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What's your ideal fermentation process?

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thermo_47

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Hi all,

I've been rethinking all of my brewing habits lately, and want to brew everything purposefully this year - as opposed to just "because I've always done it that way" or "because it's cheap."

Specifically I'm interested in:

- What kind of fermenters people use
- Primary only vs Secondary and how long a "normal" ale would be in either
- Times for dry hopping, cold crashing & conditioning
- Bulk priming for bottling

At the moment I use a primary only, 60L plastic fermenter in a fridge, keep things at about 20C for roughly 2 weeks before cold crashing for a few days and either kegging or bottling with carb drops. Dry hop for 3-5 days in primary as I start crashing.

I do 45L batches and have toyed on and off with the idea of fermenting in some 50L kegs with either Tri-clover fittings or going all out and getting a bigger opening welded on top for easier cleaning - the idea of using 50L of water to clean a fermenter every time is pretty unappealing! I'm keen to hear if anyone uses alternatives to the standard plastic fermenters or expensive stainless conicals, having already seen that a lot of brewers use 2 jerrys in a fridge. My main issue with conicals (apart from $$) would be cooling - awkward/impossible in a fridge and I'm NOT lifting one in and out of a chest freezer!

Does anyone that uses a secondary notice a great advantage? I'd hate to clean even more vessels for a batch of beer but it could be worth it... right? If I want to bulk prime I'll have to use another fermenter anyway, and try as I might I just can't think up a solution which allows me to ferment, crash, dry hop and bulk prime all in the one fermenter... without going to a glycol jacketed conical. Sure, that'd be nice!

Any thoughts greatly appreciated :) Cheers!

Jon
 

hsb

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I'd leave the keg as is and put the beer in it to serve. ;)

For 2 week ales, I don't see an advantage with secondary-ing. I only use them to rack onto something else.
What are you hoping to achieve? Clearer beer without filtering?

I primary in a bulk priming pail in a fridge, around 3 weeks including cold crash for a typical ale, then straight into a keg.
I apply KISS principle to that, I'd need a good reason, such as racking onto fruit, to move the beer unnecessarily.
But then I condition in the keg, not the bottle.
 

thermo_47

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Yeah cool, thanks for your thoughts. I guess I'm trying to achieve a streamlined ferment - enough time to avoid off flavours and finish properly, then drop the yeast and get bright beer without having to clean too many fermenters. I don't want to waste time when I could have something else fermenting. My gut also says that brewing in and cleaning plastic is not as awesome as stainless but I do it anyway.. don't we all? Bulk priming for bottling at the end is the real drama - don't wanna try mix priming sugar solution into my chilled primary! I'd stir up all the yeast :/
 

mmmyummybeer

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Probable not much help but I have stainless conical but mainly because I picked them up cheap, pretty much because the lids didn't seal. It doesn't worry me though as I just use the glad wrap method which is great because I can see clearly what is going on. I still have the advantage of the conical bottom to remove the yeast and trub when ever I want. As for fridge or temp control that is an issue with conical fermenter's however I ended up picking up a cheap older orford fridge with the 2 glass doors of ebay, just took some time and watching. System obviously works great and I love it however if i was paying normal full price then I would be plastic fermenters still. As for secondary I am still not a big believer in it, I do remove yeast and any trub carry over but only because its so easy in a conical and doesn't risk oxidizing the beer. I do have a 50L keg which which was turned into a fermenter and It works well, would be able to ferment 50L though as not enough head space. Oh I don't have to lift them in and out of the fridge either as I put conical fittings on the tap so I can pump my wort in and then gravity feed into the kegs. Yes tri-clovers are great. Sorry but I have probable drank too much to be adding replys (has been fun and tasty though) and I don't want to sound too much like I have this rah rah rah. bottom line I love my system but wouldn't pay full price though, but it came up and I made the most of it. So my advise is always keep searching for beer equipment and make the most of what have or find. As for ferment times well can't think of anything useful at the moment as it depends on the type of beer, yeast used.
 

stux

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Get some fermenter bags from CraftBrewer (you need to email ross)

You line your 60L fermenter with the bag and put the lid on.

When you're done fermenting, siphon out your beer and throw the bag away!

The only con is that you can't use the tap, but I use an auto-siphon instead.

