When to rack

Brewing processes and methods. How to brew using extract, partial or all-grain. Tips and tricks.

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When to rack

Postby Radler » Thu Feb 03, 2005 5:54 pm

I'm brewing what is essentially my first beer and need some help. I brewed on Monday and had an OG of 1.061, pitched a yeast starter (Safale S-04) and within 6 hours there was airlock activity. 12 hours later it was bubbling every second and the head was at least two inches. A day later and it had slowed to once every 20 seconds. Another half day and it was down to 40-50 seconds. I understand that my yeast is a fast acter but my question is should I rack to secondary now (3 days after brewing) or wait a few more days. What complicates this a bit more is that once I rack I will be away and not able to bottle for 4-5 weeks and with the flocculation of this yeast I am also worried that there may be no yeast left in the secondary for such a long sec. fermentation. If any of that made any sense I would really appreciate any help. Thanks.
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Postby BillyBock » Thu Feb 03, 2005 8:56 pm

Radler: First off, welcome to brewing. You're going to enjoy this hobby. I've been brewing for 5+ years now and I'm a fanatic :-)

My general schedule for ales is to allow it 1 week to finish fermenting before racking to a secondary. Then it can sit for a month before you bottle it--don't worry, you'll have plenty of yeast in solution to carbonate the beer in the bottle. Then another 1 to 2 weeks in the bottle for carbonation, followed by cold-conditioning.

During fermentation, the yeast will throw up a thick foam (krausen) on the top of the beer. It will peak, leave a ring, and then recede towards the end of fermentation. Basically, when you don't see the foam anymore, or if you just see little "islands" of bubbles scattered on the top of the beer (which is just CO2 coming out of solution) then it's done. So use that as your cue for racking to a secondary. If you use a glass carboy then it's easy to observe. If you're using a plastic pail, or the like, you'll either have to carefully peek inside or shine a light to it and look for the shadow of the krausen and/or ring. A hydrometer is the best way to tell when it's really finished--just take successive readings 2 or 3 days apart. If there's no change, then it's done.

Fermentation is affected by temperature, the higher it is the faster it ferments. This can lead to off-flavors in your finished beer--called fusel alcohols which can give a wicked headache. If you can, keep the beer at about 65F to 68F to minimize these flavors. The ferment will generate heat--my 10 gallon lager batches normally generate about 5 additional degrees over the surrounding air.

Good luck on your first beer, and as they say...relax, don't worry, have a homebrew :D

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