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I think my knoweldge is WAY out of date.... Help?

Alrighty, Hiya there! I’m returning to the brewing fold after a ~8 year hiatus, I’ve only ever done extract w/ specialty grain so not exactly pushing boundaries. Anyway, I was in my LHB yesterday picking up a couple things and got to yacking, as it wont to happen. Anyway, one of the things that came up was a question on the Primary/Secondary thing… and of Course I secondary, I mean… that’s just the way it’s done, get the beer off the trub so you don’t develop off flavors, have a cleaner transfer, etc… Eeeerrrrrr, seems that’s an outdated method now (at least according to the guy tending the till at the shop, though a quick google shows that even John Palmer is against secondary now). That’s forcing me to think that Other steps in my brewing are now also outdated and perhaps the beer I already love could be better with less work/chance of going afoul of mistakes.

So, I’m begging for a quick critique of what I do and if there are updates in ideology. Hey, if you have a thought on the best way I can up my game with small steps, I’m game for knowledge.

My brew day starts with cleaned, but not sterile, equipment.
5 gallon batches, full boil and from kits (extract w/ specialty grains) and normally a 50~60 minute boil time depending on the instructions.
During the boil, I use StarSan on my CFC chiller, all lines, the 6.5 gal primary, airlock, etc… (this is an area where I’m through to the point of being anl).
When the boil is done, I remove whatever hop bags are in the kettle and siphon out to the CFC, and into the carboy.
Top up to 5 gallons with fresh water if I happen to be low
Once there I use an oxygen stone (new to me since returning, came with the “bundle” of used gear I bought, seems to really kick the fermentation though).
Pitch tube of white-labs whatever yeast
Cap the primary and let sit for a week
Grab a little of the remaining wort to take an OG reading/temp, mostly to verify I am where I should be with that kit (never been off though)

After a week, I re-sterilize the auto-siphon and a secondary
Transfer the beer
Take another SG reading to see how close to finished it is
Let sit a 2nd week

Sterilize the auto-siphon and keg
Transfer to a keg (normally I’ll purge the keg with CO2 before the transfer)
Let keg sit at room temp for a week or two (or more, depending on space in the keezer), hitting it with CO2 on occasion ~ not expecting carbonation here, just making sure the contents stay under some pressure.

Put keg in cooler, connect sanitized/cleaned tap (still using picnic taps), let carbonate and then enjoy.

I’ve only made 2 brews since getting back in, and I haven’t really given much thought to reading books/forums as the extract kits are pretty darn simple and good enough for me. But, like I said, if there are updates that I can make to the process that streamlines it and makes even the Same quality of beer, I’m all in.

In browsing, I did see mention of “whirlpooling” to get the trub more into the center of brew kettle and less in the primary which I have yet to try. Other than that though… I’m open to suggestions on how I might make an improvement to my extract brewing (while staying an extract brewer… I do own a 10gal mash tun w/ false bottom, just not ready to try it yet.)

Thanks for taking the time to read my long winded post! :cheers:


Two suggestions: look into starters if using liquid yeast (one vial is not really enough for anything above 1.040), and take a gravity reading to determine when to transfer (don’t transfer and then take the reading and risk finding out that you’re FG is too high and you’ve just transferred off the yeast).


And let the beer make it’s own schedule. It may be ready to xfer after a week and it may not. Many people these days don’t bother with secondary and just leave the beer in primary 3-4 weeks or more.

I think one of the reasons a lot of the brewing literature from 10-15 years ago suggests a ‘secondary’ (I put quotes because its not really a secondary, its a conditioning vessel) is because of yeast health.

Don’t quote me on this, but it seems to me one of the most notable advances in homebrewing from a product perspective is yeast, both in terms of strain variety and quality.