Your fermenter is virtually clean afterwards :)

(i would suggest sanitizing the fermenter still btw, but that only uses a couple of L for a splash-around

I use a dash of fermcap + blow off tube with my 60L fermenters and ferment a full 60L! This gets me 3 full kegs and 3L of trub.

I also use a fermenter thermowell from beerbelly so that I'm measure the temperature of the actual wort...

You can see my thermowell, heat belt, blow-off, and the plastic bag
Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 11.59.47 PM.png
 

Bats

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Stux said:
Get some fermenter bags from CraftBrewer (you need to email ross)

You line your 60L fermenter with the bag and put the lid on.

When you're done fermenting, siphon out your beer and throw the bag away!

The only con is that you can't use the tap, but I use an auto-siphon instead.

Your fermenter is virtually clean afterwards :)

(i would suggest sanitizing the fermenter still btw, but that only uses a couple of L for a splash-around

I use a dash of fermcap + blow off tube with my 60L fermenters and ferment a full 60L! This gets me 3 full kegs and 3L of trub.

I also use a fermenter thermowell from beerbelly so that I'm measure the temperature of the actual wort...

You can see my thermowell, heat belt, blow-off, and the plastic bag
Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 11.59.47 PM.png
Fermenter bags are a great idea if you ask me.

How much do they cost? Are they only for 60L FV or can you get ones for a 30L?
 

hsb

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It's all a bit 'Dexter', lining the scene of the crime with plastic sheeting. What's the advantage of doing that, aside from no DNA evidence of fermentation?

For a 3 week ale, I think plastic is OK. The only disadvantages are it being long-term porous, which isn't relevant here, and it not being as robust as SS, which is true but it'd take a long time to get through enough plastic primaries to justify a SS conical on that front.
Plenty of beer is/has been made in plastic or wood, there are also plastic conicals sourced from agricultural suppliers - as seen on AHB from time to time, which ticks the box for the benefits of yeast removal conicals have.

Who else has got a SS conical and can comment? Or is a supporter of secondaries?
 

stux

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Bats said:
Fermenter bags are a great idea if you ask me.

How much do they cost? Are they only for 60L FV or can you get ones for a 30L?
Ross sells them for 10$ for 10

They're only for 60L

They also make harvesting clean yeast slurry trivial, just cut a corner and pour.

I'm down to my last couple, need to get another pack :)
 

stux

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The primary advantage is its a PITA cleaning a 60L fermenter otherwise

I use 25L pails as well and they're easy to clean
 

hsb

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FIAB is born then. You could sling the bags up on meat hooks, be quite a sight.
An abbatoir for fermentables.
 

Dave70

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Jon's Brew said:
Hi all,

I've been rethinking all of my brewing habits lately, and want to brew everything purposefully this year - as opposed to just "because I've always done it that way" or "because it's cheap."

Specifically I'm interested in:

- What kind of fermenters people use
- Primary only vs Secondary and how long a "normal" ale would be in either
- Times for dry hopping, cold crashing & conditioning
- Bulk priming for bottling

At the moment I use a primary only, 60L plastic fermenter in a fridge, keep things at about 20C for roughly 2 weeks before cold crashing for a few days and either kegging or bottling with carb drops. Dry hop for 3-5 days in primary as I start crashing.

I do 45L batches and have toyed on and off with the idea of fermenting in some 50L kegs with either Tri-clover fittings or going all out and getting a bigger opening welded on top for easier cleaning - the idea of using 50L of water to clean a fermenter every time is pretty unappealing! I'm keen to hear if anyone uses alternatives to the standard plastic fermenters or expensive stainless conicals, having already seen that a lot of brewers use 2 jerrys in a fridge. My main issue with conicals (apart from $$) would be cooling - awkward/impossible in a fridge and I'm NOT lifting one in and out of a chest freezer!

Does anyone that uses a secondary notice a great advantage? I'd hate to clean even more vessels for a batch of beer but it could be worth it... right? If I want to bulk prime I'll have to use another fermenter anyway, and try as I might I just can't think up a solution which allows me to ferment, crash, dry hop and bulk prime all in the one fermenter... without going to a glycol jacketed conical. Sure, that'd be nice!

Any thoughts greatly appreciated :) Cheers!

