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First Brewing - how to confirm primary fermentation

Just got the basic brewing kit and with my son we have started the “kit” that came with it, the Chinook IPA. (I also bought a plastic big mouth bubbler so I can do the second fermentation). The instructions say to do the primary fermentation which will take one or two weeks. It has been about 5 days so far, and the bubbles in the air lock are getting less frequent, but still regular. Should I wait until I see no more activity in the airlock before transferring to the secondary bubbler, or is it better to measure the “SG/FG” to make this decision? I did buy a hydrometer as well, but have not used it yet as it came too late and I had already started the brew…

I just don’t want to screw up the first batch, hoping this goes well as I have a Bavarian Heffe on deck for the next batch.

Thank you for any help and suggestions. This could be a great way to pass the winter here. :slight_smile:

Airlock activity is a really poor way to determine fermentation. There are fermenters that are notorious for leaking (namely buckets and even your big mouth bubbler) and airlock activity can be affected by moving the fermenter, temp swings, and pressure of the atmosphere. The only way you can tell is by taking your readings and confirming a couple days apart.

Welcome to the hobby. You’all likely get some responses on here to skip “secondary.” I put that in quotations because it’s actually a bright vessel since you aren’t adding any additional fermentables. I’m a huge proponent of secondary, and secondary ALMOST everything. I’ve seen first hand my beers clear much better and faster using secondary. With that said, your hefeweizen, skip it. It’s supposed to be cloudy. Same with wits.

Great advice, thank you! I will practice a bit with the hydrometer on some other liquids before I test the brew. I am doing the primary fermentation in the bucket that came with the kit. I added the bubbler just after starting the process. Also just ordered the joy of home brewing from amazon so I can get a bit more knowledge. I’m not so sure this new hobby will help reduce my marathon time, but it is just what the doctor ordered for an interesting hobby.

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Welcome to the NB forum.

You will get a lot of opinions on the use of a secondary. I’m a proponent of not using one. Just had to do that @loopie_beer. (A secondary vessel is absolutely necessary for some styles of beer though.)

When brewing a pure extract recipe taking an original gravity reading is not necessary. Ingredients are very good now-a-days and a calculator will give you your OG as long as you have used all the extract and the volume in the fermentor is correct. Getting a thorough mix of the ingredients after pouring into the fermentor can be difficult with extract even after aeration. This will often result in an inaccurate OG. (Quite often the factory markings on buckets or other styles of fermentors are not accurate. Pour a measured amount of water into your fermentor to mark or check the volume.)
I usually take the first SG reading about day 10 to 14 after active fermentation had started. I’ll take a second SG reading 3 to 5 days later to confirm FG. With WY 3787 the second SG reading will be at least 7 days later. For me this yeast has been very slow to finish the last couple of gravity points.

Being over anxious to get the beer into the bottle can often be detrimental to your beer. Cooking the wort and waiting for the fermentation to finish and then waiting through bottle conditioning is what brewing beer is about. The process will often take much longer than the recipe has indicated. Having two or three fermentors is a good thing.

The Chinook IPA is one of my favorites. Just had two after bottling the Caribou Slobber.

Thank you for the advice. I am looking forward to learning a lot in this process. I am hoping the book I ordered will help me understand more of the “why’s” and cause and effect of all the ingredients. Right now I am just struggling to follow the directions and not misunderstand any of the basics as the risk is … well… about 54 bottles of potentially good brew:)

I should have started this 20 years ago…

I began the fermentation of my Chinook IPA at 65°F. Ambient temperature was 68°. Let the temperature free rise to 71° at day 10 when the fermentation began slowing and the temperature slowly decreasing to the ambient temperature. Dry hopped on day 14 when the beer temp was 69.4°. Bottled on day 25. FG 1.006. Usually bottle after 7 days of dry hopping but I lost track of time for this IPA.

You might need a swamp cooler to hold the fermentation temperature down if the ambient temperature is high.

Thank you for the info. I am in the middle of a snow storm and outside temps are around 15 deg, so holding the ambient temp down is not a problem this time of year. I keep the house between 65 and 68, and it may be a bit cooler where the beer is fermenting. It may be challenging in the summer but I have a cellar for a basement in my 100 year old house, I need to monitor the temp down there this summer and see how cool it will stay. Else I will brew up a big stash to take me into the fall.