If you believe the quality of yeast has improved (and I do), the risk of autolysis, or yeast cell death is virtually non-existent in most beers, whereas it used to be more of a concern. Voila, the ‘get it off the yeast’ mentality. I have left 12% braggots on a 2-pack-thick cake of Nottingham for 3 months, with no ill effects. Hence, I rarely move the beer to a ‘brite’ vessel, just fermenter to serving.

Now there is new research/literature stating that when dry-hopping, it also makes sense to remove from the yeast. Haven’t tested that out yet, but I am about to!

A lot of the “old” homebrewing info derives from commercial practices. Over the years, as more homebrewers try more things, it’s become apparent that commercial practices don’t necessarily apply to homebrewers. Commercial brewers use huge, tall fermenters that put a lot of pressure on the yeast and promote autolysis. That’s why they want to get the beer off the yeast fairly quickly. Homebrewers, OTOH, use much smaller fermenters so autolysis isn’t nearly as much of a concern.

Your procedures seem pretty bang on to me. Having said that, I’m not a secondary man, unless I’m dry hopping, bulk aging, etc. Usually 3 weeks primary, then keg and wait another couple weeks.

I’m sure if you did some reading you could find all kinds of ways to tweak and alter your procedures…I’m changing things slightly every 4-5 months to always try and make better beer, and an easier brew day.

Sorry. I just couldn’t help but quote you on this.

Don’t quote me on this, but it seems to me one of the most notable advances in homebrewing from a product perspective is yeast, both in terms of strain variety and quality.

Sorry. I just couldn’t help but quote you on this.[/quote]



Doesn’t that also contribute to the fact that they can ferment at warmer temps. with faster turnaround? Possibly where “ferment at 70* for 7-10 days, then
transfer” came from.

[quote=“mrv”]Doesn’t that also contribute to the fact that they can ferment at warmer temps. with faster turnaround? Possibly where “ferment at 70* for 7-10 days, then
transfer” came from.[/quote]

Maybe, but I think that depends on the brewery. I know that Rogue, for instance, doesn’t ferment anywhere near 70. It’s all low 60s or below.

This needs to be stated more often.

It can be to secondary or not, fly or batch sparge, chill or now chill, or yeast pitching rates. Each home brewer needs to find what works for them and their taste buds.

People that have blogs or pod cast are just another person that puts their pants on the same way the guy down the street does.

We all know that extract brewing in inferior to all grain ( :roll: ) How many extract beers have won competitions? There are some mighty fine extract brewers out there.

Read, experiment and find what works for you.

Okay, so maybe things haven’t changed as much as I’d feared. I’d like to thank you all for posting though.

I have, back in the day, done yeast starters. Looking into it now, it seems that there’s not really anything to gain (according to White Labs and Wyeast) unless the OG is over 1.060… and that’s the maximum I’ve done lately. I’m sure there are lots of other opinions that vary slightly, but those are the guys who provide my yeast, I’ll put a lil more weight on their opinion.

Maybe I’ll give a long primary a shot in a couple brews.

I forgot to mention, my fermentation happens at room temp… in a non-HVAC controlled building… in central (an hour south of Atlanta) Georgia. I bet those fermentation temps are in the 70’s or higher. Inside fermentation isn’t allowed, I’m looking into “evaporative cooling”, but we have this issue in GA with humidity (our bath towels will mold inside after a couple days use). My brewing space is a corner of a ~3000sq/ft shop, that’s not going to be cooled. :slight_smile:

Thanks again. I’ll probably start browsing topics of interest and see where I might make a change here or there (one at a time, mind you… ) but otherwise I’ll just…

This has been an amazing thread. Thanks to all for some new perspectives!

FWIW, despite what the yeast companies say, I get much better results using a starter for any beer over 1.040. As Nighthawk said “Read, experiment, and find what works for you”.

And get those fermentation temps down to the low-mid 60s (beer temp, that is). I think you’ll be surprised at what a difference it can make.

[insert me doing Belushi’s face/scream when he sees Dorfman’s face on the projector]

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