Author Topic: To secondary or not to secondary?  (Read 9561 times)

Offline Wildrover

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To secondary or not to secondary?
« on: November 14, 2008, 11:35:20 PM »
There are those who say its not needed but are there cons?  Personally, my recent moves to the secondary were driven primarily by my need for the primary (brewing a lot lately to get a decent beer queue).

Others say it gives the beer a chance to clear and for pronounced flavors a chance to mellow.

What say you?

Offline MaltLicker

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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2008, 06:14:46 PM »
I secondary most beers even if just for days since the transfer really allows for a dramatic clearing and the chance to drop the FG that last point.  If it's a bigger or more complex beer I keep it in secondary longer.  I bottle everything, so secondary is my only chance to meld flavors together. 
I skip it for wheats and wits that are supposed to be cloudy.  I also skip the whirlflock on those cloudy styles as well. 

Offline BrewWhat

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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2008, 06:47:08 AM »
It depends on what you are brewing. If I am doing someting light like a Wheat or a Pale ale I will go 2 to 3 weeks in primary and straight to bottle. If I am doing something more robust like a Belgian or a Porter I'll secondary, sometimes for up to two months before I bottle.
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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2008, 11:18:12 AM »
I usually secondary for two reasons, both practical ones.

1) Like you, if I need my only primary for a new batch.  This is really (usually) only an issue with slow-fermenting mead, like the one I've got going now.  I have one primary carboy and two secondaries, so it makes sense to keep the secondaries full as often as possible...

2) Primary fermentation is complete and I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to bottle.  We have a 2-year-old and a newborn baby, plus my garage is a disaster zone from a construction project right now (building a wall cabinet for brewing supplies so I can get them out of the plastic bins they're in).  Racking to secondary takes less time than bottling, so into the secondary they go for any number of weeks until I get a few hours to bottle.

I guess you could argue that I should be bottling what's in the secondary rather than spending half a day brewing a new batch, but seeing all three of my fermentors full of delicious beer makes me a happy guy...

One con could be increased risk of infection from an additional transfer, but my experience is that once wort has turned into beer, it can pretty much take care of itself, if you're more than halfway careful about sanitation.  Another is aeration and oxidation, so siphon gently.

Offline Wildrover

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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2008, 07:49:47 AM »
I can think of some good reasons to secondary, I can't think of any real cons though.  It might not be something you need to do but are there arguments for not doing it at all?  Any potential hazards with it?

Offline UselessBrewing

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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2008, 01:05:57 PM »
I can think of some good reasons to secondary, I can't think of any real cons though.  It might not be something you need to do but are there arguments for not doing it at all?  Any potential hazards with it?
The only one I can think of is Infection. But like it was stated earlier after it has turned to beer it pretty much takes care of its self. This does not mean to be lax on your processes. Just means that the likely hood of you getting an infection after it is beer is less.
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Offline SleepySamSlim

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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2008, 12:43:35 AM »
Well I say I don't really know shinola about this because I'm only brewing my second batch - but I feel lucky I got pointed to a local brew shop that has some real good guide lines. As an ex-electrical engineer and a science based person --- I like to see reasons and logic backing up process or decisions. I've looked over (and own) several books on brewing ... one says leave it in the primary for a week - another says at lease 2 weeks - and so on --- I guess magic happens at some point.

The guy who owns this shop is a retired chemist (retired young to brew) and has a PHD in chemistry. Not that a PHD makes you right or perfect. Again I like his simple approach and logic. A big part of his view is its all about the yeast activity ... you want to rack to the secondary just as the yeast is slowing down ( a bubble every 90 seconds or so) in the airlock. Why -- First to ensure the yeast will continue to ferment a bit in the secondary while your brew continues to mellow and clarify for a week or 2. But most importantly so the yeast does not sit in the primary and starve (autolysis) and then start trying to process the gunk in the bottom of the primary and add yeasty off flavors.

