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How do I use Brett in secondary?

Good morning,

I’m currently fermenting a Dark Mild (roughly 1.044) that I’m shooting to get down to 1.015 or so. I’d like to pull aside a portion of it (one gallon) and secondary with brett, just to try an experiment. If you have any experience with this stuff,

  1. What pitch rate should I use?
  2. What temperature should I hold it at?
  3. Which strain should I use?
  4. How long should I secondary?
  5. Once it’s finished, do I (A) crash and clear the liquid and (B) prime it?

I’ve read that I can bottle condition without priming if the gravity is at 1.010 or so; that’ll give me plenty of sugar and potential CO2 volume when it’s ready. So, I guess my next question would be, if I bottle my stuff (after pulling the dregs) at 1.015, how do I get the rest down to 1.010: leave it in the fermentor? And instead of transferring to a secondary, would it be safe to hold the remaining one gallon (a majority of its dregs drained) in the original fermentor? Would the yeast strains compete at this point? Would it matter? And will all that extra headspace be a problem (even if I layer it in CO2)?

Thanks again for your wisdom.

I would really caution you against bottle conditioning with brett. Every 2 gravity points yields about 1 volume of CO2, and brett can take your final gravity down to 0.997 or so. Or it could not attenuate the beer any more. So the risk is anywhere from completely flat beer, to over 6 volumes of CO2, and anywhere in between. If you’ve repeated a recipe a few times and had predictable results, then it can be reliably done, but otherwise it’s pure chance as to what you’ll get.

I like to split batches between clean and brett, and do so pretty regularly. I just did a 5-gallon batch of RIS, where I racked half of the batch to a 3-gallon carboy with anomala, and bottled the rest straight. It’s a nice way to get two very different beers from one batch. So if you want to split off one gallon, just rack it to a jug when you’re ready to package the rest, and let it go.

To answer your questions:

  1. Doesn’t take much. A White Labs vial is plenty for a 5-gallon batch in secondary. It’s enough for an entire barrel, but might take a bit longer to work.
  2. 60-75F is a good range. Much lower than 60, and the brett really slows down. But it’s a problem that can manifest itself in wines at cellar temperatures, so it’ll still make an impact over time.
  3. What are you trying to achieve? Fruity? Leather/barnyard? Balance between fruit and funk?
  4. Until gravity is stable over one month. Might be as fast as 3 months, but most likely 6 months. As soon as gravity is stable, though, you can bottle.
  5. After 3-6 months, it’ll be quite clear. No need to fine it. Prime away, I usually shoot for a bit higher carb level since there won’t be much dissolved CO2 after 6 months. Bottling with champagne yeast can avoid some off-flavors, but not necessary and any off flavors should clear up over time. There will be plenty of yeast to bottle condition regardless.
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