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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Secondary fermenter?
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Old 03-16-2009, 01:47 AM   #1
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Default Secondary fermenter?

I know this is a question for a novice brewer but whats the purpose of the secondary fermenter and is it necessary? Thanks, Mike

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Old 03-16-2009, 01:56 AM   #2
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IMO a secondary is good for bulk aging big (7%+ ABV) beers and for dry-hopping. Other than that three weeks or more in primary and careful racking gets the job done.

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Old 03-16-2009, 02:00 AM   #3
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I use it to help out clearing the beer when the first (about 10 days average) wild fermentation has finished doing it's thing.

And you can also save space to start another batch in primary as soon as you rack in secondary to keep the pipeline rolling.

But a lot of people in here do not see this as being a mandatory thing to do.

Whatever you choose to do, it will still be good beer.

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Old 03-16-2009, 02:40 AM   #4
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Not necessary unless you are lagering or doing big beers that require longer carboy-time. I always rack mine into secondary just to free up the primary for another brew.

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Old 03-16-2009, 02:44 AM   #5
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First off "secondary fermenter" is actually a misnomer and a mistake many brewers don't grasp....the secondary has nothing to do with he process of "secondary fermentation" which is part of the normal yeast life cycles, one of the stages of fermentation.

You shouldn't rack a beer to secondary until fermentation is complete...

The secondary we are referring to is also called a "brite tank" it is the carboy where people move their beer to clear, or to add fruit, or hops for dry hopping... and to let the yeast and other things fall down...It's to clear the beer....but if you leave your beer in primary for several weeks you don't need to worry...

Here's John Palmer's explanation of the Secondary fermentation Phase

Quote:
The reactions that take place during the conditioning phase are primarily a function of the yeast. The vigorous primary stage is over, the majority of the wort sugars have been converted to alcohol, and a lot of the yeast cells are going dormant - but some are still active.

The Secondary Phase allows for the slow reduction of the remaining fermentables. The yeast have eaten most all of the easily fermentable sugars and now start to turn their attention elsewhere. The yeast start to work on the heavier sugars like maltotriose. Also, the yeast clean up some of the byproducts they produced during the fast-paced primary phase. But this stage has its dark side too.

Under some conditions, the yeast will also consume some of the compounds in the trub. The "fermentation" of these compounds can produce several off-flavors. In addition, the dormant yeast on the bottom of the fermentor begin excreting more amino and fatty acids. Leaving the post-primary beer on the trub and yeast cake for too long (more than about three weeks) will tend to result in soapy flavors becoming evident. Further, after very long times the yeast begin to die and break down - autolysis, which produces yeasty or rubbery/fatty/meaty flavors and aromas. For these reasons, it can be important to get the beer off of the trub and dormant yeast during the conditioning phase.

There has been a lot of controversy within the homebrewing community on the value of racking beers, particularly ales, to secondary fermentors. Many seasoned homebrewers have declared that there is no real taste benefit and that the dangers of contamination and the cost in additional time are not worth what little benefit there may be. While I will agree that for a new brewer's first, low gravity, pale beer that the risks probably outweigh the benefits; I have always argued that through careful transfer, secondary fermentation is beneficial to nearly all beer styles. But for now, I will advise new brewers to only use a single fermentor until they have gained some experience with racking and sanitation.

Leaving an ale beer in the primary fermentor for a total of 2-3 weeks (instead of just the one week most canned kits recommend), will provide time for the conditioning reactions and improve the beer. This extra time will also let more sediment settle out before bottling, resulting in a clearer beer and easier pouring. And, three weeks in the primary fermentor is usually not enough time for off-flavors to occur.

It's easy to see how confusing the terms are...that's why we try to get outta the habit of saying secondary fermentation...and say secondary...or bright tank (mostly just secondary, dropping fermenter or fermentation, since fermentation should be finished before you rack it to the secondary.

If you do choose to use a "bright tank" it's best to wait til fermentation is complete, you know that by taking 2 gravity readings over a 3 day period. If the grav hasn't changed, then you can rack it without having a krausen develop...though sometimes it does anyway.

Many of us nowadays forgo a bright tank and just leave our beers in primary for 3-4 weeks, then bottle...We only use a secondary if we are adding something to the beer, such as fruit, dryhopping or oaking the beer, otherwise we just leave the beer alone and let the yeasts clean up the beer at their own pace. Or if we added fruit, like pumpkin in the boil and want to get the beer off the goop.

Hope this helps!

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Old 03-16-2009, 03:29 PM   #6
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Very interesting...

Well then... who needs freaking glass carboys?

Buy a couple of plastic buckets and you're all set.

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Old 03-16-2009, 03:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stef1966 View Post
Very interesting...

Well then... who needs freaking glass carboys?

Buy a couple of plastic buckets and you're all set.
That's all many people use...Especially people who aren't oaking, fruiting or dryhopping...And those of us who opt for 3-4 week primaries...
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Old 03-16-2009, 04:13 PM   #8
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Well i'll definitely try it then and forget the secondary glass carboy on this current batch and try to see any differences.

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Old 03-16-2009, 04:15 PM   #9
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Heck yeah. Glass is for bottles, auto siphons, and bottling wands. Plastic is for everything else.

Edited: Actually, I prefer plastic bottles too.

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Old 03-16-2009, 04:34 PM   #10
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My auto-siphon and bottling wand are plastic items...

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