Originally Posted by Yooper
I was a winemaker a long time before I started brewing. In winemaking, "primary" and "secondary" are well understood as terms. In brewing, I think the terms were stolen from winemaking, and they used to mean the same thing.
Back when yeast was fairly poor quality, or worse when bread yeast was used, it was common advice to do a primary, and then to get the beer off of the trub in about 5 days or so, just as with winemaking. In that sense, the "primary" and "secondary" still make sense in the old school method.
Today's brewing methods changed a bit because the quality of the yeast changed a lot. With quality yeast, both liquid and dry strains, the fears of autolysis and off flavors from the yeast are unfounded so brewers today commonly keep the beer in the primary much much longer than 3-5 days!
I rarely use the terms "primary" and "secondary" in brewing now. I use the words "fermenter" and "clearing vessel" which is more apt for brewing.
As I look around my house, I have about 25 carboys of wine. They are all in "secondary", and have been bulk aging in those carboys for months. When I make wine, I do a true "primary" and a true "secondary" in the strict definition of the terms.
I hope that explanation is helpful to someone!
Very well said and VERY helpful! I think as new-brewers, we want to make sure we are "doing everything right", including the use of "beer-jargon" so that we do not look like complete idiots when trying to explain what we are doing here or anywhere else. As for my purposes, it will be "fermentation" and "clearing" from now on. P & S do have a legit application, maybe even in beer brewing. But whether it's legit or not, it obviously has the potential to be confusing. Thanks for clearing this up --- in my way of thinking, anyway.