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What Happens In The Secondary

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rharlow

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Hi All,

Just a quick question, I have an APA on right now, fermented for a week then racked to the secondary as per the recipe, no problems there. I havent had time to bottle the beer (oh kegs how I want thee) and not sure when I'll get to it just yet, could be another week away. I realise the beer can stay in the secondary as long as needed, my question is, is the beer maturing while in the secondary? By that I mean is it doing essentially the same as when its in the bottle minus the carbonation. If it was say left in the secondary for a month then given 2 weeks to carbonate in bottles would it be ready for drinking? (assuming of course that a month in the bottle was enough for it to be drinkable)

thanks guys

Russ
 

Wolfy

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There are a number of 'phases' that brewers have outlined that make it a little easier to explain what happens when yeast are fermenting your beer.

First is a lag phase where the yeast acclimatize to your wort.
After that the yeast multiplies and grows, reproducing as the conditions allow.
Then the yeast get down to the process of fermenting your beer.
After that - as the sugars in the wort become depleted - the yeast start to flocculate, settle to the bottom and go dormant.

Each of these 'phases' over-lap, because we have billions of live yeast cells in the fermentor, so some cells are still growing when others are fermenting, and some are still fermenting when others have started to go dormant. The interesting thing is (and I'm starting to get to the point of your question here) is that as the food supplies are depleted, the yeast look to consume all the food sources they can find, not just the easy to eat sugars that there used to be an abundance of at the start of fermentation. During this time the remaining active yeast cells can consume various by-products created by other yeast earlier in the fermentation process, and essentially they 'clean up' some of the off-flavour and aroma compounds that may have otherwise been in the beer.

The concept of 'primary' and 'secondary' fermentors was something that home-brewers thought of in order to remove the beer from the yeast - often before the yeast have finished all their 'work' - the idea was that leaving the beer on the yeast too long would cause off-flavours due to autolysis (yeast dying). However, as I attempted to explain above, even at the end of fermentation some of the yeast is still helping improve your beer, essentially in a 'conditioning' phase, so removing most of the yeast and transferring to 'secondary', especially before fermentation is all-but-complete, is not really a good idea, because there is less yeast to help remove all the unwanted byproducts, or it will take them longer to do so. In addition unless the beer is kept on the yeast for an extended period (many weeks to months) there is generally no autolysis to worry about.

The other thing to consider is that in order to bottle-carbonate you do need a certain amount of yeast, if you use a secondary (and remove most of the yeast) and then let the beer sit in the secondary for a while (weeks to months) most of the remaining yeast will also settle out and go dormant. This will likely result in nice bright beer, but it could mean that there is not enough yeast in the bottles to help with the carbonation, so it is sometimes a good idea to add just a little bit of fresh yeast as you add the priming sugar.
 

rharlow

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cheers for your reply mate, a lot of good info in there. So to summarise, yes it is conditioning in the secondary as it would in a bottle but dont leave it too long or there wont be enough yeast to carbonate the beer.
 

stux

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cheers for your reply mate, a lot of good info in there. So to summarise, yes it is conditioning in the secondary as it would in a bottle but dont leave it too long or there wont be enough yeast to carbonate the beer.
Not sure that's exactly correct.

When you bottle, you add more sugar and the yeast goes through all the stages again... but perhaps more rapidly.
 

manticle

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But by long, that's usually really long.

3-4 weeks is definitely no problem in my experience.
 

warra48

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But by long, that's usually really long.

3-4 weeks is definitely no problem in my experience.
Even after 10 weeks in primary, I've had no problem carbonating my bottles. You just need a little patience to allow tthe remaining yeast to work its carbonation magic.
 

Wolfy

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cheers for your reply mate, a lot of good info in there. So to summarise, yes it is conditioning in the secondary as it would in a bottle but dont leave it too long or there wont be enough yeast to carbonate the beer.
In the secondary (or if you leave the beer on the yeast longer in primary) the yeast is able to clean up some of the unwanted byproducts that may be produced earlier in the fermentation process - you could call this 'conditioning' your beer.
'Bottle conditioning' is when you add additional sugar to allow additional fermentation to carbonate your beer.

Unless you filter or use extensive finnings you would need to leave your beer for an extended period (month(s)) before bottling for it not to have enough yeast to bottle condition.
 

merlin032

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you have to try really hard to not get enough yeast to carbonate in the bottle - ie. I've left brews for weeks at 0.5 deg C cold conditioning before bottling and the yeast still found a way to carbonate (i usually leave the bottles for 3 weeks to carbonate instead of the usual 2 in these conditions).
 

rharlow

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thanks again guys, my main concern was that the beer isnt getting anywhere sitting in the secondary, my supplies got severelly depleted by some thirsty but suitably impressed mates and to run out of beer....well lets not even go there
 

Edak

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thanks again guys, my main concern was that the beer isnt getting anywhere sitting in the secondary, my supplies got severelly depleted by some thirsty but suitably impressed mates and to run out of beer....well lets not even go there

All you can hope for is that they left a little something in the tip jar.... :icon_chickcheers:
 

loikar

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thanks again guys, my main concern was that the beer isnt getting anywhere sitting in the secondary, my supplies got severelly depleted by some thirsty but suitably impressed mates and to run out of beer....well lets not even go there
I just want to point out, you don't HAVE to transfer to secondary,especially true for Ales.
Many of us go from primary to Keg or bottle once we hit final gravity.
I used to transfer to secondary for all my beers, but honestly, the difference it makes is arguably **** all.

The exception is if you're using lager yest, but the best way to brew a lager is to use Ale yeast :ph34r:

Just my opinion.

BF
 

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