Jon
At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself why you are doing this or that. Will you be sitting back with beer you produced in a $800 conical stainless fermenter satisfied that it tastes $780 better than a bucket you got at Bunnings?
One thing I've noticed around these parts is some (but not all) of the more accomplished brewers use the most basic equipment, but they know their rigs backwards and control every step of the process to a T. There's much to be said for keeping it simple in my book.
65 deg mash water is 65 deg, regardless if it was heated by an electronically controlled three grand Braumeister or a rusty $40 gas burner.
I don't mean to sound like a Luddite here, but I actually enjoy the process. Yes, cleaning fermenters and cubes and eskys and kettles is a bitch, but whats it take, five minutes with a sponge, some breach and a little elbow grease? No biggie.


So me-
Plastic 40 L fermenter.
No secondary - unless I want to use fruit or something.
Dry hop - 3 to 5 days depending on the style.
Cold crash for about 5 days, give or take.

If you current methods aren't delivering the results you want then it's time for a rethink, otherwise change for the sake of change is kind of pointless.
 

Nick JD

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I've got a lager doing a d-rest at 18C atm. Many people don't makes lagers because they think they are different to ales and require more time.

This is not true. A adequately-pitched lager yeast at 12C will be at or very near FG within 5 days (my current one is at FG in less than 5 days at 12C. I pitch big and use nutrient.

A 36 hour d-rest and then 2 days of cold crashing with gelatine and 2 days with polyclar. Into the keg and forced carbed.

So about the same as an ale from grain to brain.

Does the beer need 3 months lagering at -1C? It'd be nice, but I can honestly say it will only improve the beer by a point or two - pilsners made this "fast" way are still bloody brilliant. Those who don't make lagers because they think they have to lager them for a month ... try a "fast" lager and see what you think. Betcha it won't be your last.
 

glaab

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I've had the same 2 60L fermentators for 2-3 yrs and they looik like new, I just hose them out straight away after kegging, then swish around a coupla litres of PBW then starsan before the next batch. I don't understand what is the difficult part.
Good to hear I'm not the only one who doesn't use a secondary, at other times on here I've said I don't secondary and been treated like a retarded leper.
As for the 1st question, "What kind of fermenters people use", I also have a 120L Nylex fermenter. Great for making 100L of extract or partial but it wont fit in my fridge so the weather has to be cool enough.
I don't cold crash or use finings and find after about 3weeks thekegs pour pretty clear anyway f they last that long. I don't care if my ale is cloudy as long as it tastes ok.
 

Dave70

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Nick JD said:
I've got a lager doing a d-rest at 18C atm. Many people don't makes lagers because they think they are different to ales and require more time.

This is not true. A adequately-pitched lager yeast at 12C will be at or very near FG within 5 days (my current one is at FG in less than 5 days at 12C. I pitch big and use nutrient.

A 36 hour d-rest and then 2 days of cold crashing with gelatine and 2 days with polyclar. Into the keg and forced carbed.

So about the same as an ale from grain to brain.

Does the beer need 3 months lagering at -1C? It'd be nice, but I can honestly say it will only improve the beer by a point or two - pilsners made this "fast" way are still bloody brilliant. Those who don't make lagers because they think they have to lager them for a month ... try a "fast" lager and see what you think. Betcha it won't be your last.
He Nick (Sorry Jon, but there may be something in here for you also) I'm that guy.
Do you think this method would work for bigger beers such as a Bock? It's really flying in the face of convention. And John Palmer. And Germans.

Also, is that your cat in the avatar? If so I think it needs worming. Looks ******* disgruntled.
 

thermo_47

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Thanks all. Good to hear other brewer's experiences. I've often when walkign through Bunnings eyed off bins and plastic storage containers etc, checking to see if they're HDPE and wondered if they'd make a good fermenter. No particular "need" for a huge fermenter but I'm sure I'd have a crack at 120L of something if I found a big fermenter! I agree that FIAB (is that a real term now?) would really help with cleaning but it feels a llittle funny to me - having said that I've enjoyed plenty of Bacchus brews fermented this way.

More to the point, I've still gotta clean another fermenter out to bulk prime and bottle! Not the end of the world, but I'm looking at efficiency of process, not just time/effort. I totally know what Dave means about knowing your gear and tasting the $780 difference from a conical etc, but I'm in the middle of re-evaluating everything about how I brew so I thought it'd be useful to have some opinions. Counting everyone's 2c we'll be up to a dollar before we know it :)
 

drsmurto

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Plastic 30L fermenters, the same i have been using for several years.

