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Old 08-28-2012, 03:20 PM   #1
cander38
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Default Low Volume = No Secondary?

I have my first homebrew (all grain) in my primary for a little over 4 days now. It's a Brown Ale. Fermentation has slowed considerably. This being my first brew, I am following step by step instructions which tell me that I should rack to a secondary now. However, I've read a lot on the forums that this is an old school way of thinking and that if I leave in my primary for 3+ weeks and then cold crash, I'll get better and just as clear/clean beer as if I used a secondary.

From what I've read, I believe the big risk with racking to a secondary is oxidation if there is not enough CO2 production to push out oxygen. My OG was on target, but I only ended up with 4.25 gallons and I would be using a 5 gallon BB as my secondary. With that much deadspace, if fermentation has slowed too much, is there any reason to risk moving to a secondary?

So I don't have to keep posting different questions about using a secondary, I'll itemize my questions here:

Does using or not using a secondary change when brewing an ale or a lager?

Does using or not using a secondary change when brewing a big beer?

Does using or not using a secondary change with using Irish Moss?

Are there specific types of yeast where it is important to use a secondary (ie types of yeast that die quickly and the beer should be separated from)?

If fermenting above or below a certain temperature, is it advisable to use a secondary? If so, what temperatures?

Does using or not using a secondary change if brewer wants to add something to fermentation (dry hop, fruit, etc.)?

If you do not use a secondary, is it important to cold crash?

If you cold crash, how long & and what temperature?

Does deadspace play a role in using or not using a secondary?

Does using a bucket or carboy as your primary play a role in using or not using a secondary?

I've read about 'swirling' a fermenter to reactivate yeast 1+ week into fermentation. Should this ever be done (doesn't sound wise to me)? If so, should it ever be done only in secondary, primary or either?


I know there are a lot of secondary use threads on here, but they all seem to jump around on the various reasons to use or not use a secondary. I thought it may be helpful to consolidate answers about using secondaries. If this has already been done somewhere, I missed it. Thanks for any help!

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Old 08-28-2012, 03:43 PM   #2
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Just realized that I never went back to change the title of the thread from my original posting intent. As I was writing, I went way beyond the scope of the title. It doesn't appear that I can change the title once published either.

Maybe a moderater can change it to something along the lines of Secondary Q&A?

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Old 08-28-2012, 03:53 PM   #3
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My answers below but I have 5 gallon plastic(s), 14 Gallon Plastic(s) and one Stainless Steel fermentor.

When I brew low to medium gravity Ales I leave them in the Primary for 2 (hefeweisen) to 5 (All other Ales) weeks and do not use a secondary.

Since I keg and my beers go in to a Keezer anyway I don't cold crash; I don't worry about the first cloudy beers they go away over time.

I did a Kolsch recently where I left it in 2 plastic buckets the whole time. two weeks fermentation 65-66), two day dycetal rest (74), lager (35). It came out fine.

One last item: I was given two plastic fermentors that had beer in them for at least 4 months... I kegged it and drank it... the IPA was fine but the Octoberfest was on the downside.... I tell you this because some of the things a real brewery worry about may not translate to 5 and 10 gallon batches...

The Volumes, Pressures, and Surface Areas they deal with are HUGE compared to what we deal with.... Now if you want to so this with a "Science Bent" you can follow all those rules::: but if you just want to brew... go for it...


Does using or not using a secondary change when brewing an ale or a lager?
Yes, Lagers need to condition longer and some people think that Plastic should not be used and that the beer should be transferred off it’s “trub”.
Does using or not using a secondary change when brewing a big beer?
Big beers take longer to condition and they should be moved off their trun (they have lots of it)
Does using or not using a secondary change with using Irish Moss?
Unknown
Are there specific types of yeast where it is important to use a secondary (ie types of yeast that die quickly and the beer should be separated from)?
Only Lager –vs- Ale as far as I know

If fermenting above or below a certain temperature, is it advisable to use a secondary? If so, what temperatures?
No difference as far as I know.

Does using or not using a secondary change if brewer wants to add something to fermentation (dry hop, fruit, etc.)?
No but now you would need to worry about both the Yeast Cake and the added fruit,,, better to deal with on at a time.

