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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Is a secondary really necessary (or helpful) for most ales?
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Old 07-25-2008, 12:37 AM   #1
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Default Is a secondary really necessary (or helpful) for most ales?

I'm a relatively new brewer (11 ales in 8 months). All of my ales spent 13-15 days in the primary fermenter before bottling. Much of what I have read says that 2 weeks in primary is adequate for most standard gravity ales and that transferring the beer to a secondary is unnecessary, but I keep reading on the beer forums about guys fermenting their standard gravity ales for much more than two weeks and usually including the transfer of those ales into a secondary fermenter. So I want to know what is the practical rationalization for the much longer ferment times and the transferring to secondaries for basic ales.
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Old 07-25-2008, 01:22 AM   #2
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it just helps get the yeast off the trub while conditioning the beer. you don't need it. i use it sometimes, sometimes i don't. depends on the situation.

in fact, don't call it a secondary...that's just confusing because there is no secondary fermentation that happens (usually.)

ok, wait...here are the reasons to use a secondary (clearing vessel):

1. free up your primary: you want to age the beer, but you've got another on the way!

2. autolysis: although this takes months, it may be necessary to move to a secondary to protect your beer. This is especially true with big beers that need lots of age, such as belgians. i've had belgians spend well over 6 months in carboys. NOTE: THIS IS USUALLY NOT A CONCERN. beer is fine for a couple of months sitting in a primary.

3. clarity: racking the beer off the trub from the primary will get the yeast in action, which will result in a small amount of trub in the secondary. basically, you are avoiding getting this into your bottles or keg. some would argue that if you leave it in the primary long enough, this is still unneccessary as the yeast will create a nice layer and not get sucked up during racking.

for my typical beers, i usually do about 2+ weeks in primary then transfer to secondary. this is usually to free up space and let the beer age. my beers generally don't go into the keg for at least a month after brewing, unless that is my original intention (or i'm really thirsty )

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Old 07-25-2008, 01:26 AM   #3
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Other reasons. You are adding fruit, dry-hopping or aging with wood for example. I quit using a secondary for just about everything based on what I've learned here and it makes life a lot easier.

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Old 07-25-2008, 01:57 AM   #4
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Or, if the number of primary fermentation vessels are limited. I have 4 buckets, but 10 carboys

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Old 07-25-2008, 02:10 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SporkD2 View Post
Or, if the number of primary fermentation vessels are limited. I have 4 buckets, but 10 carboys
5 primaries, 22 carboys and 2 bottling buckets...

A secondary never hurt any brew...
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Old 07-25-2008, 02:30 AM   #6
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It's not necessary, but homebrewer_99 is right - it's never going to hurt your beer. I always secondary. That's just how I learned and that's what I'm comfortable with.

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Old 07-25-2008, 02:40 AM   #7
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i secondary just because I have four 11 gal fermenting buckets and need to free them up. In the beginning I had alot of trub because of my brew methods. Now I have a keggle with a spigot and pick-up tube and use a hop sack so I only get a minimal amount of gunk in my primary (mostly break material), but my switching to secondary is as much a habit as it is a neccessity.

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Old 07-25-2008, 07:40 PM   #8
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I recently switched to primary only, and i think my beers have improved, and brewing has become easier. I think that clarity of the beer should be a non-issue when it comes to secondaries. This idea i have is new in my head but my reason being: if you leave the beer in the bottles long enough, the sediment/yeast should fall to the bottom- you are going to have this no matter how many vessels you use. If you pour the beer correctly the amount of sediment at the bottom of the bottle should not matter...catch my drift. IT may take a little longer in the bottles but should be the same time as a few extra weeks in a secondary. IF you keg: well the keg is pretty much a secondary anyways. ??does that make sense???

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Old 07-25-2008, 11:30 PM   #9
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I use one only for particular purposes. My normal "house beer" (a very hoppy American Pale Ale) get three or four weeks in the primary, then right to bottle. If clarity is important, use a secondary for sure.

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Old 07-25-2008, 11:49 PM   #10
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I have brewed for over 20 years estmate 500 brews and always used only a primary fermenter. After reading some articles here I tried using a secondary. Already the results are showing a real improvement. I used to decant from a bottle to a jug to remove the sediment but now the sediment is barely a dusting of the bottom of the bottle. I used a 1 2 3 method. I am seriously thinking of going for a full month in the secondary.

I always believed I had the perfect method but using a secondary removes the beer from the primary sediment and the beer loses a yeasty flavour.

One other thing I found out years ago. I use a 60 litre primary fermentor as I was told by someone that impressed me with their results and that was that if you are fermenting 20 litres of beer you need good head room to allow the foam to sit on top of the beer not be compressed down into it. This also adds to any slight off taste. I actually threw my first 25 litre fermentor away. I should have kept it as a secondary.

I am about to get two more secondaries to allow beer to mature in them prior to bottling. I do not have air locks on them. I screw the lids down tight and let the small amount of Co2 preasurise slightly.

Drinking Munich Lager
Primary Dark Ale
Secondary Aussie Draught
Next Aussie Lager

The Aussie brands are generic supermarket brands which produce great beer and can be the basis of adding other ingrediants such as Honey,Malt or Hops

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