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2nd Fermentation, How Long?

First time brewer here. I’m brewing the Northern Brewer Dead Ringer IPA. I’m following the instructions exactly. I’m 1 week into my second fermentation and everything looks good.

The instructions say to keep the beer in second fermentation for 2-4 weeks. I’m wondering when to end the second fermentation. Is there a specific end point? I suspect it’s a personal preference with shorter and longer fermentations producing different effects. If that is so, can you let me know the pro’s and con’s of letting it go longer? Thanks in advance for your help.

First off, a little nitpick. It is not a second fermentation. It is still the primary fermentation moved to a secondary container.

The way to know if fermentation is complete is to use a hydrometer to measure the gravity of the beer. If you don’t own one it would be wise to purchase one if you continue to brew. Multiple consecutive readings with no gravity change after a week or so would indicate that fermentation has completed.

If you don’t have one then I would let it go for as long as possible before bottling or legging.

Yeast is doing cleanup duty during this period and beer is clarifying usually so letting it sit is not a huge problem.

Good luck and welcome to home brewing.

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Hello and welcome. In homebrewing longer is almost always better. It’s not easy to do with your first one when you can’t wait to try it. You are doing great following the instructions for the first time. That said many of us for a “normal” beer like the Dead Ringer would not use a secondary at all. You will see about that as you go on.

How long was the primary? Chances are it was done after that but the secondary will give it time to finish if it isn’t fermented out and to clear some. I’ll go out on a limb and say a couple weeks secondary should be plenty but more will not hurt.

The only way to know for sure is to get yourself a hydrometer and flask. You will see in the instructions the OG or original gravity is 1.064 The kit should have come out to pretty close to that. When the beer is done it will have a FG, final gravity. At the point you think it is finished you can take a gravity reading for a few days in a row. If it is the same, it is probably done. A typical FG reading is around 1.01x. If it’s much higher than that ask us here about it and we will help.

To get your sample a wine thief works great Fermtech Wine Thief
Sanitize it like the rest of your stuff, pull the sample and drain it into the flask. After the reading drink or dump the sample. No reason to risk an infection to try to save the small amount.

I know that was a lot to take in so for now just keep and eye on it. At some point your air lock will stop or almost stop bubbling completely but bubble watching is not for sure like the hydrometer. Why the homebrew starter sets all do not include a hydrometer I do not understand.

Feel free to ask any questions. We have all been there.

EDIT: Some redundancy here because @Rburrelli must type faster than I do.


Welcome to the hobby and welcome to the forum! To add to what the guys said above, you asked specifically about the effects of shorter and longer fermentation. Beer needs to ferment out. Shorter or longer fermentation is just the result from yeast doing their job of digesting sugars at a different rate but they all need to be eaten. Bottling before the sugars are chewed up by the yeast can create high levels of CO2 and result in dangerous “bottle bombs” or gushers.


I would recommend that you NOT move to a secondary. As a first time brewer you are also a first time brew sanitizer and the risk is bigger than the reward for you for now.


Welcome to the world of brewing and the forum. Almost everything is said all ready. Or explained. Me. Do transfer to secondary. If i dryhop. Become anal about cleaning and sanatizing. Real important. Me. Leave it 4 to 6 weeks in secondary. After. 4 weeks in secondary. Me start taking. Grav reading and taste samples. If the gravity is the same after. 5 weeks. Means your yeast is done the beer cleaned up. I start kegging my beer. Dont reley on your airlock. Take hydrometer samples

Welcome to the obsession! :beers:

I rarely go to secondary unless, as @wilcolandzaat mentioned, I’m dry-hopping or it’s a heavy beer, like a barleywine, that I want to bulk age before bottling. My usually pattern is 3-4 weeks in primary. I lean toward 3 weeks if I fermented at the higher end of the yeast’s recommended temperature range and 4 weeks if I’m at the lower end. The only dumper I’ve ever had was when I left the beer in primary for 7 (8?) weeks. I still bottled it and let it sit for a month…then another month…and another. The stale wet cardboard flavor never went away. The moral of the story is that the fermentation (and conditioning) duration listed in the instructions are really minimums and it’s hard to exceed the beer’s maximum fermentation duration.

