From the HBD Archive
Subject: idle fermentation, how long in secondary?
Date: 1990-04-30 19:40:58 GMT

[yerga@cory.Berkeley.EDU (Chris Yerga)]
> The yeast had covered the surface of the wort by midnight and was
> bubbling away at the rate of 3 or 4 bbles per second by the next
> morning. Fermentation continued in this manner until the second
> morning (48 hours after pitching), when the head on the wort had
> fallen. I haven't seen a single bubble since

I don't have an answer for this one, but I do have the exact same
symptom. I started a batch of "steam" beer about five weeks ago.
After three days in the primary I racked into the secondary, and it
is still showing some very slight signs of life. About a week ago I got
another batch going (a basic lager this time), pitched it, and three days later it was totally quiet, after a vigorous start.

The two batches were made from the same amount of the same
extract (6 lb. of a bulk Canadian light), and used the same yeast (Red
Star lager). The steam beer had some crystal malt added to the boil,
and that's the only difference. Both batches were kept at the same
temp throughout fermentation.

I racked the quiet stuff into a carboy anyway, on the theory that it
couldn't hurt. My plan is to give it another day or two to wake up. If
it doesn't, I'll add about 1/2 cup of sugar, boiled into syrup, just to
see if there's anything happening. I figure that small amount won't
affect the taste much. If it still doesn't show bubbles, I'll try
repitching with fresh yeast, I guess. The wort tasted pretty good
when I racked into the secondary, so I think it'll all be okay if I can
get the stuff carbonated. My bet is, same for your batch.

> krauzen(sp?) fell. It's been in the secondary for a week and a half
> now, as of 4/26.

I've left stuff in the secondary for 8 - 12 weeks without bad results.
Then again, I'll drink anything if I made it myself. Seriously, the beer
tasted fine. Since the secondary is a completely closed oxygen-free
environment (assuming you used a glass carboy and fermentation lock), any deterioration should be pretty slow.

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