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Old 05-17-2012, 12:58 PM   #1
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Default More Buckets or a Carboy?

After much reading and research and many conversations, it would seem that racking to a secondary is a thing of the past
for the most part. Even for dry-hopping it sounds like most people just grow the hops in their primary. Some in a bag, some not.

So if I can get my hands in some food grade buckets, eliminating the need to free up my primary for another batch, do I really need a
carboy? They just seem like a PITA to clean and deal with.

So here is what I am thinking...another 6 gallon bucket for primary, a 5 gallon to use as a secondary if I need one, then a couple of 3 gallon in case I want to split a batch with different dry hops, for example.

Any huge flaws in my logic? I am aware of the possible scratching issue with buckets but I am ok with replacing buckets if that happens.

I am also aware of the headspace issue. What confuses me though is that everyone seems concerned about too much head space in the buckets but it also seems like racking to a secondary, which would have less headspace, is not the norm anymore.

I have access to buckets rated for biohazard containment (unused obviously), which I understand are rated even higher than food grade.

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Old 05-17-2012, 01:15 PM   #2
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The problem with using a bucket is that you end up with a HUGE amount of headspace that is not protected with a blanket of CO2. As long as you don't disturb the CO2, a primary has plenty of it. Racking to a secondary gets rid of the CO2 and leaves a bunch of oxygen on top of the beer.

A carboy (plastic or glass) can help miniminze the amount of O2 that is in contact with the surface of the beer.

It can also be helpful to purge the O2 with some CO2 after rackign to secondary, if you have kegging equipment on hand.

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Old 05-17-2012, 01:42 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Homercidal
The problem with using a bucket is that you end up with a HUGE amount of headspace that is not protected with a blanket of CO2. As long as you don't disturb the CO2, a primary has plenty of it. Racking to a secondary gets rid of the CO2 and leaves a bunch of oxygen on top of the beer.

A carboy (plastic or glass) can help miniminze the amount of O2 that is in contact with the surface of the beer.

It can also be helpful to purge the O2 with some CO2 after rackign to secondary, if you have kegging equipment on hand.
That all makes sense. But...it sounds like there is huge support for dry-hopping in the primary bucket. Doing so would require removing the lid which, undoubtedly, will allow O2 into the bucket. This does not seem concerning to anyone. Personally, I prefer to just doing everything in the primary. There just seems to be a disconnect.
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Old 05-17-2012, 01:58 PM   #4
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In my opinion whether you rack to secondary or not, your still going to crack the primary lid a time or two to take gravity readings, so some o2 exposure is inevitable. Even if you don't gravity read (a mistake in my opinion) just racking to a bottling bucket will allow for some exposure. If you take gravity readings and then rack to secondary, your increasing your exposure risk. That's why I think some people just crack the lid, and dry hop in the primary. If your total primary time is less than 3-4 weeks, most people haven't experienced any oxidation problems, to my knowledge. If that's the case, why risk the transfer? Now if your going to bulk age from 6-8 weeks (say for a big beer or you want a lot of time on oak) then I think the transfer to secondary is worth the risk just to get the beer off the trub. Of course if a clearer beer is what your shooting for, then transferring is also a good way to go.

However, because the beer is going to be sitting longer in bulk aging, I don't think you'd want to rack to another bucket with a lot of headspace. If you are going to rack anyway, why not do your best to minimize headspace?

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Old 05-17-2012, 02:03 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VMCosco

That all makes sense. But...it sounds like there is huge support for dry-hopping in the primary bucket. Doing so would require removing the lid which, undoubtedly, will allow O2 into the bucket. This does not seem concerning to anyone. Personally, I prefer to just doing everything in the primary. There just seems to be a disconnect.
Your assumption is wrong, from what I've read, regarding CO2 escaping - it is heavier than air and will sit in your bucket for the brief time that you open the lid to take a hydrometer reading, throw in dry hops, etc.

I also think your take on the use of secondaries is off - the really good brewers I know in real life usually transfer to a secondary or bright tank when dry hopping or adding fruit or spices. I'm sure there is nothing wrong with dry hopping in primary, I just don't think that most brewers do that.

Plus 1 for Homer's thoughts on secondary in a bucket - too much oxygen, you run a risk of cardboard beer.
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Old 05-17-2012, 02:16 PM   #6
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I'm not a scientist, and had also heard about co2 being heavier than air creating a blanket over your beer, but I guess I always assumed that popping the lid still introduced oxygen to the mixture (perhaps the gases mix?). Otherwise, once fermentation takes off, why use a lid or airlock at all?

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Old 05-17-2012, 03:28 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pappers_

I also think your take on the use of secondaries is off - the really good brewers I know in real life usually transfer to a secondary or bright tank when dry hopping or adding fruit or spices. I'm sure there is nothing wrong with dry hopping in primary, I just don't think that most brewers do that.
Ok. Seems reasonable. So by that rationale, if I have a situation in which I have to rack to a secondary, is there any problem with using a 5 gallon bucket? That would certainly minimize headspace. Obviously it would have a larger surface area though.
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Old 05-17-2012, 03:47 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VMCosco View Post
Ok. Seems reasonable. So by that rationale, if I have a situation in which I have to rack to a secondary, is there any problem with using a 5 gallon bucket? That would certainly minimize headspace. Obviously it would have a larger surface area though.
The plastic is oxygen permeable. Even without the big head space oxygen will enter the beer thru the plastic.

The real solution is to not use a secondary and limit the time the beer is in the fermenter to under 4 weeks. If you have a good fermentation there is no reason to go more then 2 weeks in the fermenter. That includes time for dry hops, oak, fruit, etc...

If you really want to bulk age your beer, I'd suggest buying some kegs. Stainless, durable, oxygen free, almost no head space for a 5 gallon batch, easy to clean, lightweight, etc...

But for fermentation I think buckets are a very good choice. I kinda like the better bottles but buckets are good and very cheap. Enjoy
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Old 05-17-2012, 04:18 PM   #9
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Keep in mind that although most reasonable people would like to limit the amount of O2 contact to the bare minimum, popping the lid to check your gravity or to add dry hops still introduces a very small amount of Oxygen to the whole bucket.

What is worse is having a small air leak in your racking cane or hose, which mixes bubbles right into the stream of beer. Or splashing the beer when racking. All of this stuff ought to be done gently.

I personally would NOT secondary in a bucket simpley due to the amount of Oxygen that is likely to be present and the huge difference in headspace (surface area) that makes contact with the beer. Especially when I have 5 gallon glass and plastic carboys.

IMO it's not worth the risk. I even have CO2 and would rather dry hop in the primary or use a vessel with less headspace.

Beyond the consideration of headspace and oxygenation of the beer, I can't see a reason why you couldn't use a 5 gallon bucket if that's what you want to do and that's what you have to work with.

But it might be good to look for a cheap PET or #1 plastic carboy from a water cooler jug. Many of them are #7 so be sure to check the bottom for the Recycle Code to get PET.

If you do secondary in a bucket, give the beer a good focused tasting and report back on how it turned out.

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Old 05-17-2012, 04:51 PM   #10
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I've never had a problem getting my glass carboys squeaky clean, no matter how much fermentation funk is clinging to the insides. I fill with hot tap water and PBW and leave it for a day or two (or more if I'm lazy) then rinse. Crystal clean every time. Cleaning shouldn't be the thing that tilts you decision one way or the other, carboys are easy to keep clean.

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