Author Topic: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?  (Read 1910 times)

Offline chrisbarrett18

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How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« on: June 07, 2016, 09:15:34 PM »
Hey!

First time poster here so go easy on me!  ;)

I've been brewing about a year now, using the brew in a bag technique for all grain brewing.  We recently brewed a dark cream ale (3 gallon) and got a little lazy on the bottling process, just got married and was preparing for the wedding and was out of town a while.  I had to leave the beer in the primary fermenter for about two and half months and just bottled it yesterday.  We tested the beer before bottling and it seemed to smell/taste fine.

I guess my question is, should we be concerned that the beer was contaminated after leaving it so long?

Thanks for the help!
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Offline Bob357

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2016, 09:46:45 PM »
At this point there's no reason to treat it as anything but OK. You have done the work and spent the money, so just wait a couple of weeks and taste the results. Often, the results of other than ideal conditions produce amazing beer.
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2016, 09:53:09 PM »
if it tastes good still going into the bottle it is almost certainly fine.

It's not going to grow anything that will hurt you anyway.

If it had been in the fermenter too long it would have smelled/tasted brothy or meaty. this is from the yeast cells exploding and dumping their Umami filled guts in your beer (their beer really).

Did the airlock go dry? if not there is hardly any chance of contamination with undesirable organisms from the age alone.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2016, 09:58:14 PM »
While 10 weeks is longer than I'd want to leave the beer on the yeast, I wouldn't sweat it. Trust your palate - if it smells and tastes good, it's good. If contamination were the real concern, the beer would be terrible, or possibly pleasantly sour, by now. The real concern is yeast autolysis (ie., yeast death). I notice that as a meaty, sort of soy sauce character. Autolysis is a much bigger concern in pro breweries, where the sheer amount of mass/weight in the large fermenters puts exponentially more pressure on the yeast cells. I don't leave beer on the yeast for more than a month, but I have gone as long as 6 weeks-ish. I think you're fine.
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Offline cfleisher

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2016, 12:31:25 AM »
I'm a lot more relaxed than I used to be about time in the primary. I agree that you shouldn't worry too much if it tasted OK at bottling. Definitely had beers go bad in the bottle before, but that was more a product of poor packaging techniques, not that something had gone wrong in the primary.
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Offline pete b

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2016, 01:41:30 AM »
The next time you get married go for a simple civil ceremony that won't interfere with your brewing.
Don't let the bastards cheer you up.

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2016, 03:41:15 PM »
I have had beers sit in primary for years. Granted those were sour/brett beers but I have sat clean beers up to a year in primary without problems.
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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2016, 06:27:26 PM »
I would avoid making a habit of long term primary storage, but you should be fine.  I have found that summer ale brewing is the most likely to get contaminated from a long term primary, just because the amount of micro flora in the air is so much greater, so the batch is exposed to a greater chance of some unwanted critters getting in there up front before sealing up the primary.  Then after the sacc yeast are done and go dormant, wild yeasts and molds can take a hold on a batch with the longer time at room temperature that occurs with a lengthy primary fermentation/storage in the primary.
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Offline brewinhard

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2016, 07:43:58 PM »
I would try not to extend the primary past 6 wks personally, but as stated above, if you don't see anything growing on the surface of the beer (pellicle) or if the beer tastes/smells fine, then you are okay to package.

The real concern is yeast autolysis (ie., yeast death). I notice that as a meaty, sort of soy sauce character.

Autolysis comes across to me as an old container of B vitamins that has been emptied for a while.

Offline blair.streit

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2016, 08:41:28 PM »
Autolysis comes across to me as an old container of B vitamins that has been emptied for a while.
Yes! I don't recall ever hearing that comparison, but now that you mention it this fits the bill for me better than the usual descriptors of meaty, soy sauce or umami.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2016, 10:40:05 PM »
I've run into problems after about the 8 week mark.  These days I wouldn't go past about 6 weeks to be safe.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2016, 10:42:30 PM »
I've run into problems after about the 8 week mark.  These days I wouldn't go past about 6 weeks to be safe.


Same here, Dave. I feel fine with 6 weeks. Rather not go past though.
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Offline toby

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2016, 03:46:49 PM »
Generally speaking, it's going to depend on several factors including ABV of the beer, health of the yeast originally pitched, cleaning and sanitation of vessels before beer was in them, temperature control, and quality of the airlock.  That being said, 2.5 months isn't horribly long, so as long as it didn't taste 'meaty' or 'brothy' coming out, it's probably fine.  I had a couple of beers that I 'forgot about' for almost 10 months once (they were both high ABV beers with a good airlock seal kept at a reasonable temperature the whole time).  By the time my free brewing time started up again, I figured I would just be dumping them.  Turned out to be a couple of fantastic beers.

Offline neddles

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2016, 05:34:02 AM »
The next time you get married go for a simple civil ceremony that won't interfere with your brewing.
This is the correct answer.

Offline santoch

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Re: How long is too long in a primary fermenter?
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2016, 03:28:27 AM »
if it tastes good still going into the bottle it is almost certainly fine.

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