Heres the link to his section on racking:
http://www.mainbrew.com/pages/infopages.html/rackinginfo.html

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Offline MaltLicker

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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2008, 06:51:23 AM »
Conventional wisdom is that it takes a long time for autolysis to occur if the beer is well-made, clean, and proper yeast pitch rates were used.  Palmer says "months" here http://www.howtobrew.com/section1/chapter10-3.html

The info at mainbrew.com is sound; however, just as he states there should be no firm rule about the number of days, I would think a firm rule of 90-seconds is equally unnecessary.  It should depend on the beer style, ferm temps, the desired yeast effects (or not), etc.  Even after a long primary and secondary, there is usually enough yeast left in suspension to bottle carbonate a beer. 

He seems to recommend 90 seconds to ensure enough remaining activity to purge the carboy of CO2, but that could be addressed with a shot of CO2 from a tank, and using "right-size" carboys for secondary and filling to nearly the top.  Purging the carboy with CO2 also reduces the oxidation risk during the transfer. 

PS - I actually just transferred a beer to a 3-gallon carboy, purging it with CO2 first and then filled to within an inch of the stopper.  The internal part in the airlock was suspended by gas within minutes. 
« Last Edit: December 10, 2008, 12:50:10 PM by MaltLicker »

Offline UselessBrewing

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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2008, 06:55:44 AM »
Perspective:
If the range of people that step into Sleepy Sam Slim's Local Home Brew store(LHBS) are anything like my LBHS then, everyone from the beginners (We all were once one) to the professional brew masters step through the doors. The beginners will take this and it will make them better brewers and they will learn with each batch, For me this is a Hobby, I take everything with a grain of salt. I read everything I can and use what makes sense to me, toss the rest out. It does make sense to trust the experts, and Palmer certainly qualifies in my book as one. However there is good info at the Mainbrew website, take what makes sense and make it your own.

In the beginning I went with the 1,2,3 process which was easy to follow and understand. But as I have grown as a brewer, I realize that there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to beer. I do feel that you need to give the yeast time to do its job and using the Hydrometer is the only way to know when that is done. In the beginning the "Bloop" method was fine, but I came to realize that it can not replace the Hydrometer.

For the Beginner: Keep It Simple and you will make good beer! The more you brew, the better your beer will be. To make Great Beer is the quest we are all on. For me, that means learning everything I can and applying them to my processes.

Brew and be happy with what you make. After all, How bad could it be, Your making BEER!

Cheers
Preston
The woodpecker pecks, Not to annoy, But to survive!

Offline MaltLicker

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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2009, 12:00:04 PM »
Well, I finally got around to bottling a dry stout, and transferring a Scottish 80/- last night. 

The stout with Nottingham had hardly any yeast on the carboy floor, and I recall that it could have been bottled when I put into secondary b/c it was so clear. 

The Scottish was also very clear after 33 days in primary (I've been distracted).  I could have easily gone straight to bottles on that one too, but had just bottled one batch.  But I will try to bottle the Scottish Tuesday to get it primed for a comp. 

So I'm thinking I may lengthen primary times on the simpler/smaller beers and go straight to bottling as long as that does not interfere with my freezer space and overall timing. 

atarlecky

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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2009, 05:42:27 PM »
I have found that beers that I put into a keg to secondary, then just forget about them for about 2 months get much much better.

Offline SleepySamSlim

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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2009, 06:46:00 PM »

Don't fear the racking cane ....
Some people tell you the old walkin' blues ain't bad
Worst old feelin' that I've ever had ...
-Robert Johnson

Mij

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Re: To secondary or not to secondary?
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2009, 05:34:33 AM »
-1 on secondary

For ales - I just leave them in my primary for 2 weeks; lagers 4 weeks...  Now, I do have temp control and they stay at the right temp for the whole time...

When ready to rack, I drop the temp to 35*F (nope, not slowly - just turn down the temp and wait) and let it chill down for 3 - 7 days then rack to a corny.

That's plenty of time for most ( 1.080 or less ) beers to ferment and clarify - to date I have not had any yeasty/off flavor due to autolysis (sp?)

Oh, I almost forgot - the reason is that I'm really really lazy...  I have NO desire to clean & sanitize all the gear (tubing, canes, fermenters, ec) just to move my beer from one fermenter to another...  That's just another thing that takes time and doesn't make my beer any better or speed up the wait time to drink it...
« Last Edit: November 07, 2009, 05:36:48 AM by Mij »

 

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