If you do not use a secondary, is it important to cold crash?

Depends on the beer… and people have different opinions

If you cold crash, how long & and what temperature?
Depends on the beer… and people have different opinions


Does deadspace play a role in using or not using a secondary?
Less deadspace is better but if your beer has a little desolved CO2 it will fill some or maybe all of the space. You can also “blow-out” the O2 following transfer and not worry about it

Does using a bucket or carboy as your primary play a role in using or not using a secondary?
Yes, for beers that require long tern conditioning or Lagering they should be removed from the Plastic following Primary fermentation…

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Old 08-28-2012, 04:21 PM   #4
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I haven't used a secondary for a beer in ten years.

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Old 08-28-2012, 05:13 PM   #5
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Thanks for the answers! Do I have this right...

If you're brewing a low to medium gravity ale there is no reason to rack to a secondary. Just ferment in primary untouched and bottle after 3-5 weeks depending on when FG is reached and your beer will be just as good and clear as if you used a secondary? And if you're brewing a lager or high gravity ale you should rack to secondary?

Is this understanding correct?

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Old 08-28-2012, 05:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david_42
I haven't used a secondary for a beer in ten years.
For lagers and ales?
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Old 08-28-2012, 05:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cander38 View Post
Thanks for the answers! Do I have this right...

If you're brewing a low to medium gravity ale there is no reason to rack to a secondary. Just ferment in primary untouched and bottle after 3-5 weeks depending on when FG is reached and your beer will be just as good and clear as if you used a secondary?
Yes assuming you are either 1) Very careful when transfering to bottling bucket or 2) Cold crashing. This is done for a couple days around 35f (fridge temps but not freezing). Cold crashing makes most of the yeast that are in suspension drop to the bottom and aids in the compaction of the cake.


Quote:
Originally Posted by cander38 View Post
And if you're brewing a lager or high gravity ale you should rack to secondary?
Nothing in brewing is absolute. I will only speak to ales as lagering is a completely different animal. If you have temp controlled space then yes bulk aging a big beer could be beneficial. On the other hand conditioning in bottles can be just as effective. I can see no reason why I would ever use a "secondary" for an Ale unless I were adding fruit or wood. There is no hard evidence I have seen (verifiable studies) that have shown that beer benefits in any way from a "secondary" on the 5-10 gallon scale we brew in. There is though plenty of anecdotal evidence on this board about leaving beer in plastic buckets for extended periods of time with no ill effects.
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Old 08-28-2012, 05:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cander38 View Post
From what I've read, I believe the big risk with racking to a secondary is oxidation if there is not enough CO2 production to push out oxygen.
That is one. Another is infection. Anytime you transfer the beer from its safe little home you run the risk of introducing unwanted critters into the mix....Flies, gnats, bees, children, badgers. Add in the chances of dropping your fermentor, spilling beer...etc.
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Old 08-28-2012, 09:19 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the replies! Since this is my first brew, I want to minimize as much risk as possible, so I am going to stick with my primary for the entire fermentation. I don't want to risk oxidation or contamination by racking to my secondary.

It would be helpful if someone could confirm my process, however:

Ferment until FG is reached ---> Place entire fermenter in fridge at approx 38-40* for 4-7 days ---> Remove from fridge, prime, bottle and cap (should I let the beer warm to 70* before capping?)---> Store at 70* for 2-3 days ---> Refrigerate beer and open one a week or so until properly carbonated.

Thanks again!

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Old 08-28-2012, 09:28 PM   #10
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Ferment until FG is reached (How long you let it sit in primary depends on what it is....2-4 weeks is the range. You could reach your final gravity in 3 days but if you bottle after 3 days you will not be bottling the beer at its best.) ---> Place entire fermenter in fridge at approx 38-40* for 4-7 days (2 days is fine) ---> Remove from fridge, prime, bottle and cap (should I let the beer warm to 70* before capping?-(No, need just make sure you use the current beer temp as a factor when you figure priming sugar quantities.))---> Store at 70* for 2-3 days (WEEKS not days) ---> Refrigerate beer and open one a week or so until properly carbonated.--(YES)

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