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Old 01-27-2014, 01:53 AM   #1
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Default A different take on secondary fermenters

I've seen a lot of posts on this board about using a secondary fermenter. There seems to be a whole bunch of very strong opinions in both directions, but mostly against. The prevailing arguments against using a secondary seem to be:

1. Increased risk of contamination
2. Risks of oxidation
3. Unneccessary work

David Miller brought up the oxidation issue in "The Complete Handbook of Homebrewing" (c1988). But in his latest book, "Brew Like a Pro" (c2012) he revisits this point. In this book he actually recommends the use of a secondary but for a different reason. He says that oxidation is probably a non-issue at this time. He routinely uses a secondary vessel as "settling tank".

It becomes a choice of use of a secondary/settling tank for dry hopping or addition of finings or filtering prior to cold crashing the beer. If you have a filtration system you can draw directly from the fermenter to the bottling bucket or keg. (He does point out that there are some strong opinions about benefits/concerns related to filtration). To allow a beer to drop clear naturally may take some time so moving the beer to a smaller vessel for this period will free up a fermenter, hence the use of a 5 gal. bucket or carboy as a "settling tank". Natural clearing should always be done by cold crashing which can be accomplished in either the primary fermenter or in a secondary, depending on the homebrewer's situation and preference. He sees no value in holding most beers on their yeast cake once fermentation is complete.

Personally, I am inclined to agree with him. I have found that I have far less junk in the bottom of the bottle when I use a secondary between primary and bottling. This may not be as big an issue to those who keg, but since I choose to bottle, this is a big issue to me. I also believe that good sanitation practices negate the concerns about contamination. Whether one wants to do the extra work is simply a matter of choice.

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Old 01-27-2014, 02:05 AM   #2
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i use a secondary to free up my primary because i only have one of each. it allows me to stay on an easy-to-keep brewing pace. i don't think that there's a whole lot to gain from transferring to secondary, but the whole "you could contaminate your beer" argument is for novices. if you can't transfer to secondary without contaminating your beer then you should probably work on sanitation fundamentals and definitely NOT use a secondary until you have that down.

i do both and i notice no difference, except maybe a smaller sediment layer on the bottom for batches i put in secondary (but only slightly). it's one of those "six one way half dozen the other" arguments. some folks secondary and some folks don't.

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Old 01-27-2014, 02:10 AM   #3
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I get clearer beer after secondary as well.

One more point - after the transfer to the secondary, I add a blanket of CO2 on top of the beer to eliminate (minimize?) any potential oxidation.

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Old 01-27-2014, 02:19 AM   #4
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another technique is to fill the carboy with co2 immediately before transferring beer to greatly reduce the amount of oxygen exposure during transfer. i would do that if i had the gear.

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Old 01-27-2014, 02:21 AM   #5
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There is one more big disadvantage of racking to a secondary - risk of Oxidation.

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Old 01-27-2014, 02:41 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ArcLight View Post
There is one more big disadvantage of racking to a secondary - risk of Oxidation.
Mr. Miller doesn't seem to think it is a matter of that much concern.
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Old 01-27-2014, 02:58 AM   #7
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What was the 'different take' again? Seems like just a rehash of the same old same old.

And Mr. Miller apparently never encountered a balky autosiphon...

Cheers!

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Old 01-27-2014, 03:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by day_trippr View Post
What was the 'different take' again? Seems like just a rehash of the same old same old.

And Mr. Miller apparently never encountered a balky autosiphon...

Cheers!
The "different take", because I guess you missed it, is that use of a secondary is that a secondary has nothing to do with fermentation. We've used the term "secondary fermenter" for a long time. But the real purpose of the secondary has absolutely nothing to do with fermentation. The purpose of the technique is settling. And it can, an often should be done, with the idea of improving the quality of the finished beer.
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Old 01-27-2014, 03:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Puddlethumper View Post
The "different take", because I guess you missed it, is that use of a secondary is that a secondary has nothing to do with fermentation. We've used the term "secondary fermenter" for a long time. But the real purpose of the secondary has absolutely nothing to do with fermentation. The purpose of the technique is settling.
LOL! That's not news.

Quote:
And it can, an often should be done, with little risk to the quality of the finished beer.
Except there are better alternatives that have zero risk to quality...

Cheers!
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Old 01-27-2014, 03:23 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by day_trippr View Post
LOL! That's not news.



Except there are better alternatives that have zero risk to quality...

Cheers!
And they are....????
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