Ales get 1 week at primary ferment temp and then ramped up a degree or 2 for another week. Cold crash and leave for another week or 2. Rack to a keg (or fermenter for bulk priming if bottling). If it's a big beer (RIS, BW) then another week or more at ferment temperature, rack and then leave again at ferment temp to condition for weeks. Often i do the conditioning of big beers in a keg to keep oxygen out (and to occasionally oak them) and then siphon into a fermenter for bottling as normal.

Lagers get 3+ weeks at primary ferment temp, generally 9-10C (using Whitelabs 833 Bock yeast) including a diacetyl rest at 16-18C for 3 days. Cool to 1C by dropping the temperature 1-2C per day. Rack to a cube/jerry with minimal headspace and lager for as long as I want. I brew very few lagers and have not tried a 'fast lager' for no other reason than I haven't which isn't actually a reason..... Should give it a go since my neighbours have discovered my bar (kept it a secret for almost 6 years) and now want visitation rights.

Post kettle finings only used for comps if used at all. Dry hopping is something i rarely do, a good flameout addition is generally sufficient.

To the OP - yeast pitching rate, dissolved oxygen levels, temperature control - these are far more important than the shape or material of the vessel you are fermenting in.
 

thermo_47

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Thanks Doc, all sounds really solid to me. I'm in the middle of setting up a mini yeast Lab and switching to using/reusing liquid yeasts so tackling those control points in finer detail too. I like knowing which details are the most important - when I started using temp control my beers took off! Looking forward to refining/controlling pitching rate and O2 as well :)
 

Nick JD

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Dave70 said:
He Nick (Sorry Jon, but there may be something in here for you also) I'm that guy.
Do you think this method would work for bigger beers such as a Bock? It's really flying in the face of convention. And John Palmer. And Germans.

Also, is that your cat in the avatar? If so I think it needs worming. Looks ******* disgruntled.
I can't see any reasons you couldn't do a fast bock (except for the obvious extra time fermenting a beast of a beer) - maybe a doppel might need a bit more lovin' as you'd want some time to smooth out any high ABV issues in much the same way that big belgians tend to end up much nicer with a bit of age. All you're really taking out is the lagering stage which I firmly believe is more about dropping undesirable compounds out than anything. Modern processes like fining and filtering can (and do in a commercial sense) really speed the "maturation" up.

The thing is, it won't be a "bad" beer - which is what many people think a fast lager will be. TBH, the difference between a fast lager and one that's had a month of lagering is the same as the difference between the start, and the end of a keg, if you take a month to drink it. Sure, there is a perceptable difference (very slight if it went into the keg crystal clear without any yeast and polyphenols) but those first few pints were still pretty damn delicious. I'm not advocating slacking off in your processes, but for those who have limited fermenting fridge real estate, it's a way to add lagers to your range ... and that 3/4 of the beer drunk in the world is lager, there's a reason for this.

The angry cat is a response to having my "amature member" avatar removed by the AHB staff. It adequately portrayed my mood at the time. Incidently, it's a real cat - that face is not photoshopped.
 

slash22000

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3/4 of the beer drunk in the world is lager, there's a reason for this.
It's the best way to make tasteless piss to sell to uneducated and/or uninterested drunkards? :huh:

Not that a lager will be inherently poor, of course, but I think the statement "Most people drink lager" isn't linked to the fact lager is more delicious than ale, but rather the opposite. If you eliminated mega-swill from that equation and left only beer worth drinking, I wonder what the final Lager VS Ale stats would be?

Still, I'm one of those people with limited fermenting space and have never done a lager because of it. I might even try this "fast lager" approach.
 

thermo_47

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Ha! Yeah totally off topic, but I think people drink lagers becasue they're easier to drink 700 of. Not saying they're bad, but I appreciate beer for complexity of FLAVOUR, not it's ability to make me drunk.

*edit* I should point out that I refer to pale megaswill lagers, not tasty numbers like Bocks, Doppels & Dunkels. Even a good Hef gets the nod from me, and I'm usually a dark or hoppy beer drinker.
 

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