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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > Secondary fermentation
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Old 06-12-2013, 06:11 PM   #1
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Default Rack to secondary during or after fermenation?

I'm a relatively new brewer with a few batches under my belt and have found the forums to be a huge help.

I had a question about transferring to a secondary. I know a lot of people advocate skipping the secondary altogether, and I've done that on a couple of my brews with good results. But right now I'm working on a watermelon wheat recipe that calls for adding juice to the secondary after fermentation completes.

My question is why do you need to wait for fermentation to complete before racking? If the working yeast is suspended in the beer, won't it just get transferred over to the secondary and finish the job there? I've noticed that most people on the forums say fermentation should be complete (as measured by multiple hydrometer readings) before racking to secondary, but Brewer's Best kit instructions say to rack after 5-7 days when fermentation slows "but before it completes."

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Old 06-12-2013, 06:55 PM   #2
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i think with most ale yeasts it is fine to do as you describe. i have heard that the british proceed as you describe as a matter of course. i frankly don't think it makes much if any difference whether you rack when fermentation is 75% or 100% complete. i could be wrong.

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Old 06-12-2013, 07:41 PM   #3
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The risk (as I understand it) is a stuck fermentation. I have always wondered the same thing you are saying though. If the yeast is in suspension, why wouldn't it keep working?

Maybe because there is comparatively few yeast for the amount of sugar that is left (plus it is already an alcohol-rich environment) that the yeast could be shocked? Not sure.

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Old 06-12-2013, 08:01 PM   #4
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From what I have read, it's to limit the exposure to oxygen while primary is still going on, which then could result in off-flavors.

But as promac states, I don't think it matters if its at 75% or 100%...but rather racking to secondary while say, fermentation is only 25% is not a good idea.

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Old 06-12-2013, 08:03 PM   #5
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Not to be argumentative, but wouldn't oxygen be less of a concern early? In fact, most people specifically add oxygen early (granted, that is before ANY fermentation). I wouldn't say oxygen exposure is less detrimental later in fermentation.

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Old 06-12-2013, 09:06 PM   #6
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Sorry, my post was a bit confusing.


You are correct on adding oxygen before fermentation (aeration), but I meant oxidation, which is bad any time after fermentation begins. I believe it is just as a concern early as late after fermentation begins...its never good.

Oxidation during the Attenuative phrase of primary fermentation will result in staling reactions.

The reason you don't want to rack too soon is because you would then be taking the batch away from a large amount of yeast cells before they can clean up any off-flavors, like Diacetyl and Acetaldehyde. This is why you want to wait till fermentation goes into the conditioning phase of primary fermentation before racking to a secondary.

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Old 06-12-2013, 09:22 PM   #7
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There are many many debates on "secondary fermentation". I put this in quotes because the term itself is a bit confusing. Beer will undergo all stages of fermentation regardless of our decision to transfer to a second vessel or not. Leaving it on the spent yeast takes the guess work out of when it has sufficiently absorbed possible off flavors and eliminates a chance for oxidation and infection. The transfer gets the brew off the spent yeast and trub for extended aging and some feel better clarity, though that point is very much contested. For a quick fermenting, modest gravity brew it's tough to find a really good reason to transfer. For a lager or big ale that will sit for months conditioning, absorbing oak, or any other long delay before final packaging, you begin to take risks of off flavors from the yeast and trub if not transferred. That's why this is so often debated; there's really no right or wrong answer. There is risk versus reward though and I tend to believe there should be a substantial reward for taking a risk. For a quick ale, even with a "secondary" addition like watermelon, there's very little concrete evidence of a reward to transferring. There are tangible risks though...

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Old 06-12-2013, 09:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Demus View Post
There are many many debates on "secondary fermentation". I put this in quotes because the term itself is a bit confusing. Beer will undergo all stages of fermentation regardless of our decision to transfer to a second vessel or not. Leaving it on the spent yeast takes the guess work out of when it has sufficiently absorbed possible off flavors and eliminates a chance for oxidation and infection. The transfer gets the brew off the spent yeast and trub for extended aging and some feel better clarity, though that point is very much contested. For a quick fermenting, modest gravity brew it's tough to find a really good reason to transfer. For a lager or big ale that will sit for months conditioning, absorbing oak, or any other long delay before final packaging, you begin to take risks of off flavors from the yeast and trub if not transferred. That's why this is so often debated; there's really no right or wrong answer. There is risk versus reward though and I tend to believe there should be a substantial reward for taking a risk. For a quick ale, even with a "secondary" addition like watermelon, there's very little concrete evidence of a reward to transferring. There are tangible risks though...
Well said
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Old 06-13-2013, 12:43 AM   #9
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Thanks everyone for the feedback. I ended up transferring my watermelon wheat to a secondary carboy this afternoon after five days in the primary bucket. It was a bit sooner than I would have liked (it was still visibly fermenting) but I needed the bucket for an RIS I'm starting tonight (the RIS will sit in the bucket for at least a month). The fermentation has already taken back off and I've attached a blow-off tube because of the added juice. I'm curious to see if I have any ill effects from transferring too early.

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Old 06-13-2013, 12:56 AM   #10
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Most of the wheat beers I have added fruit to I would primary it for 2 weeks. Then rack it on the fruit (in this case cherry puree). I then had to go to a Tertiary fermenter just to clear the puree. What I found was a very clear beer, with a nice cherry smell and light taste. Even when I just bottled from the secondary it was amazingly clear, other than the puree that was left in the bottle.

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