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I have a mead that I plan on bottle conditioning. With beer, due to the short turn-around time, you can usually just rack onto some priming sugar and bottle, and the remaining yeast will eat the sugar. Mead, cider, and wine, however, have longer aging times, which gives the yeast more time to drop out and/or hibernate.

Now, I know you can add a little yeast specifically meant for bottle conditioning (probably EC-1118, in my case), however, how long can you leave something in secondary/on the lees before the yeast is no longer viable for bottle conditioning?

In my particular case, I'm using Wyeast 1388 and the mead has been sitting at 60F - 65F.

  • I once bottled an apple cider made with Nottingham yeast after 12 weeks in primary. It was not carbonated 12 weeks after bottling but it had carbonated 17 weeks after bottling. So it did carbonate but slowly. On the same day that I bottled I took half the batch and added blueberry juice to it. The blueberry fermented and I bottled 4 weeks after adding blueberry. The blueberry bottles carbonated faster than the ones bottled without. Usually I bottle without problems from primary without additional yeast 4 weeks after first pitching. – Chad Clark May 25 '16 at 21:28
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It's hard to say an exact or even a close general time.

If the whole fermentation hasn't gone more than a month or so you may still have enough yeast in suspension. Typically if the mead or beer is very clear it won't have enough yeast to condition. Cold crashing or other finings will drastically reduce your chances of good bottle conditioning.

I'm sitting on a few bottles of a dopplebock that didn't condition because of 45 days in secondary lagering. I need to open them and inoculate with yeast.

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It is hard to generalise as Evil Zymurgist says.

You are best off checking the number of yest per ml, with a haemocytometer and a microscope if you have such devices available. As long as you have ~100,000/ml then you will be good to bottle condition most ales with those in suspension. If you have less than this then best to add a little extra. Also, if you are conditioning a strong Belgium ale you may want to get around about 1,000,000/ml.

I would generally say if it has been more than 2 weeks in the secondary, then adding a little extra won't hurt, even if just a quick sprinkle of dried yeast on top and give it a few min to diffuse through the beer.

I have bottled brews after 5/6 weeks in the secondary, bottled them up and initially ~2 weeks they were rather flat, but once I had left them for a couple of months they had carbonated well. There may have been very few yeast in suspension, but given enough time they will get through the priming sugar and carbonate the bottles. It will just take a lot longer. EZ's experience was the other side of the coin and he had to re-inoculate.

A good guide for bottle conditioning: http://www.northernbrewer.com/documentation/AdvancedBottleConditioning.pdf

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  • At 2 weeks there is need for more yeast. – Denny Conn May 24 '16 at 16:14
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    If I had to generalise that would be about where I would go for. But, it is a complex subject, that depends on many factors. If you repeatedly have problems with carbonation then always add a little before bottling. It will just flocculate out in the bottles. – Mr_road May 25 '16 at 8:10
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I agree that it's hard to say, but in general you have a long time. I have had lagers at 35F for 2 months and they carbed fine with no need for more yeast.

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I leave my brews on the yeast for 14 days then rack off the trub into a clean container. I leave it there for up to ten days more (but usually 4-5) to clear more fully. Then I pour it on the priming sugar in solution and bottle. So one can leave the brew for some time and it will still bottle condition correctly. I have left a lager for 6-8 weeks and then poured it onto the priming sugar in solution and the lager was nice a fizzy. SO even when very clear/bright I find that there is yeast there for carbonation.

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