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Long fermentation - is it time to bottle?

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I'm a brand new brewer (this is just my second batch - and first time dry hopping) and I'm trying to decide if it's time to bottle.

My plan was to ferment my beer for two weeks... and then dry hop it in the primary for 7 days afterward before bottling. My last beer was done fermenting in 2 weeks; so I figured that would be about right. I was hoping that by adding the hops so late in the fermentation cycle the benefits and disadvantages would balance out. The active fermentation could carry away any newly introduced oxygen... without taking too much of the hop aroma. So, anyways, it's now day 20 - and my airlock is still bubbling. Not aggressively, mind you, just once every 2.5 - 3 minutes; but it's still going nonetheless.

Is that odd for it to ferment for so long? I had almost no lag after pitching... and everything I've read so far says it usually only takes 1 - 2 weeks. I wouldn't mind just letting it sit in the primary until it was done (I understand the current line-of-thinking is the trub won't contribute noticable off flavours in such a short timespan) except that with the hops in there I'm worried it will produce a 'vegetative' taste if I leave it too long and be be too grassy. On the other hand I'm worried if I try to remove the hops and/or take a sample to measure the gravity that it could introduce more oxygen and produce off-flavours.

I assume taking a sample of the gravity is moot, right? Because if it's still bubbling that means it's definitely still fermenting. What do you experts think? Should I leave it alone until it stops bubbling and chance the grassy taste? Pop the lid and carefully remove the hops until it's done? Go ahead and bottle at 21 days as planned? ...any thoughts or advice for a n00bie such as myself?

Thanks in advance,

A bubbling airlock doesn't necessarily mean continued fermentation.  It simply means that CO2 is coming out if solution.  Taking a gravity reading is never out of place.

Joe Sr.:
Check the gravity. 

Bubbles mean nothing of significance.  If the beer warms up, co2 will come out of suspension, causing bubbles.

Denny beat me!

And don't worry to much about o2. I mean don't splash around in there but taking a gravity sample of even pulling a hop bag out is not going to oxidize your beer.

That makes sense about the temperature. It's at a pretty constant 68°F in there though... and with the fermentation slowing down I would think the temp would drop slightly, if anything. Are there other things that would cause the CO² to come out of suspension?

I appreciate the help though guys, thank you. I guess the only way to be sure is to get the ol' beer thief out and take a reading. I was just hoping to avoid that. Call me greedy but I wanted as much finished beer to bottle as possible :-P I think I'll adjust my recipes to allow for a 6 gallon batch and then I don't have to worry about those losses ;-)

Thanks again, ya'all!


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