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Old 09-10-2012, 05:43 PM   #1
natewv
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Default When you SHOULD secondary...and why?

So this may be somewhat of a rehash, but I can't wrap my head around many of the answers in a way that makes sense to me.

1)why is it that one should secondary when they are adding fruit or spices? What's the reason, vs. simply adding stuff directly to the primary after fermentation is complete.

2) why, specifically, do some (those that really like to secondary) say that a wheat or hefeweisen is the only style that it's ok not to secondary? Is it just the 'unfiltered' look? Does it have anything to do with needing to ferments out longer/sit on the yeast cake longer? I hope it's not just clarity.

3) Why, specifically, should you secondary a sour? Is it just since it's going to sit and condition for a long time?

4) I've begun (for maybe the last 6 batches) to not secondary, but I have a saison right now I may decide to condition in a new glass bottle for a few months. I've also begun to cold-crash, with great results. If I rack it into the bottle, should I cold crash the primary and then rack, or cold crash only when I keg later? If I cold crash prior to secondary will I leave enough yeast in there to do all it's cleanup and conditioning work, in other words, will i be defeating the purpose of a long conditioning?

5) I currently usually just ferment about everything in primary for a month, but if I'm making an IPA and plan to dry hop when fermentation is complete, should I secondary to keep grassy flavors from coming out after 3-7 days, or do I just need to keg early (maybe 3 weeks after brew day) and let her condition longer in the keg?

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Old 09-10-2012, 06:09 PM   #2
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Answers:

1) No good reason other than removing the beer from the trub of the primary fermentation. It's more of a sediment clarifying step and . it's totally up to you. Many brewers swear by it and others just use the primary straight up to bottling. The choice is yours.

2) It's a personal choice since racking to a secondary is usually just a sludge clarification step. Aesthetically, Hefe's are cloudy beers due to all that suspended yeast so it's considered "ok" because it's characteristic of that style. It has nothing to do with fermentation time as that will vary beer-to-beer and yeast-to-yeast. In fact, letting your beer sit in the primary on the yeast cake actually helps remove fusel alcohols such as diacetyl, which are converted into more drinkable esters by yeasts a little further along in fermentation. That's why it's actually good for home brewers to let their beers "rest" on the yeast cake in the primary. The only instances where i'd rack to a secondary is if I were using a lot of fruits or some weird funky adjunct, or if it was a commercial-size batch where yeast die-off might have a negative impact on the beer flavor.


3) I don't like sours, so I can't answer that one directly. I know that a lot of unflavored lambics (gezuse?) can take over a year to condition, so i'm going to assume it's avoiding off-flavors from dead yeast.

4) The way I cold crash is to crash the primary for a few days prior to bottling. Then, I rack directly to my bottling bucket. On some beers that I use windsor yeast in, I also do the gelatin trick to remove some chill haze proteins a few days before bottling. Again, crystal clear beer is purely aesthetic. Don't worry, there will still be plenty of living yeast in the beer (even a crystal clear looking beer) for bottle conditioning. The inevitable little swipe of the racking cane on the yeast cake will provide a little extra yeast if you're worried about it.

5) Depends on the hops and just how much you are dry hopping. If it's a heavy dry hop schedule, yes you can rack to a secondary if you're afraid of that grassy flavor. You might also consider using a hops back and just filtering your beer through it just prior to bottling. This will infuse a ton of hops aroma to your beer and reduce the risk of grassy flavors due to the short contact time. I was so happy to see a Blichmann hop rocket in use at Stone Brewing this past January. For that big West Coast IPA style, that's how the big boys do it.

Of course, this is all IMHO. Ask a dozen brewers, get a dozen different answers.

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Old 09-10-2012, 07:18 PM   #3
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[QUOTE=aiptasia;4401921]Answers:

1) No good reason other than removing the beer from the trub of the primary fermentation. It's more of a sediment clarifying step and . it's totally up to you. Many brewers swear by it and others just use the primary straight up to bottling. The choice is yours.

2)...The only instances where i'd rack to a secondary is if I were using a lot of fruits or some weird funky adjunct, or if it was a commercial-size batch where yeast die-off might have a negative impact on the beer flavor.



