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I put my wort in the primary 9 days ago and dry hopped with 1 ounce of Cascade pellets and used a Wyeast 1272 American direct pitch activator pack. I have not taken any readings but noticed it was still bubbling at about 1 per minute. This is much longer than in the past. My question is can I dry hop and add to a secondary or should I wait a little longer.

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Not your question, but in my experience Activators are only direct pitch into wort of a 1.040 OG or less. If you underpitched, that could be a reason why you're still seeing bubbles. –  Denny Conn Mar 26 '12 at 18:47
    
Getting off topic, but care to elaborate why only 1.040, Denny? Wyeast says: "The Activator™ is designed to directly inoculate 5 gallons of standard strength ale wort (1.034-1.060 SG)" wyeastlab.com/hb_productdetail.cfm?ProductID=16 –  Galapagos Jim Mar 27 '12 at 18:51
    
Steve, has the temperature of the carboy remained the same? I ask because as a liquid's temp rises, the amount of C02 it can hold in suspension drops. So if you take a beer fermented completely dry at 60F, and raise it to 70F, you will see bubbles in the airlock. But these bubbles are NOT a sign of new fermentation, just of C02 being released from the liquid. –  Graham Mar 27 '12 at 19:04
    
GJ, it's based on my own and many others experience. I have not had good results pitching directly into higher than 1.040. Wyeast is trying to make it easy. Also, unless the pack is very fresh, the viability is low and there are not an optimal number of cells there. They say the same thing about "my" yeast that they sell, but I would never do what they recommend. –  Denny Conn Mar 27 '12 at 19:52

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Airlock bubbles don't really tell you anything about the state of fermentation. They only indicate CO2 is being released and that can come from a number of reasons. A gravity reading is really the only way to know what's going on. That said, 9 days is a pretty short time for primary. I usually wait at least 2-3 weeks before I even check on the gravity. There's no harm to letting the beer go longer and at the very least the yeast will have more time to finish and clean up after itself. And if you want to, you can skip the secondary entirely. I seldom do one.

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An accepted answer and no upvote. Great. –  brewchez Mar 26 '12 at 1:04
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I've upvoted. This advice cannot be repeated enough, especially to newer brewers. –  Graham Mar 26 '12 at 14:22
    
So if I decide to keep it in the primary, can I open it up and dry hop and then keep it in the primary anothe 10 to 15 days? –  Husker Steve Mar 28 '12 at 1:28
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Absolutely Husker Steve. No problem at all. Most folks will say that anything under 3-4 months on the original yeast cake is fine, and I've gone longer without any problems. –  Ell Mar 28 '12 at 19:37
    
3-4 months? I'm guessing a typo and you mean weeks! I've had spoiled beer after 4 weeks in primary. A split batch, one half in secondary after 2 weeks, the other just primary, both kegged after 4 weeks. The secondary beer was fine, but the primary was undrinkable, like rubber flesh with a rotten yeast dressing. –  mdma Mar 29 '12 at 23:52

How long to leave in primary is a controversial topic, but the current thinking is to err on the side of leaving it in longer. The rule of thumb I use for my brews is four weeks minimum in primary. Some of my higher gravity brews I will leave in for 8 weeks. I only use secondaries for things that require very extended aging, like barleywines.

For something like an IPA that is consumed more fresh, I probably would leave it in primary for no less than two weeks, then secondary for dry-hopping. Your milage may vary, of course.

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In general if you have a good pitch rate and and good aeration, primary fermentation can finish up relatively quick (4-10 days). As stated above, leaving it in the primary fermenter for a bit will help to start cleaning up the beer.

As Denny commented, it is possible it is still bubbling due to under-pitching, or maybe not getting a good level of oxygen into the wort before pitching.

The question is then if you should put it into secondary or not. Some sources I have seen even say that it may not be worth the extra risk of contamination moving it to secondary, and you can even leave it sit in the primary for an extra week or two to let the yeast settle out, then just package it. It all depends on what you are doing, but I do agree, if you can get away with leaving it in the primary for a bit, why risk the contamination by racking it over?

Just a few things to think about.

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