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Conditioning in primary vs secondary

Hello everyone,

I know that this is a widely debated topic…

Let me preface. Brewed NBs Irish Red Ale last weekend. Everything went according to plan, and fermentation temps have been kept appropriate. I’ve noticed that fermentation is slowing down, and was wondering 2 things:

  1. Should I transfer the beer to a secondary fermenter (5gallon carboy) or leave it in the primary container to condition? Everything I’ve read is 50/50. If so, when do I know conditioning is done?

  2. After primary fermentation is over, do I need to be super strict about temperature? Reason I ask is if I rack the beer to a carboy my primary tank would be ready for a new beer.

You all are awesome. Just a somewhat newbie trying to learn the trade.

Thank,

David

I leave the beer in the primary for 2-4weeks depending on what it is. I legged a wheat recently after 10 days. I would leave yours in the primary for about 3 weeks, cold crash if you are kegging and then keg. Some people swear their beer tastes better after bulk aging in the secondary. It’s really something you’ll have to explore on your own and come to our own conclusion.

Oh yeah, forgot to say that room temp is fine after fermentation has ceased.

My 2¢. I am old school and used secondary carboys for years. Now unless it is a beer that needs to age a long time I skip it. Just be careful when you rack it to your bottling bucket or keg to leave as much trub behind as possible.

The key to knowing when to rack to secondary is a hydrometer reading. I assume you are wondering if you can rack off the primary to free up the primary… cool! The rule of thumb used to be if the gravity reading was 2/3 done or some nonsense, rack it to secondary, How long has it been fermenting and if you took them what are the gravity readings?

Another 2 cents worth.
This assumes you have the ability to control temp to this degree.
Wait until your fermentation reaches the 80% completion point then raise the temp 10 degrees and hold it until you reach your final gravity. Then cold crash the beer at 40F for 2-3 days in order to drop out the yeast. Rack it to a keg raise the temp to 50F and age it for two weeks. Drop the temp to 30F for a day then add gelatin, hook it up to the CO2, and give it one more week to clear and carbonate. Then enjoy.

I pretty much agree with all of the above. My personal preferences, based on equipment and brewing environment are the following:

I keep beers in primary until fermentation is %100 done, i.e. no change in SG for at least a few days. Longer with some yeasts, like my dunkel with Weinstephaner, so the sulfur smell dissipates. Give the yeast time to clean things up.

I’ve kegged straight from the primary, but without the ability to cold-crash, I get too much yeast settling out in my kegs, so that is not my preferred option now.

Mostly, I rack to a secondary carboy for another week or two to clarify and condition. Some bigger beers, like a recent dubbel, I left in the secondary for a month in a cool corner of the basement to condition it. Then kegged and bottled.

The above works for me. Try different things to see what works best for you, for which of your beers and your home brewery set-up.

An Irish Red does not IMHO need a secondary. If you are aging for a REALLY long time, you want to get it off the yeast to avoid off flavors, otherwise there’s no reason not to let it condition in the primary.

Conditioning is “done” when you feel like it tastes right. There’s no real rule. And you can always continue to let it age in the bottle as well.

Room temp is fine. You don’t want it to be too hot, as that promotes oxidation, and too cold slows down or eliminates yeast activity (you want them to clean up some of the byproducts they produced during fermentation). Basically anything in the 60s or 70s is probably okay. A lot of people do like to cold condition their beer, but you shouldn’t do this until AFTER the yeast have had a chance to finish their work.

Does IMHO mean “In my humble opinion” or “In my homebrewing opinion”?

I always thought it was In My Honest Opinion.

Well, “humble” is what I meant. I think that’s the generally accepted definition. I don’t ever trust anyone who feels the need to tell you he’s being “honest”. I like the idea of “homebrewing” though. :slight_smile:

I go with 3 week primary. No secondary unless there are secondary additions or it is really big beer. I am either using a temp. controlled freezer for lagers or my basement for ales - which holds at 60-62 ambient temp.

If you need to move it to brew more beer - that is the best reason I can think of to use secondary fermentation. Although, a simpler option is to just buy a couple more fermentation buckets. Then you can brew as much as you want.

that’s kinda funny, I don’t trust people that refer to themselves as humble. :lol:

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