So I'm confused...if I understand you correctly, the only instances you would rack to secondary (answer2) is for clarifying(answer1)? What relation do "fruits or some weird funky adjunct" have to do with just wanting clarity?

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Old 09-10-2012, 09:35 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aiptasia View Post
Answers:

I know that a lot of unflavored lambics (gezuse?) can take over a year to condition, so i'm going to assume it's avoiding off-flavors from dead yeast.
Actually, it's the opposite with lambics (geuze is a blended lambic); they are intentionally left on the yeast cake so that the brett & bacteria can utilize the dead saccharomyces cells for nutrients during the long bulk aging period - up to three years.

Secondary is used when fruit is added - the beer is racked on top of the fruit to avoid splashing (i.e. dropping the fruit into primary will splash and potentially oxidize the beer).

Other sours that are aged for less time are racked to secondary to avoid flavors of yeast autolysis, which dissipate in lambics after 2 + years of aging.
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Old 09-11-2012, 01:25 AM   #5
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ok, so the reason people secondary (that don't usually secondary) is when they add fruit. But they rack to secondary to put the beer on top of the fruit instead of dumping something in the fermenter and risking oxygenation...?

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Old 09-13-2012, 02:41 AM   #6
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Yep. Or if they are oaking their beer, or perhaps aging it for an extended period of time (which you only want to do in glass or stainless because plastic is too porous and will oxidize the beer over time).

Frankly, and I'm sure I'm opening myself up to assault from the Sworn Secondaries, using a secondary is not very crucial nowadays. In the oldendaysofpast, yeast quality was far less superior to what we have now and it was indeed a very good idea to get the beer off the yeast cake once primary fermentation was finished. Nowadays, it's often just aesthetic.

However, if you do a good job clarifying your beer during post-boil cooling and you don't pour all your hop debris and break material into the fermenter, you are well on your way to clearer beer. Then, you can just let fermentation complete and give your beer an extra week or two on the yeast and let the yeast finish cleaning your beer. You know what?- you end up with very clear and clean beer without using a secondary or adding oxygen during the racking process.

Important note: if you do let your beer hang out in primary and rest on the yeast cake, don't do so for more than 4 weeks. At 4 weeks, the yeast will begin to autolyze and this will release all of that bad crap back into your beer. This is not good, so don't do it. But your average beer can certainly stand to hang out in the primary for two or three weeks; this is how I do all of my "normal" beers.

If you like to secondary or want to, there's nothing wrong with it at all and sometimes it is necessary. You're the brewer, so you make the call.

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Old 09-13-2012, 03:09 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by tedclev View Post
Important note: if you do let your beer hang out in primary and rest on the yeast cake, don't do so for more than 4 weeks. At 4 weeks, the yeast will begin to autolyze and this will release all of that bad crap back into your beer. This is not good, so don't do it. But your average beer can certainly stand to hang out in the primary for two or three weeks; this is how I do all of my "normal" beers.
Actually it takes a lot longer than that before autolysis becomes an issue. Many, including myself, have left beers on the cake for months with no autolysis effects. As was mentioned in another thread today, bottle conditioned beers are left on the yeast for more than a month and do not feature any autolysis. I'm not saying yeast don't die over time but it takes a long time or very rough environments (like a massive conical with pressure and heat on the dying yeast) to turn your beer into beef broth.
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Old 09-13-2012, 03:28 AM   #8
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Actually it takes a lot longer than that before autolysis becomes an issue. Many, including myself, have left beers on the cake for months with no autolysis effects. As was mentioned in another thread today, bottle conditioned beers are left on the yeast for more than a month and do not feature any autolysis. I'm not saying yeast don't die over time but it takes a long time or very rough environments (like a massive conical with pressure and heat on the dying yeast) to turn your beer into beef broth.
Right!

Well, on a microscopic level, autolysis does happen. Just like when you're born, you start to die- so do yeast cells. But that's at a small level, and the flavor impact is not apparent until much further down the road. A higher fermentation temperature will encourage autolysis faster, while a lower temperature slows it down. And as RAM says, pressure on the yeast cake will cause it to happen faster as well. Big breweries with big fermenters will drop the trub to avoid the tons of pressure placed on flocculated yeast.

In a homebrewing setting, with "normal" room temperatures and healthy yeast to start with autolysis isn't that much of a concern at all.
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