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I am BRAND NEW to home-brewing having just got a kit yesterday. The nice gent at the supply store gave us so much information that my head was swimming when we left. After reading web sites and "How To Brew" first edition, I am still confused on where in the brewing process the carboy comes into play.

The first brew I will be making is from a kit for a Belgian Ale. The gent said to leave that in the fermenter for 'about 3 weeks' then bottle it. At what stage in this do I use the carboy? Do I even need to use it?

thank for helping a newbie.

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Are you using a bucket for the primary fermentation? –  baka Feb 28 '11 at 18:00
    
Baka - I had planned on it as that is what I thought I needed to do. –  Teresa G Feb 28 '11 at 18:24

4 Answers 4

A long standing mantra of brewing was to ferment in the plastic bucket for 7 days. Then the beer would be siphoned out of the bucket and into the carboy. In the carboy it would sit for 14 days. This step was used 1) to help with beer clarity as more stuff would settle out here post the primary ferment (done in the pail) 2) to get the beer of the sludge of yeast that will be sitting at the bottom of the pail after 7 days.

Current more conventional thinking has won out that you only really need to do your ferment for most beers for 14 days in one vessle. As a new brewer the buckets tend to be easier to clean and maintain at first, but a glass carboy lets you see the beer fermenting in side and is sort of cool.

I would recommend choosing the bucket and fermenting for 14 days. At the end of the 14 days, check the gravity to be sure you are done. (that may require a couple checks on consecutive days). Go ahead an bottle as directed after that. Then you can get into trying more tricks of the trade with the carboy and a two stage process. But first you should focus on just making a good beer that will encourage you to move forward and do something new.

First time around keep it simple and as worry free as possible.

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Welcome to the hobby. Reading How To Brew is a good way to get started. The carboy will be used during the fermentation phase, starting at step 9 of the "Brewing your first beer with malt extract" section of the book:

http://howtobrew.com/section1/chapter9.html

Basically, after you've boiled the ingredients and cooled down the wort, you'll pour or siphon them into the carboy, add the yeast, cap off with an airlock of some sort, and allow to ferment.

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If you've got a "primary fermenter" (like a big plastic pail) and a carboy, the idea is that the initial fermentation would be done in the primary fermenter, and when it settles down (likely around after 4 days or so) you would transfer ("rack") it to the carboy for secondary fermentation. Then at bottling time you'll rack it back to the primary fermenter to mix in the priming sugar.

Primary fermentation is a bit messy, so some people like doing it in a pail like the one your kit probably came with. They are easier to clean than carboys.

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So for a first timer, I could just leave the carboy in its box, stick with the bucket, and not be confused :-) –  Teresa G Feb 28 '11 at 19:23
    
No, normally if you're only going to use just one or the other, you'd just use the carboy. But I'd recommend starting in the bucket, and racking to the carboy after the foam has died down (probably 3-4 days after you started). –  Jeff Roe Feb 28 '11 at 20:07
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Don't rack any beer after only 4 days of fermentation. Regardless of what vessel you use. –  brewchez Mar 1 '11 at 12:51

Generally, if you are using a bucket for primary fermentation, you would use the carboy for secondary fermentation/aging. Generally, that's only needed for wood-aging, dry-hopping, racking onto fruit, etc. If you don't intend to do any of those sorts of things, you can just use the carboy as another fermentor. When I started off, all I had was 2 5-gallon glass carboys, so I made 4.5 gallon batches and used a blowoff hose.

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