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Noob fermenting questions

this is my first post so go easy on me! lol

after a few mr. beer batches, I dove head first into all grain brewing! just my style, sure it might be premature but lets move past that and get on to the fun stuff.

for the last 3 weeks ive been pouring countless hours into researching, designing and building a 10 gallon all grain “brewery.” now i am at the fermenting stages and i have some questions.

  1. i understand secondary fermentation is not necessarily required for most home brews. that being said i plan to primary ferment in buckets with lids, and blow off tubes. after 2-3 days it seems that no matter what i will be moving into secondary fermenting, which i guess is where i am confused. if i don’t change containers am i still in primary fermenting? do i still need to move into new containers? my buckets have valves on the sides near the bottom, i assume i will have to siphon rather than use these since there will be some sludge on the bottom of the container?

  2. can these second containers just be fitted with air locks rather than blow off valves? should the second, and for that case primary fermenters, be shot with c02 before filling in order to reduce contact with air?

  3. if i am fermenting in buckets will i get enough aeration just stirring or should i look into an aeration system of some type?

  4. i plan on kegging my beer, coming out of the secondary fermentors, should i siphon? will there be more settling out i need to avoid?

there seems to be so much information on brewing all the way up to chilling wort and then it goes haywire, or maybe its just not clicking for me, but i def need some help! Thanks in advance!

Gregg

[quote=“gjlally21”]this is my first post so go easy on me! lol

after a few mr. beer batches, I dove head first into all grain brewing! just my style, sure it might be premature but lets move past that and get on to the fun stuff.

for the last 3 weeks ive been pouring countless hours into researching, designing and building a 10 gallon all grain “brewery.” now i am at the fermenting stages and i have some questions.

  1. i understand secondary fermentation is not necessarily required for most home brews. that being said i plan to primary ferment in buckets with lids, and blow off tubes. after 2-3 days it seems that no matter what i will be moving into secondary fermenting, which i guess is where i am confused. if i don’t change containers am i still in primary fermenting? do i still need to move into new containers? my buckets have valves on the sides near the bottom, i assume i will have to siphon rather than use these since there will be some sludge on the bottom of the container?
    [color=#FF0000]Why would you move it to “secondary” after only a few days? I say “secondary” because unless you are adding fermentables you are using a second carboy/bucket as a bright tank. You shouldn’t rack until fermentation is completed. Read up on the need to “secondary.” Do both and see what works for you. Lot of debate out there. Me, I do them as I see my beer clear quicker and it leaves most of the trub in the bright tank and out of the keg.
    Did you get your kit at Williams Brewing? I know their fermenting buckets have valves that claim to be above the trub. If the valve is above the trub I would use it. If not plan on siphoning. FWIW, those valves are a nice place for bacteria to hide, so break it down everytime and clean the hell out of it.[/color]

  2. can these second containers just be fitted with air locks rather than blow off valves? should the second, and for that case primary fermenters, be shot with c02 before filling in order to reduce contact with air?
    Assuming you actually move it to “secondary,” oxidation is a concern. If you rack haphazardly oxidation will occur. If you are gently and have the siphon tube all the way to the bottom it is of very little concern. Some shoot CO2 in the headspace to clear the O2.

  3. if i am fermenting in buckets will i get enough aeration just stirring or should i look into an aeration system of some type?
    IMO, look into using something other than just shaking. Shaking is better than nothing but not near the amount needed for higher OG beers.

  4. i plan on kegging my beer, coming out of the secondary fermentors, should i siphon? will there be more settling out i need to avoid?
    Whenever racking, whether it be to secondary or to keg, always try to not disturb the trub. Also, move your carboy at least 2 hours in advance, or better yet the day before, to help eliminate the trub on the bottom being kicked up by movement.
    there seems to be so much information on brewing all the way up to chilling wort and then it goes haywire, or maybe its just not clicking for me, but i def need some help! Thanks in advance!
    This is why experience is worth it’s weight in gold. Not saying you can’t jump into AG, but it is nice to start slow so you can get these concepts. By making the shift so quickly you are overwhelmed because you have to learn EVERYTHING.
    Gregg[/quote]

Edited because I didn’t answer his entire first question.

Thanks Josh. thinking of the second carboy as a bright tank more so than a secondary fermenter seems to be what i was missing in trying to understand the proccess. i agree, i have a lot to learn but im not afraid to make mistakes, unfortunatley sometimes i just cant help my self, and i make the jump a little early but oh well, thats part of the fun isnt it!

There is some confusion you have between secondary fermentation and secondary fermentor. This comes up all the time. If you transfer the beer from one container to another, you aren’t really changing the fermentation. You only get a secondary fermentation if you add more fermentables to it, such as you would get with late additions of fruit or priming sugar. A secondary fermentor is a new tank that you are using after you move the beer out of the primary or first fermentation tank. And I would agree with Loopy entirely that you shouldn’t move the beer out of the primary tank until it is done fermenting.

That said, you can move the beer directly from the primary to the kegs is you give it enough time to clarify in the primaries. I do it this way. Just give it enough time (usually 3-4 weeks total) to drop clear. The CO2 generated by the fermentation will protect it from oxidation during this time. If there is still anything in suspension, the keg will act as the bright tank.

You are planning on using blow-off tubes, but I’ve found them to be totally unnecessary - an airlock works fine. The only time blow-off tubes would be needed is if you have insufficient head space in your fermentor, your wort was too warm when you pitched your yeast, you are fermenting too warm, or some combination of those. These are all things that are worthwhile to get right, rather than using a blow-off tube. Your beer will be better.

With regards to aeration, there are a number of easy things you can do. For years I simply poured the cooled wort from one bucket to another a few times. That works great, but can be messy if you aren’t careful. Recently I got a mix-stirrer that I attach to my electric drill. That is even easier.

+1 on the mix stirrer to aerate. I’ve done two five gal batches with it instead of shaking and my back is much happier!

Cheers,

Ron

I keep the beer in the primary carboy for 10-14 days then straight to keg.

You guys rule. With regards to using the keg as the bright tank, correct me if in wrong but doesn’t the keg pull from the bottom? So anything that settles out would end up in the first couple glasses, is this common and just a matter of putting up with it the first pint or two?

I assume this may be a point of contention but is it worth me investing in carboys, rather than using the buckets I have already?

[quote=“gjlally21”]You guys rule. With regards to using the keg as the bright tank, correct me if in wrong but doesn’t the keg pull from the bottom? So anything that settles out would end up in the first couple glasses, is this common and just a matter of putting up with it the first pint or two?

I assume this may be a point of contention but is it worth me investing in carboys, rather than using the buckets I have already?[/quote]
As long as you don’t move or shake the keg around, you’ll clear all the sediment from around the pick-up tube in the first pint or less.

You are right, carboys are a point of contention. Some people go to great lengths to avoid all plastic to avoid potential off flavors. I’ve concluded that as long as you use food-grade plastic and clean them properly, there is no risk of off flavors from buckets. I retired my carboys 5 years ago and am happy about the decision. And if you read enough posts, you’ll come across a lot of horror stories involving broken carboys.

I actually find my first pint clear and my last pint full of sediment as the last little bit disturbs the yeast cake. I use kegs as lagering/aging vessels all the time.

If you want to, you could cut off about 1/2 inch from the dip tube, that way you won’t pull the yeast from the bottom. But I find that I only get yeast from the first half pint. Then it’s clear from thereafter.

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