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I recently brewed a Flanders red ale and it is nearing the end of primary fermentation. I'm planning to rack it to a carboy and leave it for up to about a year.

While doing research on the style, I saw various recipes that added everything (yeast and bacteria) to primary and others that used just the yeast for primary and added the bacteria (and Brettanomyces) when racking to secondary. I decided to do the latter for various reasons but I want to clarify that my thinking was on the right track.

My thinking was that if I had added the bacteria to primary, there would have been a lot of additional compounds created as they consumed sugars, competing with the yeast. Many of these may be cleaned up during the long fermentation but I imagine the beer would still end up with some signs of that process, and I'm not sure I wanted that.

By adding it to secondary, I'm assuming that the beer will come out a bit cleaner but still develop a good amount of sourness (probably a little less but hopefully not much less).

Am I on track here? Is there anything I'm missing? Overall, what are key differences I'll see between adding the bacteria in secondary instead of primary?

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When you pitch a mixed blend each microbe acts on different sugars and other chemicals at different times as the environment in the wort changes to each microbes optimum environment.

If you only pitch saccharomyces first then it can potentially create an environment that other microbes like Lacto and Brett can't survive in. For example Lacto doesn't work well in high IBU or high ABV environments.

If you do want to pitch different microbes at different times you can follow the Milk the Funk Fast Fermentation Method.

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    There is a good amount of information at that link that helps explain why pitching different bacteria/yeast at different times may be beneficial, particularly as it relates to the speed of fermentation by producing an optimal environment in terms of pH, temperature, etc. For that reason, I'm accepting this answer. – thesquaregroot Feb 24 '16 at 18:40
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Souring bacteria die off quickly as the yeast produces alchol in primary fermentation. Adding to secondary will do little as it won't survive long from the alcohol in the beer.

Brettanomyces Bruxellensis is a yeast and can be added at anytime for varied character contributions.

  • I'm a bit confused then; that would suggest that the souring is done early in primary. But my understanding is that pediococcus acts over the course of months. It could be that the desired effect of this approach is to reduce sourness, but I would imagine they would have to survive long-term in order to be with adding. Is that not the case? – thesquaregroot Jan 23 '16 at 18:20
  • @thesquaregroot what takes months in aging is the for the flavors to meld and be drinkable. The bacteria is long gone. Brett is a yeast and continues to work during secondary and conditioning and can take a long time in aging for it's contributions to be appreciated. You can still back sour your Flanders by adding lactic acid. – Evil Zymurgist Jan 23 '16 at 18:26
  • Lactobacillus die off easily. Other bacteria? Vary. Generally below 60% some bacteria can live. For sure 16% ABV wine can go sour, so the limit is at least this high. – Mołot Jan 24 '16 at 23:06
  • @Mołot wine souring is usually a result of acetobacter, which eats alcohol. Get that in beer it's game over. – Evil Zymurgist Jan 24 '16 at 23:49
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    @EvilZymurgist yea, I just meant your first sentence is way too oversimplified - and your comment shows it's even more complicated. – Mołot Jan 25 '16 at 6:59

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