My first cream ale (from NB’s extract kit) has been in the fermenter for 12 days. It was fast and furious for the first 72 hours and now there is pressure in the airlock but no more bubbles. The kit instructions say to bottle at “about two weeks”. This is my 5th home brew batch and I used a secondary carboy for my last two (btw, I absolutely love the Big Mouth Bubbler; so easy to clean!). I like the way the secondary fermentation cleaned up my previous two brews (Brickwarmer Red Ale and Honey Porter). Even though the recipe does not call for secondary for the cream ale, would it benefit the lighter beer too, or is it a waste of time?
The only way to know whether a beer is fermented is to check the gravity. My guess is that your beer is done fermenting.
There is great debate about the benefits of moving beer to a secondary vessel. Secondary fermentation is kind of a misnomer, the only time a secondary fermentation actually occurs is if you add fruit or other organisms. Otherwise, its bulk aging or clarifying. Not meaning to nitpick, but wanted to point it out.
I personally do not usually rack to a second vessel prior to packaging. However I do have the benefit of being able to cold crash to clarify beers. If you have had results you like and are comfortable doing it, rack on.
You will find that a lot of people (myself included) believe that racking to another vessel before packaging (i.e., “secondary”) does nothing special to improve your final product, while it increases risk (oxidation, contamination,etc.). Some people never transfer to a second vessel before packaging. Some people only do it under certain circumstances (dry hopping, extended aging, etc.). Some people always use secondary.
I suggest testing both methods for yourself to form your own opinion. Try a few batches without racking. Just leave the beer in “primary” for a few weeks, then bottle as you normally would. Of course, take a gravity reading before bottling to ensure fermentation is complete.
If you keg, your keg is essentially a bulk aging vessel. Definitely no need to rack to a secondary fermenter in that case.
If you’re inclined to do a little research, there’s also a bunch of info on the web about use of secondary fermenters. Check out Basic Brewing and The Brewing Network podcasts. IMO the latter a particularly fantastic educational resource.
I’ll be brewing the cream ale next week actually and plan on adding vanilla beans to it.
I still don’t think I’ll be racking to secondary. It seems like such a straight forward recipe and I don’t see much of a benefit.
It also depends on the yeast… If you used the White Labs Cream Ale Blend, a secondary fermentation may be a good idea. The blend includes some lager yeast, so a month or two in a cold garage or similar setup will give you a crisp, clean beer, as you would expect from a lager.
No secondary necessary on that one. I’ve made the NB Cream Ale extract kit twice now. I see myself keeping it in the rotation permanently because the wife loves it too. I use WLP001 and do a 2 or 2.5 week primary and no secondary. Both batches have turned out quite clear and I didn’t use any fining agents. It’s a great beer with a fast turnaround. You can have it carbed up and ready to drink in 4-5 weeks.
Btw, add a pound of honey at flameout and an extra .25 oz cluster hops at 60 min to beef it up a little. It gets a hint more bitterness, drier at the end and roughly 1% higher ABV. It’s really a great base recipe for experimentation.