Be sure to understand that when your wort begins fermentation, it will create heat, so during active fermentation the wort will be warmer than your ambient temp, sometimes as much as 7 or 8 degrees. So if your ambient temp is in the range you want to ferment at, you still may need help (swamp cooler) keeping the temp down. If the ambient is lower than your target by several degrees, then you’re usually good to go.

Cheers,

Ron

Thanks Ron. I am fermenting in the bucket and it has always felt cool to the touch or at least not noticeably warmer than the ambient. Is it ok to pop the lid to check the temp ? I was trying to leave it sealed thinking that was best. I have much to learn I guess:) thank you for your advice!

Tom

Track you fermentation temperature with one of these.

I use an older style that is in the shape of a strip. They are usually accurate to within 1°F of the fermenting beer.

They do not with stand being submerged in water. Stick them on your bucket above where the water level would be if you begin using a swamp cooler. I attach mine about one-quarter of the way down from the surface of the beer.

After i transfer my wort to. The fermentor. I take a refractometer meter reading. Brix. 8 to 10 days later. Once the krausen droped. I transfer to secondary. And take a. Hydrometer. Sample. During. Condition of the beer. Than at least. Two more reading in the 4 to 6 weeks. Wait time. Once the readings stay the same. And got the final. Fg. I do transfer to keg

While a “stuck” ferementation is rarely an issue with kits, this may be a good time to note that two FG measurements may not mean the ferementation is completed, but just “stopped”. When working with new recipes, it may be appropriate to run a forced fermentation test (link).

I am coming up to day 12 of my primary fermentation ( chinook ipa). I have a hydrometer but now realize I have no container that is tall and skinny enough for a sample. (Ordered one on Amazon ), I also should be getting my refractometer tonight if the tracking info is correct.
Do I wait for the consecutive hydrometer or refractometer readings days apart before transferring to the secondary fermentor? If so then is the secondary mainly to help clear the beer?

Is it ever acceptable to sanitize the hydrometer and drop in in the primary bucket for a reading? ( I have the plastic bucket for the starting kit, but bought the plastic carboy for secondary and maybe future primary).

Can you tell I am getting nervous?.. Getting closer and closer to the steps that make all the difference.

Thank you for all your help!

Tom

Yes the secondary is mainly to clear. You’ll also hear it called a brightening tank or vessel. I sanitize and put the hydrometer in the bucket all the time. Definitely don’t worry. Worrying is probably the number one cause of bad brews. Just take care to make sure sanitizer touches all surfaces that will touch beer and you’ll do fine.

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Was your hydrometer shipped in a plastic tube? I use the shipping tube for my SG samples. You need to spin the hydrometer to make sure it doesn’t stick to the side of the tube and spin off the CO2 bubbles.

IPAs are hazy. Some brewers like to make them hazier. The NE style. Oof. I just leave my Chinook IPA in the primary for 21 days then bottle.

I was just taking a picture of a beer in a new style of glass but it is the Chinook IPA.

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Thanks for the help guys! My son and I popped the lid and after sanitizing the hydrometer “tube” ( thanks for that suggestion) we took a reading and it looked like 1.010, beer looked pretty good and smelled good. I was concerned a bit about how tight the tube was to the hydrometer so I sanitized the hydrometer again and put it in the middle of the bucket and got the same reading. I did not take the temp though but I suppose it is about 66 deg. ( room temp as it is in the house). My plan is to take another reading Sunday and see if it remains constant. Sunday will be day 14 of the fermentation, I am supposed to add a little packet of hops 1-2 weeks prior to bottling. I guess it would be safe to add it once I know for sure the hydrometer readings are steady? Then I will wait 10 days or so and bottle it up.

Thank you again for all your words of wisdom.

Tom

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Yes, when readings are consistent, do add the dry hopping, hops. Sneezles61

Great, thank you for the help!

Flars, your IPA looks great. You mentioned you just leave it in the primary for 21 days then bottle it. How long do you typically let it sit in the bottle before drinking ?

Tom

My brew room is 68°F. I will chill a bottle low OG beer of around 1.042 after two weeks to check the carbonation level. Beers with a higher OG will get another week before I chill one for a couple of days. Anything over 1.070 would be left untouched for at least 6 weeks.

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