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Old 12-23-2011, 02:07 PM   #1
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Default Is a secondary really necessary?

So I haven't been brewing for very long and I have a conical fermenter. One of my friends that has been brewing for a long time says that it is better to just leave the beer on the original yeast cake as opposed to going into a secondary. What is the benefit to using a secondary? Is there any negative side effects to leaving it in the primary?

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Old 12-23-2011, 02:15 PM   #2
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I suggest you read THIS thread, it's become the "uber discussion" on this topic thread.

To Secondary or Not? John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff Weigh In .

Most everyone on this forum has ventured their opinions on the subject many many many many many many many many many many times, and most of them have ended up in the above thread. If you really do want opinions, and even some facts and citations, and articles, podcasts and other things on this topic, hit that thread.

Quite a lot of us leave our beers in primary 3-4 weeks.

And all the reasons why and everything else you can imagine is covered in that thread. Including the whole history of the debate/discussion and even the change in Palmer's view of it (which I think was greatly influenced by this forum. We were the first to openly discuss it, and to openly experiment with it, and to call shenanagans on the yeast/autolysis fear.

This is the most talked about topic on here, there's a ton of information already covering it here, not just in the above thread but all over the place.

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Old 12-23-2011, 02:15 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IslandBrewer View Post
So I haven't been brewing for very long and I have a conical fermenter. One of my friends that has been brewing for a long time says that it is better to just leave the beer on the original yeast cake as opposed to going into a secondary. What is the benefit to using a secondary? Is there any negative side effects to leaving it in the primary?
Check out this pretty extensive thread on that topic: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f163/sec...-weigh-176837/

Seems like most people here only use a secondary if dry hopping or adding other ingredients (i.e. fruit, oak, etc.)

Edit: Revvy beat me to the punch.
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Old 12-23-2011, 02:46 PM   #4
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I prefer a secondary clearing vessel. The only beers I've had to eventually toss sat for 3+ weeks in the primary. Smelled and tasted like a blend of Band-Aids, licorice and electrical tape. Started out barely detectible in the fermenter, but several weeks into their keg life became unbearable. Anecdotal only, but enough to convince me that the 15 minutes or so it takes to rack a fully fermented beer off a pile of dead and mutating trub was worthwhile.

I also insist that even my dry hopped APA’s be served crystal clear and I want to go from grain to glass inside of 3 weeks. Can’t do that waiting around for a ga-gillion yeasties to settle down in that dense primary environment.

Here’s a link to the original John Brewer take on yeast autolysis.

How to Brew - By John Palmer - Autolysis

Do what works for you.

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Old 12-23-2011, 02:48 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by BierMuncher View Post
environment.

Here’s a link to the original John Brewer take on yeast autolysis.

How to Brew - By John Palmer - Autolysis
Which he's changed his opinion on. Hence the thread I linked above. He's backed off bigtime on that idea.
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Old 12-23-2011, 02:58 PM   #6
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Which he's changed his opinion on. Hence the thread I linked above. He's backed off bigtime on that idea.
Guy walks into the doctors office and says "Doc, it hurts when I do this". Docs replies, "then don't do that".

125+ 10 gallon batches. 6 dumpers. All were extended primary batches. There were a bunch of great batches as well that sat on the rub for 3-4 weeks. (not by design, just lazy).

6 bad batches over the course of 5 years. All with the exact same off flavor components. The only other thing they had in common was their time spent on the trub. For my laboratory, that’s empirical evidence.

And even if it ain’t, I’ll do as doc would suggest and won’t “do that anymore”.
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Old 12-23-2011, 03:02 PM   #7
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I'm just pointing out that you're citing something by John Palmer, that even HE no longer believes in......

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Originally Posted by BillyBroas View Post
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.
I not debating, whether you think your issues were caused by long primary or not, just that you're citing a passage by John Palmer that he has since back pedalled on and even evidently altered in subsequent editions of the book.
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Old 12-23-2011, 03:24 PM   #8
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The link was just an FYI.

How many times an author of a how-to book decides to change his tune in order to sell his next edition, doesn't erase what was stated in earlier editions. What if he’s wrong this time?

“Get your beer off the yeast cake on day 7 or your beer will crawl out of the fermenter and eat your youngest child” … Slight exaggeration? Yes.

“Your beer will be the equivalent of rhinoceros urine unless it sits on the primary yeast cake for at least 4 weeks.” …Slight exaggeration? In my opinion and hands on experience…absolutely.

Brewers need to take in the knowledge around them, form their own brewing approach and do what works best.

But these things do make for some fun debate.

ALUMINUM!!!!

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Old 12-23-2011, 03:37 PM   #9
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To the OP:

You've gone and stepped on a landmine. Let me pull you out. Everybody has their personal preferences as to what is best for brewing great beer. If you use a secondary anhd are happy with the results by all means do so. Personally, i have never done a secondary, never fermented less than 4 weeks, and never had a batch I had to dump. But that's just how I roll.

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Old 12-23-2011, 03:45 PM   #10
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Biermuncher....if you brew in aluminum all of your babies will be born naked.... As for secondaries.. I use em, although I primary 3+ weeks usually anyway..it works for me...never had a dumper yet....but then again I have family that would drink rhinoceros piss if it would get em drunk soooo.

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