One thing that’s as important, if not more important, than fermentation duration is fermentation temperature. The cheapest way to control fermentation temperature in the summer is a swamp cooler. There are lots of posts on the forum and Google on swamp coolers.


[quote=“barbarianbrewer, post:7, topic:27490, full:true”]The only dumper I’ve ever had was when I left the beer in primary for 7 (8?) weeks. I still bottled it and let it sit for a month…then another month…and another. The stale wet cardboard flavor never went away.
First please know I’m a secondary proponent as I think there is very little risk unless you haphazardly rack or you don’t pay attention to sanitation at all.

Second, what you describe is oxidation which could not come from primary fermentation. The yeast consume O2 and any O2 in the fermenter is pushed out by CO2. Likely you picked it up bottling.

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Welcome to the forum.

Good move coming here for advice. Most of these guys have been brewing for years and are straight shooters. Any advice you get here is advice that you can count on. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to get on here and ask. I’ve been brewing for a couple of years and still learn something new almost daily by reading this forum.



For secondary I lean towards yes when there are post-fermentation additions like dry-hopping, or when I want to re-pitch the yeast. For most brews, I’m too lazy to transfer. Do as you you like; it’s your beer.


I typically leave all my beers in primary for 3 weeks and then bottle them. I will take a final gravity reading but I dont waste beer taking samples over a few day period. Let it sit for 4 weeks to be safe if you are bottling instead of kegging and you’ll be fine. Just be sure to use a priming calculator for the amount of sugar to use for carbonation levels and invest 20 bucks into a finish gravity hydrometer and you’ll be set.

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Online recipe calculators and some kit recipes will give you an expected FG so you can get away with one reading. If it’s close to the expected FG call it done so good advise. The old school thinking was three days of reading and I get set in my ways. Most of the time I just take a sample while it’s on the way to a keg just to see how low it went.

After a while you know by how long it’s been and how it has been fermenting if it’s done.


I agree, total fermentation 21 days minimum probably 28 days to a month for high gravity and dark beer to be safe. If you have a hydrometer you can probably do less.

I almost always do a secondary. At the very least, get the beer off the trub and let it clear a little. I have found that the longer it sits on the trub, the funkier the flavor gets. So after primary is complete (usually like a week or so), I transfer to a secondary vessel and let it sit for another 2 weeks. If I am dry hopping, I sometimes leave it an additional week. Good luck!

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[Edit: Replied to wrong post…replaced with correct quote]

By no means am I advising against going to secondary. I just need a reason to overcome my lazy brewer syndrome. As to my off-flavor description…adequately connecting a flavor to a descriptor is something I don’t know if I’ll ever get the hang of. There was definitely a moderately strong negative flavor that could also be described as astringent or a maybe little like Vegemite. (I’ve actually had Vegemite and…with apologies to any Australian brewers…:confounded: :confounded: :confounded:). I’ve had a few oxidized beers and that flavor was always a fairly mild off flavor by comparison to this off-flavor.

I’m with you I’m lazy and need a reason to secondary. I usually have 2 or 3 fermenters going so I don’t bother nothing wrong with it though

I too am lazy, that’s why I bought a conical… No need to transfer to a secondary! But I’ve been really experimenting with dry hopping (fruit, oak, coffee, hops, vanilla, etc… Not all in one beer) so secondary makes sense for me most times


I also have a conical and it is great to be able to dump the trub without transfering.Do need to remember to pull the air lock so the water or whatever is in it doesn’t get sucked into it when dumping or emptying it. However it holds 10 gallons and I brew 20 so half goes into other fermenters, either buckets or glass carboys and almost never from there to secondary. Have not noticed any difference.

The biggest reason I ever had for secondary was to free up the primary fermenter. Dry hop and add fruit after that. Last for huge beers that really need time.

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This site needs to add a drooling face emoticon. :slight_smile:


Haha now I want a conical

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