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Old 10-14-2009, 02:17 AM   #1
BrewRI
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Default Primary and Secondary Fermentation

Right now I'm fermenting my first batch and I was planning on leaving it there for around 2.5 weeks then bottling it for another week. I've looked around and some recipes talk about primary then secondary fermentation, but they're at the same temperature. I'm guessing you'd be transferring the brew from one bucket to another, but I have a few questions:
1) If you move it to another bucket, do you want to do it with a siphon so not to disturb the brew?
- If so wouldn't you lose some yeast in the process no matter what?
- Is there a physical difference between a primary and secondary?
2) If you don't transfer to another bucket (Or whatever you use) do you just change the temperature you store it at?
3) If you ferment the same temperature in the primary as in the secondary, what effects does transferring the beer to another bucket have on the final product?

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Old 10-14-2009, 02:27 AM   #2
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"Secondary fermentation" is kind of a misnomer for beer. You want all your fermentation to be completed in the primary, and at 2.5 weeks it will be barring a stuck ferment. The secondary is more for clearing the beer and letting more yeast fall our of solution. You can actually just do a long primary to do the same thing. I do both, because I know that I'll get sloppy and suck up some of my yeast cake with I siphon.

Yes, you want to use a siphon and transfer the beer while leaving the yeast cake undisturbed. Since fermentation is complete and you have given the yeast time to clean up after themselves, you don't need them anymore.

If you secondary, you want to use a vessel that's as close in size to the amount of beer you have as possible. Many folks who secondary will use a 6 or 6.5 gallon primary, and a 5 gallon secondary vessel for a 5 gallon batch of beer. The point is that you want as little empty headspace as possible to avoid oxidation, since you won't have as much of a CO2 layer in your secondary as you had in your primary.

Unless you are cold crashing (a whole 'nother topic) there's no need to change temperature. You can primary and secondary at the same temp.

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Old 10-14-2009, 02:28 AM   #3
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By the time you go to secondary, most of the actual fermentation is done. The secondary is more of a conditioning phase. The yeast is clearing things up for you while there. By moving it off the original trub that settled to the bottom in primary, it makes the clearing easier.
Now is a secondary vital, no, but many swear by it. I use it more often than not.

You mentioned bottling yours for another week. You may want to give it more than that before diving right in to it. 2 or 3 weeks tends to yield better results, but I have been known to sample some a week out occasionally.

Best of luck!

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Old 10-14-2009, 02:31 AM   #4
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Secondary fermentation is a debated topic - some do it, some don't. When done, the beer is usually siphoned from the primary into a glass carboy for the secondary. When siphoning, you leave what's settled out in the primary behind. The temp for the secondary fermentation is the same as the primary.

Reasons for doing a secondary fermentation are to help clarify the beer and help avoid any off tastes that may develop by leaving the beer on the yeast cake for too long. However, the "too long" is generally longer than about 4 weeks which is more than enough time for the fermentation to complete, the beer to condition and be ready for bottling or kegging.

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Old 10-14-2009, 02:32 AM   #5
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OK, First the primary is the vessel where most of the fermentation will occur if youre going to use a secondary. All beers will benefit from using a secondary but not all need them.

What generally happens if youre going to use a secondary is you will leave your beer in the primary until youre within 5-10% of your FG. Then you would rack over to a secondary either by siphon or pump keeping the suction end up off the trub. You dont want to transfer any of the trub to the secondary. The purpose is to get your good beer off of the dying yeast (some say that dying yeast can give off flavors in your beer). Ample time in the secondary will help clear out your beer by letting "junk" settle to the bottom.

There is a physical difference. Generally, the secondary is small than the primary to reduce head space and help prevent oxygenation. In the 5 gallon world, the primary can be simple 6.5 gallon bucket with lid or a 6.5 gallon glass carboy. The seondary will be a 5 gallon glass carboy which you transfer your beer from your primary into leaving as little air space as possible.

Does any of this info help?

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Last edited by barthautala; 10-14-2009 at 02:34 AM. Reason: Geez you people are fast
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