I'm on my fourth batch of IPA from a "tried & true" recipe from a local brewshop. On the first three, I transferred from Primary to Secondary after the bubbles got to more than 1 minute intervals, which always happened by 7-8 days. This batch though is now on day 16 and I'm still at a 45-50 second interval. Also this batch took a good day to get up to speed with the fermentation -- slower than usual. The only environmental difference that I can think of is that it's warmer now than the previous batches, but not substantially so.

Should I really worry?

  • +1 I wondered the same thing Tim. It seems that the consensus is to take hydrometer readings on consecutive days. – Poshpaws Jun 23 '11 at 16:38
  • So last night I drew off some from the primary and tested the gravity - came in at about 1018. Sort of a different smell to it, and the taste was a bit different than what I expected. It actually burned the back of my throat a bit, so I'm wondering what might have cooked up in there. – Tim Holt Jun 24 '11 at 23:25

I have never counted bubbles - I presume you are referring to an airlock. Would you not be better using a hydrometer to measure the gravity to determine whether it is the right time to transfer to secondary? Perhaps a few degrees above your predicted final gravity. Say, 1012 - 1014. This might be a bit more empirical than bubbles, for as you rightly say, ambient conditions will affect this.

Now I am suspecting that you don't want to let in air if you measure the gravity. Is this the case?

  • Ah yes - I am using an airlock, and have previously judged things had settled down once the airlock air releases were more than a minute apart. I do have a hydrometer and could test it, but would have to pop the lid off the barrel to do so. Perhaps I'll have to do that. – Tim Holt Jun 21 '11 at 20:48
  • Depending on your vessel, you may be able to perform this without too much disturbance to your blanket of CO2. Best of luck. – iWeasel Jun 21 '11 at 20:59

You want to take the brew out of primary when it's finished fermenting, otherwise you risk bottle-bombs from the still-fermenting beer.

You can safely tell when fermentation is finished by taking hydrometer readings daily; when the readings are constant for 2 days, you're done.

Sometimes fermentation can 'pause' due to environmental factors so you don't want to rely on the airlock bubbles. I have a fermenter that never bubbles (probably a busted seal somewhere) & always have to use the hydrometer technique.

  • +1 For making a good point regarding finishing fermenting before bottling to avoid bottle-bombs. Sage words, indeed. My answer was based on the assumption that this was not being bottled straight from primary and was to be transferred to a secondary vessel fitted with airlock. In which case, it is not necessary to fully attenuate before transferring. – iWeasel Jun 22 '11 at 7:03

Watching airlock bubbles is not the best way to judge fermentation. That's repeating from other answers, but I'll continue by adding something you're going to see more and more of as you read "current" thought on homebrewing:

There's (generally) no need to secondary. You should be able to leave beer on the yeast for several months before it begins to get any off tastes, and barring an addition of fruit or aging a beer for 6 months in a secondary vessel (for instance) or some other reason, there's just no real need to rack to secondary.

These days most folks would tell you that the risk of infection is too high to justify moving the beer to secondary. This would certainly remain true for a regular IPA - it's not going to sit on that yeast for 3-4 months. If it needs dry hopping, that can be done in primary as well.

Rest easy sir, take gravity readings after 2-3 weeks until they're stable, then bottle (or keg). Wait until it's properly carbed... then drink.

  • 1
    A lot of people are saying that there's no need to rack-off into a secondary. I disagree. Racking-off has consistently given me a beers with less sediment and, I'd argue, a less yeast-tasting brew. Also, I have never had a contamination problem doing this as long as you take the usual precautions. – Poshpaws Jun 23 '11 at 16:43

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