gained by transferring to a secondary.  If you use healthy yeast, you can leave a beer in the primary for up to 6 weeks without any risks, at all.  There's no need to do so....but, the point is that you CAN.  There is no rush to get the beer out of the primary, due to some danger.

Quote
How much does the beer condition once it is cold and carbonated?  Am I better off leaving it in the secondary longer, or better off conditioning it in the keg?

That depends on what you mean by "condition".  Very little chemical or biological action occurs at cold temperatures.   And practically zero yeast action will occur once pressurized, and cold.  However, the beer will certainly continue to clarify when cold and carbonated. 

You are best leaving the beer in the primary until it is sufficiently clear.  The beer will clear faster if you leave it in the primary, than if you rack it.  Then just keg directly from the primary. 

So, I would modify your process as follows:

1) Ferment in closed primary vessel for about atwo weeks
2) Rack to closed secondary for a week or two, until all activity stops
3) Crash cool secondary primary in kegerator for a few daysweek
4) Keg and force carbonate
5) Drink first beer about the 30-day mark, and usually unimpressed by flavor
6) Keep sampling beer every few days until it is gone
7) Complain that it just finally started tasting good on the last pour...


Slurk-

A couple points on your outline....

Quote
- areate, areate and areate during the primary (a vigorous fermentation will crowd out bacteria)

You state "areate during the primary".  Just to be clear, you only aerate at the BEGINNING of the primary.  Thou shalt not aerate after the first 24 hours in the primary.  From that point forward O2 is bad for the beer.

Quote
- primary not longer than 5 - 8 days

Maybe...depends on the beer and the yeast.  Primary until the FG has been stable for 2-3 days.  That takes however long it takes.  5-8 days is usually long enough...but, not always.  Listen to the beer.

Quote
- have your fermentation temperature according to the type of yeast (lager, ale etc.) but not over 65F

Don't agree with the upper limit of 65F.  There are many yeasts that ferment above that temperature, and will not ferment AT 65F.  I have some yeasts that won't start to work unless the temperature is above 68F.  And, all those Belgian yeasts like the 70s, 80s, and sometimes 90s. 

So, follow the recommendations for the specific yeast strain.

Quote
- secondary at least 2 weeks preferably 1 - 2 weeks longer and with lower temperatures (depending on type of
  beer and your schedule)

Don't secondary, unless you are lagering (or doing some other special purpose step).  That's a totally different thing, though.  Leave it in the primary fermenter for the same duration. 



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Offline philm63

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2012, 12:31:11 PM »
+1 to pretty much EVERYTHING Tom just said.

And to reiterate; read the book "Yeast" - it really changed the way I look at fermentation. I'll rack to secondary ONLY when I need to add a flavoring or dry-hop - otherwise I'd just be adding opportunities to screw up my brew.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2012, 12:32:53 PM by philm63 »
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Offline R. Gibson

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2012, 02:29:36 PM »
Great info. Thanks guys! :)

Offline Slurk

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2012, 05:26:25 PM »
Thanks Tom for your reply on my post.
- The advice to areate was meant at the beginning of the primary and of course not meant later on in the primary or total fermenting process. My wordings should have been more clear.
Regards,
Slurk
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Fermenting:
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Offline Kevin J

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Re: Conditioning time?
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2012, 03:32:58 PM »
Same for me. But I do like to taste the changes it goes through during conditioning.

Brew more often, so by the time you finished a keg, the next one in line will have some age. 

I don't know what you have for equipment, but imagine something like this.  You've got a few kegs. One you're drinking from and the rest are full of beer. You've got two secondaries and a primary.  One secondary is ready to keg, but you don't have room. So it sits there and ages, as does the kegged beer.  The other secondary is empty, waiting for the brew that you started last week. 

Have a big pipe and keep it full. That way what's on tap is never green.
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