• Welcome to the new forum! We upgraded our forum software with a host of new boards, capabilities and features. It is also more secure.
    Jump in and join the conversation! You can learn more about the upgrade and new features here.

Have you changed your secondary approach



After many years of using a glass secondary I grew tired of the bother and somewhat apprehensively tried the single plastic fermentor approach.  After several batches of different styles, I can make the following objective comments and observations:

(1) Clarity has not been affected, whether I use a fining agent (i.e.: Polyclar) or not.  And it's certainly easier to add the finings to a plastic vessel.

(2) Oxidation does not seem to be an issue.  I say "seem" because I tend to fine tune or change each batch, so it's possible that increased oxidation has occurred making subtle changes to the taste.  I am very sensitive to this and have sent back many a stale beer at the pub.  It does not seem to be an issue so far, as each batch has turned out fine with no perceived defects.

(3) In all cases I limited the time in plastic to two weeks.

And now some comments.  I would hesitate to condition beer in plastic much longer than two weeks or so due to oxidation concerns.  But until I try it, I can't be certain.  It makes sense to keep your temperature at the lower end of that recommended for your yeast to minimize oxidation and autolysis concerns.  Assuming clarification has not been an issue in your glass secondary, it shouldn't be an issue when using a single plastic fermentor. This assumes your beer is sound. Clarification is a physical (gravity) process that proceeds the same in either vessel.  On the other hand if your technique is faulty and you need finings, they are much easier to use in a plastic vessel.  And lastly, it's much easier to dry hop, which I usually do, in the plastic vessel.

So overall, my experience has been guardedly positive.  I intend to split a batch with a blind taste test to see what the differences are.  I'd suggest anyone with lingering concerns over this issue to do the same. Keep an open mind - even old dogs can learn new tricks.



Grandmaster Brewer
Jun 8, 2008
Reaction score
Stadelman gets some credit for keeping an otherwise slow board alive with some energy.  I'm not so sure I completely dig his vibe but kudos for keeping a thread alive as long as you have.  I went on vacation myself thinking this thread would be a memory by the time I got back and low and behold, it's still here!  This board doesn't often get that.  Anyway, to further the conversation I found the following post on another brewing board.  I hope I'm not breaking any sort of message board etiquette by posting it here but it seems to fit as this seems to be a pretty universal debate on pretty much every brewing board I've looked at.  Why its a debate is beyond me as just about all but one person has said, you should do what works for you, but I digress.  The following is a summary from what appears to be a knowledgeable brewer on why he does a secondary:

Originally Posted by Texlaw
Oh, boy. Here comes this fun again. There are a few reasons why "secondary fermenter" is not a misnomer. For many brewers, some fermentation does occur in the secondary.

First, fermentation does not always complete in the primary. Racking beer to the secodnary rouses the yeast and often results in further attenuation. Getting those last few points out can be very important if you are bottling. Most bottle bombs are not the result of overpriming, in a sense, but of failing to reach full attentuation before priming. Even if you are kegging'>kegging and want the clearest beer you can get, that little bit of fermentation in the secondary will help you along.

Second, some beer styles (or recipes) call for a second fermentation by adding more fermentables. In those cases, the brewer usually wants to rack off the old trub before adding those fermentables.

Finally, the practice of an extended primary fermentation, followed by immediate packaging, has only recently become common. Back before a homebrewer could reliably get excellent quality yeast, you wanted to get your beer off the inital trub as soon as possible or risk nasty consequences (e.g., autolysis). Often, that meant racking after fermentation had slowed but not completed, usually within the first several days after pitching. Fermentation clearly continued and completed in the secondary. Because many brewers who have been around for a good while don't like to fix things that ain't broke, they still follow that practice.

I still advise and use a secondary, even though I have high confidence in today's yeasts. I find [racking to a secondary] makes my brewing more consistant and, frankly, better. I also leave beer in the primary for at least 10 days after visible yeast activity begins, so that there is plenty of time for the yeast to both have its party and clean up, afterwards. I've tried a couple batches where I just leave the beer in the primary for three to four weeks and then kegging'>kegging straight out, and I was slightly less happy with the results, both in the beer and in the perceived convenience (i.e., I did not see any extra convenience, as it was a greater hassle keeping trub out of the keg). On the other hand, I know many brewers who go straight from the primary to the package (or bottling bucket) with great results. Do what suits you.

Just as an aside, there is virtually no risk of introducing contamination when racking to the secondary, so long as you practice proper sanitation. You have a finished beer, there, still with quite a bit of yeast suspended within it. That is not a happy place for intruders to find refuge. You do, however, need to consider oxidation, but that also is not a problem with proper practice (e.g., avoid splashing, use a properly sized vessel). If you can purge your secondary with CO2, do that. If not, the CO2 that comes out of solution when you rack should provide plenty of protection.

As another aside, comparing homebrewing to industry brewing is a poor analogy, unless you have analgous equipment and practices. For those homebrewers with conical fermenters and who very quickly repitch slurry, the secondary might be a true bright tank. For the rest of us, not so much.

Now for the rest of you, if you secondary or primary in bare feet, flip flops or regular old tennis shoes, so long as you dig the scent coming from down yonder, run with it (no pun intended)


Grandmaster Brewer
Dec 10, 2008
Reaction score
North of Kalifornia
Nice post Wildrover .... and yes I've thinking this thread needed to be shot-gunned for a mercy killing.

But as they say - you say TomAto and I say Tomato - both taste great on a salad (or a burger)

With the wide range of Ales out there, I think its totally brain-dead if you never go to secondary or if you always secondary. The bottom line is to question -test and evolve.

My original question was, do I need to secondary for exactly 2 weeks ?  Where did that come from ? And I've noticed that after 7 - 8 days there is a ton of sediment at the bottom of the carboy. I had planned to bottle at 7-8 days but a small family emergency popped up and the brew sat for another week. So next batch I'll only go 7 days --- and I will try a direct primary to bottle.

Ok ..... I'm turning the lights out .....