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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > Primary, Secondary, then bottle?
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Old 11-25-2012, 01:28 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by maestro_wu View Post
Thanks for all of the super-prompt and helpful responses.

They do, though, raise for me a secondary (pun intended) question: What, exactly, does one do that makes it count as secondary fermentation? Just re-rack with a bit more corn sugar? Or just re-rack?

Thanks!
Ah, you've hit on the million dollar question!

In a brewery, there is NO "secondary fermenter". None. The fermentation takes place in the fermenter, and then is pumped to the "bright tank" for clearing. That's primarily so a new batch can be started in the fermenter, not because of anything magical that happens in moving the beer.

However, I'm an old winemaker. In winemaking, there is a primary, and then you move the wine to "secondary" where the fermentation finishes under airlock.

My belief is that homebrewers took winemaking techniques and applied them to brewing, and kept some of the same terminology.

But in winemaking, you normally do the primary not under airlock, and stir the wine for the first few days, so it's a hyrbridized technique.

When more people starting homebrewing, and realized that there is no such thing as a "secondary fermentation" with beer, then people starting rethinking that. The holdouts now tend to be people who read books that describe a secondary and the need to get the beer off of the yeast cake, or old winemakers in homebrew shops.

The current thinking, from maybe the last three or four years, is that a transfer to a clearing vessel ("bright tank") is not necessary for homebrewers, but some still choose to do it.

Gravity is what clears the beer, and not the act of moving the beer to another container.

Sometimes I transfer, because for lagers I always do. Or to oak a beer, or because I want to reuse the yeast for another batch. But it's not necessary for most homebrews.
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Old 11-25-2012, 02:13 AM   #12
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I call BullSheet on that...
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You've already stated that a secondary is totally unnecessary, because you don't do it.

Now look at what Midwest says

"While there may be much debate about whether secondary fermentation is necessary or not,
Midwest suggests trying it once and judging for yourself. We think you’ll see, smell, and taste a
noticeable difference in the quality of your beer."

I'd much rather make a judgement based on what I perceive, rather than what you advocate.

-a.
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Old 11-25-2012, 02:23 AM   #13
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Midwest is just regurgitating OLD information. Plus, they SELL hardware, so it's in their best interest to tell people to go the secondary route.

BTW, I did download, and look over, the PDF... Right on the first page, right after what you quote, they start spewing the 1 week primary/1-2 weeks secondary crud... Actually ALL the ale types they list are 1 week primary and then X weeks secondary...

Since the OP DID ask for our take on this, I'm calling MidWest out on this. Plus, they're leading people to believe that an airlock IS an actual fermentation meter. Anyone who's been reading threads here will recognize that's NOT true.

Do what you like, but don't think that you MUST rack to a second vessel with ALL brews. It's simply not the case. As others have stated, you can (and very often will) get better beer when you DON'T rack to the bright tank/second vessel (with ales, I'm not talking lagers here).

BTW, this is one of the reasons why I stopped going to the LHBS that I first used when starting out brewing. They were locked into the ANCIENT methods of X days in primary then rack to secondary for Y days. Didn't matter about all the risks you take when you do this. Didn't matter what the big names in homebrewing now say.

As I said, do what you want, but don't delude yourself into think you MUST rack for all brews.

I'm out.

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Old 11-25-2012, 05:45 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Golddiggie

As others have stated, you can (and very often will) get better beer when you DON'T rack to the bright tank/second vessel

I'm out.
Hmmm, so now its gone from "you don't have to rack" to "not racking will very often give you better beer"?

I can understand the statement of "its not necessary", but please, let's not mislead people.

Another weak argument is the whole infection claim...Have you ever infected a batch by merely racking it? I never have and I've never spoken to anyone who has.
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Old 11-25-2012, 06:12 AM   #15
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Heh. I'd no idea I'd be the guy who kicked the hornets' nest. Oops.

So here's the thing : I've got a Midwest kit on order, and I think I'll try it their way - just that once.

Honestly, I'll probably go back to the single fermentation phase. I've been pretty happy with everything I've ever brewed this way (the only way I knew) up to now.

Of course, if I really do see a big difference, I'll repeat the experiment with a control of sorts and make a more informed decision then.

Thanks!

PS: I'll report more results if there's interest.

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Old 11-25-2012, 06:23 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by maestro_wu
Heh. I'd no idea I'd be the guy who kicked the hornets' nest. Oops.

So here's the thing : I've got a Midwest kit on order, and I think I'll try it their way - just that once.

Honestly, I'll probably go back to the single fermentation phase. I've been pretty happy with everything I've ever brewed this way (the only way I knew) up to now.

Of course, if I really do see a big difference, I'll repeat the experiment with a control of sorts and make a more informed decision then.

Thanks!

PS: I'll report more results if there's interest.
Ha, no man, its not you. Believe it or not I actually agree with Goldiggie for the most part. I rack most of my beers because I usually need my primary fermenters for another batch and I'm a big advocate of conditioning most beers for over a month. I also reuse the yeast periodically and need to get it out. That said, I've had no ill effects from racking.
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Old 11-25-2012, 06:41 AM   #17
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I've done it both ways too many times to count. I also have great respect for homebrew shops, including Midwest, and all they do for our hobby. With that out there, the absolute only reason I can think of that any homebrew shop would encourage transferring to secondary is to make more money- what's the most expensive piece of equipment is most starter kits? The glass carboy, hands down. It's common knowledge that perception is biased, even if we think we're not. I urge anyone to brew the split a batch into 2 fermenters, keep 1 in primary only and use a secondary for the other, then do a triangle test. If you can even tell a difference, my hunch would be you'll like the "primary only" batch a tad better. We now know that leaving beer on the yeast cake actually benefits beer! Add to that the fact it removes a rather tedious task of homebrewing and I truly see no reason anyone would choose to secondary, other than tradition. But hey, to each their own.

Cheers!

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Old 11-25-2012, 07:51 AM   #18
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i have always done just a (longish) primary, but recently transferred a beer to a secondary to dry hop. i read somewhere that yeast greatly reduces the amount of aroma extracted from dry hops.

i haven't tried the beer yet, but i think i will start transferring to secondarys. there is close to 2 inches of sediment in a 5gallon carboy. if that hadn't been in a secondary it would all be in my bottles. transferring is kinda fun because what other brewing activity takes less than 1 hour to do? maybe making a starter but i use dry anyways. i don't see any downside to transferring except for maybe oxidation (never had it in homebrew), and extra work.

i feel like all of the long primary supporters have severely missed the point. originally it seemed to be an ADDITIONAL option to only primary, since pri. +sec. was the standard. now its mentioned as the only way to do it, which is the same as people just blindly listening to the old method.

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Old 11-25-2012, 07:53 AM   #19
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I like to rack to the keg from the "bright tank". The extra step to me isn't that big of a deal and results in (for me) much clearer beer going into the keg. Drinking a beer right now that was put in the refrigerator today and being served out of "tertiary" (aka "keg") and is darn near crystal clear from day one even after only a 48 hr "secondary" in the bright tank, and a 48 hr or so tertiary at the lower end of ferment temps in the keg. Don't always "secondary" but it gets me a much clearer beer racked into the serving vessel. Just my experience with my system. YMMV. Oh, and also just like bobbrewedit said I usually want my primary(ies) back for a new batch.

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Old 11-25-2012, 11:56 AM   #20
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Oh, and also just like bobbrewedit said I usually want my primary(ies) back for a new batch.
This would be a good point but for a new brewer on a short budget they can buy a plastic bucket for an extra fermenter for half the price of a carboy and get something that isn't fragile at the same time.
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