How long in Primary?

Hi Guys,

I’m not interested at this point in using secondary fermentation (time, space, etc.). I usually have 3-4 small batches fermenting at any one time.

Are there advantages to fermenting ales for 3 or 4 weeks in a primary versus the 2 weeks that I often see recommended?

Any disadvantages?

Thanks!, Mitch

Two weeks is minimum for me for an ale, and that’s only with yeast I know will attenuate and drop out in that time. I’ve gone as little as 10 days when I want to rush one but again only with certain yeast strains.

Don’t rush the yeast. Let it do it’s work and you’ll have better beer for it.

My MO is 3-4 weeks if I have a keg available. I’ve let them sit for months on the yeast with no issues.

My personal preference, if not utilizing a secondary, is to allow for a minimum of a solid 3 weeks in the primary. Fermentation is usually complete by the end of week 2, but that third week allows the yeast to “clean up” the brew and drop other stuff out. It helps with clarity as well. Unless I feel pressed for time, which isn’t often, I will allow at least 4 weeks in the primary before racking to a keg. If I do secondary, I try and do 2 weeks primary and 2 weeks secondary.

The amount of time in the primary depends on the estimated OG of the beer and the yeast used. A 1.052 beer, with a very flocculant yeast, can spend less time in the primary because it will reach FG fairly quickly and clear faster after FG has been reached. A big beer will take longer to ferment out, and will take longer to clear if a low flocculant yeast is used. You can speed the dropping out of sediment and excess yeast by using finings and cold crashing after FG is reached. Some yeasts will need a week or three just to drop a couple more gravity points after the SG seems to be at maximum attenuation. A big beer may also need more primary time on the yeast cake to develop a fuller character. There can be a lot of variables.

I don’t use finings or cold crash. My beers are generally in the fermentor three to five weeks. About five weeks for beers over 1.076. This isn’t one of my hard guide lines, just an approximation for planning.

I let the beer decide, rather than the calendar. It can be 3 days, it can be 3 weeks…

Two weeks is nearly always plenty of time for me, 10 days might be about all my beers need most of the time, even lagers.