Originally Posted by newbrewguy11
Ah, very interesting! Thanks for all the responses.
So the question is...what IS secondary fermentation? Is it:
a) just more time? thus the bucket will be just fine
b) change of vessel? the carboy is somehow different than the bucket (the shape or something?)
c) is is the actual process of moving from one vessel to another?
I guess once I understand exactly what secondary fermentation IS, I'll understand better
I have a 6.5 gallon bucket and a 5 gallon carboy.
In beer brewing, "secondary fermentation" is a misnomer. It IS a common practice in winemaking, where indeed fermentation is taking place in a different vessel. In beermaking, unless you are adding fermentables (like fruit), you aren't doing a "secondary fermentation".
In a brewery, that second vessel is called a "bright tank". That is where the beer that has finished fermenting is moved to, so it can clear a bit while a second batch is started in the fermenter. I think home brewers call this vessel a "secondary" just because winemakers do. It's better called a clearing vessel, or a bright tank.
Moving the beer does nothing magical to it- it's just a way to free up the fermenter but still giving the beer enough time to clear a bit before packaging. If done too early, you can actually arrest some of the good things that happen in the fermenter, like the beer finishing up fermentation and then the yeast going back after fermentation is over and actually then digesting its own waste products. That usually happens within about two days of the beer reaching FG.
If you're going to use a clearing vessel, I'd suggest doing it no earlier than about day 5-7 depending on when active fermentation ends.