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View Full Version : Primary to secondary, and when to taste?



mediaguru
07-24-2012, 04:45 PM
Okay, one more question: I'm a little iffy on when to rack to secondary. Should I essentially just keep in primary fermentation until fermentation appears practically completely done? I'm not sure when/why to transfer to secondary. Some people claim they don't really do it until completely done fermenting. Some say they just wait a week or two, then do it and let it continue fermenting.

I plan to bulk age it in the carboy anyway, so I imagine I would leave it in "secondary" for a very long time, and then straight to bottles (or at least, that's the plan)

And when should I give it a taste, just for curiosity's sake and to make notes in my journal? At the end of primary?

How often should I take hydrometer readings? (I was going to try maybe every day, but like a true n00b I managed to break my hydrometer in less than 24 hours so I need to go buy another one)

fatbloke
07-24-2012, 05:02 PM
Okay, one more question: I'm a little iffy on when to rack to secondary. Should I essentially just keep in primary fermentation until fermentation appears practically completely done? I'm not sure when/why to transfer to secondary. Some people claim they don't really do it until completely done fermenting. Some say they just wait a week or two, then do it and let it continue fermenting.

I plan to bulk age it in the carboy anyway, so I imagine I would leave it in "secondary" for a very long time, and then straight to bottles (or at least, that's the plan)

And when should I give it a taste, just for curiosity's sake and to make notes in my journal? At the end of primary?

How often should I take hydrometer readings? (I was going to try maybe every day, but like a true n00b I managed to break my hydrometer in less than 24 hours so I need to go buy another one)
So in response, why would you rack an active ferment, when you'd end up leaving most of the yeast behind ?

The whole point is to get the batch to finish fermenting - unless you have a specific reason not to, but then you're asking for a "stuck ferment".....

akueck
07-24-2012, 07:26 PM
Yep, what he said. "Primary" and "secondary" fermentation are terrible terms, IMO. Fermentation is done or not done, it doesn't have a secondary phase unless you're adding more sugar at some point after it's already done (e.g. bottle conditioning). Your goal during "primary" is to complete the fermentation. Rack it when it's done.

Chevette Girl
08-03-2012, 12:26 PM
Sometimes we'll rack off fruit when the fermentation's not quite done just because we don't want off-flavours coming from fruit being left in too long (I've had some go funny on me, others I've left in for 6 months and it was great, I think it depends on what you're making, how you prepared it and what fruit you're using), but if the fermentation's not done when you rack off fruit, you want to mix it up a little first to re-suspend the yeast so you don't leave it behind (I've made this mistake too and it takes FOREVER to get that last .020 of sugars to ferment out sometimes).

And as for hydrometer readings, well, if you're following a staggered nutrient schedule and vigorous aeration, you'll want to check the SG at least once or twice a day. If you're not, every couple of days should be fine, and once it's down below 1.000, I usually don't even bother until I go to bottle or stabilize it.

Tasting? Any time is fine, but don't expect it to taste like the finished product when it's only halfway done, and don't judge a batch by how it tastes while fermentation's in progress. I usually taste at least a few drops every time I check the SG (what drips onto my hand as I'm taking the used hydrometer and thief over to the sink afterwards). It's kind of neat to taste things all the way through, and I do recommend taking notes! but don't be surprised or disheartened if you get some really yucky phases, I've had a couple that tasted like bile in the mid-fermentation and they turned out fine, and some that tasted really great while they still had some sugars left but way too dry after fermenting out completely, but they were OK after some age...

wowbagger
08-04-2012, 12:18 PM
...what they're saying. I don't rack untill the ferment is more or less done, and never before a couple weeks. I don't usually bother tasting until I rack to the secondary, but after that I taste it every couple months or so at least and take lots of notes. I've been surprised by how the flavors change over time. I swear, some of my batches seem to get better, then worse, then better again.

mediaguru
08-04-2012, 01:57 PM
Tasting? Any time is fine, but don't expect it to taste like the finished product when it's only halfway done, and don't judge a batch by how it tastes while fermentation's in progress. I usually taste at least a few drops every time I check the SG (what drips onto my hand as I'm taking the used hydrometer and thief over to the sink afterwards). It's kind of neat to taste things all the way through, and I do recommend taking notes! but don't be surprised or disheartened if you get some really yucky phases, I've had a couple that tasted like bile in the mid-fermentation and they turned out fine, and some that tasted really great while they still had some sugars left but way too dry after fermenting out completely, but they were OK after some age...

My biggest concern is the latter -- I don't want it to go too dry. Most truly dry meads I've had have been gross (I did have one that was pretty good with apricot or something, maybe it was blackberry, I don't remember)

Right now, in mid-fermentation, it tastes AMAZING (like caramel apple a bit, definitely some toffee flavor but also strongly reminiscent of fresh-pressed, unfiltered cider, but without the acidity), but still very sweet.

It's exactly 2 weeks since I began fermentation, and it's definitely still fermenting... bubbles in airlock every few seconds.

Chevette Girl
08-05-2012, 06:33 PM
I know what you mean about dry meads, I'm still trying to figure out if I like them at all myself. But rather than trying to stop a fermentation before it goes too dry, or front-load it with honey so it's got a higher potential alcohol than your selected yeast's tolerance, you get a much cleaner and easier fermentation if you start with a sensible specific gravity, ferment it out dry, and then stabilize and backsweeten.

I've had some that have really disappointed me after they'd finished compared to how they tasted in the middle, but usually that just means I need to backsweeten it a bit. Not the end of the world. And if you don't like the chemicals for whatever reason, step-feeding it is another alternative, start sensible and every time it goes below a certain SG, add honey to bring it back up to your upper sweetness level, eventually you'll max out your yeast and it'll stop.