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Old 05-07-2010, 04:21 PM   #1
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Default To Secondary or Not? John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff Weigh In

Like a lot of brewers here on HBT, I've discovered that the transfer to a secondary fermenter really isn't necessary, unless I am doing something like adding fruit or dry hopping. Leave it in the primary 3-4 weeks and I'm good to go. Autolysis? Nope, not here. The beer is better than ever.

This was confirmed on a March episode of Brew Strong where John and Jamil talk about how secondary fermentation is an outdated homebrewing technique. John even says that the information in the 1st edition of How to Brew (the web version) is no longer relevant.

I couldn't find a transcript of the show so I recorded that portion of the conversation. May have missed a few Ah's and Um's, but the main content is there.

Hope this helps:

John: And unfortunately I'm an perpetuator of the myth at HowtoBrew.com. The 1st edition talks about the benefits of transferring the beer off the yeast.

Jamil: Well that was the popular way of doing things. But that was what, the 1st edition? Stop getting the thing off the internet. Buy yourself the 3rd addition copy and get the updated information.

John: As we've gotten more educated on how much good healthy yeast you need for optimum fermentation the advice that we used to give 20 years ago has changed. 10 years ago, 20 years ago, homebrewers were using with a single packet of dry yeast that was taped to the top of the can. There weren't as many liquid yeast cultures available.

Jamil: People didn't make starters either.

John: Right. So the whole health and vitality of yeast was different back then compared to know. Back then it made sense. You had weaker yeast that had finished fermentation that were more susceptible to autolysis and breaking down. Now that is not the case. The bar of homebrewing has risen to where we are able to make beer that has the same robustness as professional beer. We've gotten our techniques and understanding of what makes a good fermentation up to that level, so you don't need to transfer the beer off the yeast to avoid autolysis like we used to recommend.

Jamil: Unless you are going to do long term at warm temperatures, but even then we are talking over a month. I thought about this as well and I think one of the reasons autolysis....and the fact that people were using weak yeast in inappropriate amounts and the transfer would add some oxygen to it which would help attenuate a few more points. I think that was part of the deal why transferring was considered appropriate years ago.

John: But these days we don't recommend secondary transfer. Leave it in the primary, you know, a month. Today's fermentations are typically healthy enough that you are not going to get autolysis flavors or off-flavors from leaving the beer on the yeast for an extended period of time.

Jamil:
And if you are using healthy yeast and the appropriate amount and the thing is... homebrew style fermentors..if you are using a carboy or plastic bucket which have that broad base when the yeast flocculate out they lay in a nice thin layer. When you're dealing with large, tall...one of the things you know people go "Well the commercial brewers they remove the yeast because it is gonna break down, die, and make the beer bad. We should be doing the same thing." That's where alot of this comes from. But the commerical brewers are working with 100 bbl fermenters that are very tall and put a lot of pressure on the yeast. The yeast are jammed into this little cone in the bottom and they are stacked very deep and there is a lot of heat buildup. The core of that yeast mass can be several degrees C higher than the rest of that yeast mass and it can actually cook the yeast and cause them to die faster and cause those problems with flavor and within a couple of days the viability of that yeast which the commercial brewers are going to reuse is going to drop 25%, 50% over a couple of days so they need to get that yeast out of there. You don't have that restriction as a homebrewer. You've got these broad fermenter bases that allow the yeast to be distributed evently. It's an advantage for cleaning up the beer. You have the advantage that the yeast don't break down as fast. You don't have as high a head pressure. There are a lot of advantages.

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Old 05-07-2010, 05:53 PM   #2
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I agree that it's probably not necessary to do it.

I usually do it, but that's mainly because I generally have three batches going at once. My fermentation chamber (old fridge) can hold three carboys at once, but only if at least one of them is 5 gallons in size. So, I have two 6.5's and several 5's in my pile of equipment.

Plus, 5 gallon carboys are $35 whereas 6.5's are $45, so I'm saving space as well as money by using 5 gallon secondaries.

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Old 05-07-2010, 06:07 PM   #3
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I agree that it's probably not necessary to do it.

I usually do it, but that's mainly because I generally have three batches going at once. My fermentation chamber (old fridge) can hold three carboys at once, but only if at least one of them is 5 gallons in size. So, I have two 6.5's and several 5's in my pile of equipment.

Plus, 5 gallon carboys are $35 whereas 6.5's are $45, so I'm saving space as well as money by using 5 gallon secondaries.
My main point, and theirs, is that you don't need to do it to save your beer from the big ugly autolysis monster. Fruit, dry-hopping, and space (as you mentioned) are good reasons IMO.
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Old 05-07-2010, 07:01 PM   #4
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Yup totally agree, leave secondary for specialty beers. Dry Hopping, adding fruit or adding anything in general.

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Old 05-07-2010, 07:46 PM   #5
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Considering we've done it to death, it's great to see that Palmer is finally saying that he contributed way too much to the fears with the online edition.

Funny though they are almost quoting verbatum some of the stuff I've been writing on here about the subject for the last three years. So someone's been reading the threads on here.

I've said it before, we here at HBT broke the ground on this subject, we've banged this about (sometimes painfully so with some folks, who you can't teach new tricks too) for 3 years, many of us winning awards for the beers we've sat on the yeast for a month.

On Saturday I had 2 Bjcp judges informally tasting my beers during the big brew day (One of them a beautiful woman). She facebooked me the next day and said;

Quote:
There's nothing that is such a relief as someone asking you to try their brews and finding that they're clean and free of off aromas or flavors... all of yours were so nice that way!
All three of them were month long primaries.

Thanks for posting this. Even though it's been thoroughly discussed on here, it's nice to finally get John and Jamil weighed in on it, just like it was nice to have James Spence and Chris Colby doing the combined Basic Brewing/Byo magazine collaborative experiment and having them too back up what we've been doing here for the last few years successfully.

Thanks for posting this!
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Old 05-07-2010, 07:53 PM   #6
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(One of them a beautiful woman). She facebooked me the next day and said;
"facebooked" euphemism for ?


never mind, probably get censored anyway.



LOL
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Old 05-07-2010, 07:56 PM   #7
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Damn we aint 1%ers anymore .....

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Old 05-07-2010, 08:05 PM   #8
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Damn we aint 1%ers anymore .....
LOLZ.....

Dammit we've gone legit. Guess that means I have to get that "No F**king Secondaries" tat lasered off my back now.
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Old 05-07-2010, 08:07 PM   #9
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If you bottled/kegged after a month in the primary would the yeast be to spent to wash and reuse later?

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Old 05-07-2010, 08:08 PM   #10
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If you bottled/kegged after a month in the primary would the yeast be to spent to wash and reuse later?
nope, I do it all the time.
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