Author Topic: No evidence of activity in secondary  (Read 1023 times)

Offline abarko

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No evidence of activity in secondary
« on: May 17, 2010, 08:25:09 PM »
I'm new to homebrewing so any advice is appreciated. I'm brewing an American Amber (Brewer's Best partial mash kit). I used a yeast starter and kept the beer in the primary for 9 days. Temperature started at 70 degrees but then got down as low as 62 degrees (I live in an apartment in Chicago so its hard for me to control our spring temperature swings - but I did have the primary in a larger bucket of water to try and even out the temperature swings). I transferred to a glass carboy secondary when the head collapsed - there was still activity but it was noticeably slower. I transferred all the liquid, leaving the sediment behind. I had to leave town since then and just returned. I know the temperature in the apartment was between 62-65 degrees. When I checked the secondary 5 days later I don't see ANY evidence of activity - not even a small ring around the top layer of liquid. (As a side note - I sanitized the carboy using an iodine solution and then letting it drip dry.)
Did I do something wrong when I transferred to the glass carboy? Is there a way to see if any yeast are still in there and alive? Is it even worth bottling (I've already had 1 batch of flat beer and don't want that again)

Thanks in advance for your help!
Annie

Offline tom

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Re: No evidence of activity in secondary
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2010, 08:37:35 PM »
Welcome Annie!
So it fermented for 9 days in a primary fermenter and then you transferred to a secondary? Sounds fine so far. And it has been in secondary for 5 days?
RDWHAHB (Relax Don't Worry Have A HomeBrew).
No problem about the yeast. Go ahead and check the gravity. And give it a taste.
And tell us more about the batch that didn't carbonate.
Brew on, Tom
Brew on

Offline a10t2

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Re: No evidence of activity in secondary
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2010, 08:42:38 PM »
What homebrewers call "secondary fermentation" generally doesn't involve fermentation at all, it's just a clarifying and conditioning step. Because of that it isn't unusual for there to be no activity in the secondary. There are some brewers who transfer with the intention of having additional fermentation in the secondary, but it's far from common.

Unless you're intentionally moving the beer early, 9 days is probably too soon to transfer most beers - especially if there's still activity. By moving the beer away from the yeast you could cause fermentation to stall prematurely, which sounds like it could be what happened here. It's also possible that because there was little remaining yeast, what fermentation did happen just wasn't vigorous enough to raise a krausen and leave a ring.

I think the best option is always to wait until fermentation is complete, then wait at least a few more days, then transfer to secondary (or skip secondary entirely and go straight to keg or bottle). And the best way to judge whether or not fermentation is complete is by taking gravity readings 3-4 days apart. If they're the same, it's done. Foaming and airlock activity aren't necessarily good indicators.

So take a gravity reading, then take another in a few days, and if they're consistent and about where you expect, go ahead and keg/bottle.
Beer is like porn. You can buy it, but it's more fun to make your own.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: No evidence of activity in secondary
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2010, 05:10:38 AM »
What the others said. A secondary is usually not even needed for most low gravity book. I highly recommend you pick up a good homebrewing book if you haven't already. most people recommend John Palmer's "How to Brew".

Welcome to the forum and the hobby!
Keith Y.
Self appointed "All Grain" section pruner

Offline richardt

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Re: No evidence of activity in secondary
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2010, 06:35:38 AM »
Agree with MV.  It's a great, and enjoyable, hobby.
You discover or learn something new every time.
You'll want your own "How to Brew" book.
It's a great reference and I keep going back to it. 
It is also available online (free).

Offline hokerer

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Re: No evidence of activity in secondary
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2010, 07:19:25 AM »
It is also available online (free).

Don't forget that the free online version is just the 1st edition.  The printed book is at at least the 3rd edition.
Joe

Offline abarko

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Re: No evidence of activity in secondary
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2010, 07:43:04 AM »
Thanks for the advice everyone - I'll be sure to pick up a book. I recently bought a hydrometer so this is the first batch that I'm taking readings on. So I'll be sure to take gravity readings over the next few days. In the next batch of beer I'll be sure to use the readings to determine when the primary fermentation is complete.

Tom - I'm not too sure what happened to the 1st batch that didn't carbonate. It was another beer kit - I think it was called Canadian Lager or something. It had really good flavor, good color but was really flat. We weren't sure if we just didn't put enough priming sugar in the batch or what (I was worried about bottle bombs the first time we brewed). I talked with the owner of our local homebrew store and he wasn't sure. Maybe just like the current batch we transferred it out of the primary too early? Our 2nd batch of beer was a German Altbier (Brewer's Best kit) and it turned out great - good flavor and nice level of carbonation. We let this one stay in the primary a bit longer (think it was around 2-3 weeks) because our apartment was pretty cold (55-60 deg) and fermentation was going much slower.

a10t2 - Are there any solutions if we did prematurely stall fermentation?


Offline tom

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Re: No evidence of activity in secondary
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2010, 11:13:13 AM »
What temperature are the first bottles at? They need to be at room temperature for a week or two for the yeast to make carbonation.
Brew on

Offline abarko

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Re: No evidence of activity in secondary
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2010, 12:25:28 PM »
The 1st batch of bottles were around 65F (same temperature as when it was fermenting) for several weeks. We tried bottles at a few weeks up to 2 months in the bottle and there was little to no carbonation in all of them. As a sidenote, we bottled half the batch in 12oz bottles and half the batch in larger grolsch bottles. Little to no carbonation in either type of bottle.

Our 2nd batch was fairly carbonated after 2 weeks in the bottle (temperature after bottling was ~60F). Again, we bottled half in regular bottles and half in the larger grolsch bottles. Good carbonation in the regular beer bottles and little to no carbonation in the grolsch bottles. Our rubber stoppers seem to be in good condition so I can't figure out why the larger bottles aren't carbonating well - I center the rubber stopper before closing the bottle and it doesn't look like it is leaking pressure. Do you have any experience with these? For this 3rd batch I was going to just do all 12oz bottles and forget about the grolsch for now.


Offline tom

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Re: No evidence of activity in secondary
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2010, 02:05:20 PM »
A lot of folks use swing-top bottles. As long as the seals look intact they should hold pressure well. If the seals look old you can get new ones at your homeberw store.
So it sounds like you didn't put in as much carbonating sugar in the first batch.
Make sure the fermentation is done before bottling and you'll be fine.
Brew on

Offline richardt

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Re: No evidence of activity in secondary
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2010, 04:03:00 PM »
I've got some swing-top bottles (Moosbacher) in the clearance section of my local store (horribly oxidized lagers--yuck).
I'd like to use them--is there some secret to making the swing tops work?
Do I need to use some sort of keg-lube to get a seal or will simply having an intact rubber gasket be enough?
Do I need to bend the metal arms a bit to increase the closing pressure?

I'm kind of skeptical since the original beer was oxidized.  I don't want to have the same thing happen with my beers.