Newbie here. First post, only my 2nd batch of home brew and my first partial grain brew. I did a pale ale "Northern Light" from BestCase.ca.

So my problem... the instructions had a big bold statement "DO NOT LEAVE IN PRIMARY FERMENTER FOR MORE THAN 5 DAYS". So, being paranoid, I racked on the 4th day. The SG went from 1.048 to 1.020. I thought I was good (now I know I should have looked for consistent readings for a few days straight).

No I have a secondary full of very cloudy beer. There's some sediment gathering on the bottom but the SG hasn't changed (still at 1.020). No krausen is re-forming or much of any bubbling is happening.

What now? Should I just leave it and hope it clears up? Should I add in more yeast? Am I at risk of bottle bombs if the SG doesn't change and it stays cloudy (suspended yeast goes active in the bottles?)

(dark spot on top is just a shadow)

enter image description here

  • I rarely do a secondary. If I do it's to keep the primary yeast clean for later use. – Evil Zymurgist Sep 12 at 3:06
up vote 3 down vote accepted

It's fine. There's plenty of yeast in suspension to complete your fermentation.

Any yeast or sediment that was left behind in the primary is of little use and this beer won't miss it.

Let it ride out in this vessel until you hit TG. 1.020 is a little sweet for a pale.

Some people leave their beer for a longer time in the primary and many don't event rack to a secondary. So no worry here. The most important concern is sanitation, not the number of days.

Cloudy beer is normal at his stage, and it will take a few days to clear, but it will clear.

Your fermentation could be finished at 1.020. It depends on the recipe/ingredients. Usually, krausen will only form in the first 24h, the following days the fermentation slows down before it stops. If your beer stays at 1.020 for 3 consecutive days, it means fermentation is done. Verify what the kit specifies for finishing gravity, I rarely hit the number specidied with my Coopers kits. No need to add more yeast, unless you think you have a stuck fermentation. Make sure the temperature is in the range specified on the yeast package.

Kits are sometimes low on alcohol and people often add some sugar or dry malt to compensate.

Make sure not to shake your fermenter when you bottle.

  • All the kit says is not to bottle until it's under 1.020. It's right on the cusp. It's been in secondary for 4 days and doesn't really seem to be clearing much yet. I'm less concerned about alcohol content and more concerned I'll get over-carbonation in the bottles once I add in the sugar. – D. Rich Sep 11 at 13:34
  • If your fermentation is done at 1.020 (stable for 3 days), you will not get over-carbonation when you add the correct amount of sugar for bottle conditioning. The quantity of sugar to add will depend on your total quantity of beer. Is it a 20L batch? – Philippe Sep 11 at 14:09
  • It's a 23L kit, not sure what final yield will be. The kit came with a measured packet of sugar specific to the ingredients. – D. Rich Sep 12 at 16:00

Racking a little 'early' - particularly to secondary - can be fine. You can do this for a few reasons:

  1. Removing the excess 'dead' yeast materials and other sediments can reduce the extent to which the trub might contribute odd/off/unplanned flavours.

  2. The mild agitation which occurs when racking will release suspended CO2 and expose the brew to a small amount of oxygen. While oxygenation can risk oxidation, allowing the yeast to have a little addition oxygen during fermentation can ensure the yeast will work a little more efficiently - aerobically converting sugars - than it would without oxygen (anaerobic conversion).

  3. A more efficient fermentation can ensure your final gravity target is more likely to be reached, particularly when you're aiming for a drier finish.

  4. Removing the trub means that the cloud/yeast will be more likely to drop out more completely and leave a clearer brew.

Some reasons to avoid racking early - particularly directly to bottles:

  1. Resulting brew can be cloudier than you might intend.

  2. Resulting brew can end up with more sediment than you might intend.

  3. Bottle carbonating is tricker, because it can be difficult to determine how much bottling sugar to add, and the risk is that you overcharge your bottles, which under excess pressure and warm temperature can crack/pop/explode.

If you're concerned about the excess sediment, then I'd suggest you allow your brew to edge a little longer before consumption. Over time, sediments compact, and they cling to the bottle better. When you eventually do open and pour, pour slowly, and leave a little of the brew in the bottle to reduce the chance of pouring out the sediment. Some people like a little sediment in their brews, while others don't, so drinker's choice.

Also, opening up your bottles to add yeast will risk introducing rogue yeasts/bacteria entering, and will simply add to the sediment in the bottles. If there are any residual sugars - which there will be if you've racked early - then the existing yeast will continue to ferment the sugars within.

Finally... if you're concerned about bottle bombs, you can always "burp" the bottles, carefully removing and replacing the caps to expel any excess pressure. This can however be a bit of a hit and miss affair, and can risk leaving your brew flatter than you want it to be.

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