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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Is bottle conditioning as good as a "secondary"?
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Old 08-24-2009, 07:03 AM   #1
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Default Is bottle conditioning as good as a "secondary"?

I read in a recent thread a great explanation of what the proper use of a secondary fermenter is, and how people misuse the concept. Sorry I can't remember the poster to give him credit, but it was awesome. Armed with that knowledge I now know that that many brewers do not really secondary, but rather age their beer after it's completed fermentation, in a "secondary" fermenter.

For my purposes I never really intended to secondary in the real sense of the word, because beer clarity is low on my list of importance. I do however, want to be able to make the occasional really big beer and for that I may need a "secondary" container.... or not?

My thought is this: To make a really big winter beer it needs lots of time to improve, mellow, and do flavor tango. I know there are some that are in favor of leaving beer on the yeast cake, but I doubt that there are too many that would suggest leaving it there for 2 or 3 months like you might need for an awesome big winter beer. I also don't want to tie up my only fermenter for that long, so I was considering getting a "secondary" contaner for fermenting big beers in.

Now my question. Since space is a big issue for me, do I really need a "secondary" to mellow my big beers in or can I get just as good of results with bottle conditioning the beers for many months?

Bottles may indeed take up more space than a secondary, so either way it's going to take up space, but bottles are more versatile. On the other hand if the magic process of beer improvement works better in a large container where the yeast can "party together" then perhaps that is the way to go.

What say you?

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Old 08-24-2009, 10:47 AM   #2
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I usually mainly use my secondary to clarify. And its not really that its cloudy, But there is a LOT of trup that falls out of the beer and doing a glass secondary i am able to siphon that off before going to bottles. i think of my secondary as clearing the last of the trup. and aging as a different process.

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Old 08-24-2009, 02:16 PM   #3
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Typically bulk aging is "better" because you may get have fewer esters breaking down in the bottle.

But bottle aging isn't bad. All the beers I'm drinking have been bottled more than a year. The only one that went stale was the hefe, and that's what hefes do.

You'll most likely find results are similar, but bottle aging takes longer. And Belgian Strong Ales and Trappists are typically bottle conditioned.

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Old 08-25-2009, 05:40 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beernik View Post
Typically bulk aging is "better" because you may get have fewer esters breaking down in the bottle.

But bottle aging isn't bad. All the beers I'm drinking have been bottled more than a year. The only one that went stale was the hefe, and that's what hefes do.

You'll most likely find results are similar, but bottle aging takes longer. And Belgian Strong Ales and Trappists are typically bottle conditioned.
So to recap, bottle conditioning achieves the same result but takes longer than bulk ageing?

Everyone agree on this theory?

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Old 08-25-2009, 05:51 AM   #5
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BoB-

Kind of. Bulk aging may allow for some flavor maturing that possibly may not occur in a bottle. BUT, unless you're planning on distributing some sort of vintage reserve for thousands of dollars per bottle, I wouldn't be TOO concerned about the differences.

But you mentioned space... Frankly bulk aging will take up LESS space. It's a matter of 14 inches diameter by 36 inches tall verses 52 bottles. I know what's easier to put in my closet. So if you've got to leave something alone for a few months, the bulk aging method may suit your purposes better.

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Old 08-25-2009, 05:55 AM   #6
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No.

No dobt the person responsible for your citation is Revvy, or maybe Shecky. No doubt someone that ends in Y at least.

The purpose of "bulk" aging is to minimalize the differences between servings thus ensuring a level of consistency from serving to serving.

In the context of bottle conditioning (post secondary) the only thing left to "chance" would be carbonation levels.

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Old 08-25-2009, 06:19 AM   #7
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For a big beer, a long secondary seems like it's really helpful to help the yeast drop out. I did a big barleywine, and after a month or two in the secondary, there was another big yeast cake and trub. When I bottled, I left most of that behind rather than letting it cloud up an already cloudy beer.

For a smaller beer, it may not matter as much.

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Old 08-25-2009, 06:38 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrewOnBoard View Post
Everyone agree on this theory?
Everyone agree on something? HERE?!?!? LOL

I do have to say that I've found that bulk aging seems to work faster than bottle conditioning. 2 weeks in a secondary puts my beer a month ahead of something I bottle right out of primary.
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Old 08-25-2009, 07:00 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cimirie View Post

But you mentioned space... Frankly bulk aging will take up LESS space. It's a matter of 14 inches diameter by 36 inches tall verses 52 bottles. I know what's easier to put in my closet. So if you've got to leave something alone for a few months, the bulk aging method may suit your purposes better.
That's most of why I am thinking of getting a secondary. The idea of tying up so many bottles (or my primary) for months while a big beer mellows doesn't sound good. Mellowing and beer storage if you will....

Of course if it speeds the process, or makes it better in some way, then that's great too.

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Old 08-25-2009, 11:46 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by GilaMinumBeer View Post
No.

No dobt the person responsible for your citation is Revvy, or maybe Shecky. No doubt someone that ends in Y at least.
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