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Old 12-04-2012, 10:35 PM   #1
Daniel1980
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Default Secondary Fermenter

Ok I am about halfway through my first brew and I just found this app/chat group today. I've been reading that a secondary fermenter isn't necessary and could be detrimental.
5 days into the fermentation I transferred from my primary to a carboy as was instructed. Did I just mess up?

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Old 12-04-2012, 10:39 PM   #2
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There have been a lot of posts on this subject. Some use a secondary some don't. And most will say the instructions out of a kit aren't always the best to follow as far as how long you should ferment before racking to a secondary and or bottling. 5 days seems soon for you to take it out of the primary and off the yeast cake. Maybe should have waited 2 weeks or so before racking to the secondary so the yeast can clean up behind itself.

But as far as it ruining your beer, it should be fine. I did the same thing with my first batch except I bottled after about 7 days. And after being bottle for a little over a month the taste has improved greatly.

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Old 12-04-2012, 10:42 PM   #3
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What were you fermenting in before transferring it to a carboy? Your beer should be fine, and I'm sure will taste great. What type of beer is it?

The big concerns with transfers are the risk of infection and oxygenating the wort. The need to transfer to a secondary transfers seems to be debatable as I've noticed. For adding things like hops, fruits, etc it is a wise move, but often 3 weeks in the primary fermenter is ok. Search around in this site and in sure you'll find more info.

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Old 12-04-2012, 10:43 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erich8
There have been a lot of posts on this subject. Some use a secondary some don't. And most will say the instructions out of a kit aren't always the best to follow as far as how long you should ferment before racking to a secondary and or bottling. 5 days seems soon for you to take it out of the primary and off the yeast cake. Maybe should have waited 2 weeks or so before racking to the secondary so the yeast can clean up behind itself.
+1 for waiting
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Old 12-04-2012, 10:54 PM   #5
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I agree with the above. I personally secondary because I get less trub in my bottling bucket, but I fully agree that this is a personal preference, and is not at all necessary.

With that being said, I always wait at least two (usually three+) weeks before racking... it makes sure that fermentation is done.

Doubtful that you hurt anything, but next time, be a little more patient.

Also - follow fit directions in regards to the ingredient schedule, then throw the silly thing away. They are useless in terms of ageing, bottling, etc.

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Old 12-04-2012, 11:06 PM   #6
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Did you take a gravity reading BEFORE you racked? How do you know it was time to rack? How do you know that your yeast didn't take 3 days to start (like it says in the sticky at the top of the beginner's section) and therefore it's not day 5 of fermentation, but day 2??? Whether you rack or not is not the issue..the issue is that you did so before ascertaining whehter fermentation is complete, and racking could stop fermentation.

If you choose to rack you should do so after fermentation is complete, NOT by some calendar or instruction manual, yeast can't read, so instructions and calendars don't really work for them. Fermentation can take as much as two weeks before finishing up usually between a week to 10 days, so 5 day is way too soon in many ways.

You determine if fermentation is complete by taking 2 gravity readings over a 3 day period, if the gravity is the same, then it is safe to move.

I recommend to folks that if they do choose to secondary they take their first gravity around day 10 or 12, and their second two days later, that means racking the beer to secondary around the 2 week mark, that gives the yeast plenty of time to finish fermenting, AND to go back and clean up the byproducts of fermentation that leads to off flavors....The yeast are fastiduous creatures and will if given enough time clean up after themselves.....but that requires the most yeast contact...after that is when you want to rack the beer, after they've vleaned up diacetyl and other things that contribute to off flavors...then you move it to clear the beer....or do what many of us do, and just leave it in primary for another two weeks or more.

Whether to secondary or to leave it in an extended primary are both viable ways to do things....but the point is not to rush the beer from one step to another though. But there's no reason I would ever move a beer on day 5.

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Old 12-04-2012, 11:13 PM   #7
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+1 to secondary. It isn't necessary, but if you have the time it is definitely worth it. The impatient like to bottle and carb during conditioning which isn't bad, but it's not as thorough as it could be. Even if it is only marginal, you'll end up with a better product using a secondary. I've never hear of a negative side effect as long as you use the secondary correctly (i.e. good sanitation, minimal head space to prevent oxidization, etc.) Even if you are bottle aging, it doesn't hurt to let it sit in the secondary for a couple weeks and let more sediment fall out allowing your beer to clarify that much more.

tl;dr - Secondary fermentation isn't necessary
Secondary fermentation is almost always a good thing
When done properly, Secondary fermenting will not hurt your beer.

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Old 12-04-2012, 11:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by techbrewie View Post
+1 to secondary. It isn't necessary, but if you have the time it is definitely worth it. The impatient like to bottle and carb during conditioning which isn't bad, but it's not as thorough as it could be. Even if it is only marginal, you'll end up with a better product using a secondary. I've never hear of a negative side effect as long as you use the secondary correctly (i.e. good sanitation, minimal head space to prevent oxidization, etc.) Even if you are bottle aging, it doesn't hurt to let it sit in the secondary for a couple weeks and let more sediment fall out allowing your beer to clarify that much more.

Ist. You don't have to rack to a secondary, you can do an extended primary. If you have "time or patience" you can choose to do one or the other...leave it alone in primary for a month or more, or rack to a secondary for a month or more.

Those of us who do an extended primary, have found that we think our beer is clearer and better tasting than when we secondarying, but that's a matter of preference. They both work fine.

Rushing the beer is a problem, not how you choose to condition the beer. As is racking the beer to secondary too soon. I suggest you read THIS thread, it's become the "uber discussion" on this topic.

To Secondary or Not? John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff Weigh In .

Quote:
tl;dr - Secondary fermentation isn't necessary
Secondary fermentation is almost always a good thing
When done properly, Secondary fermenting will not hurt your beer.
You are getting "secondary fermentation" and a secondary confused for one thing.

Secondary fermentation is a misnomer, since no fermentaion SHOULD happen in the secondary. The secondary is to clear your beer/wine/cider/mead.

There is a "secondary fermentation stage," but it happens in your primary along with lagtime, and reproductive phase. It is part of the life cycle of the yeast, and it all happens before it is time to move it to a clearing tank, (secondary vessel or brite tank"

Here's John Palmer's explanation of the Secondary fermentation Phase

Quote:
The fermentation of malt sugars into beer is a complicated biochemical process. It is more than just the conversion of sugar to alcohol, which can be regarded as the primary activity. Total fermentation is better defined as three phases, the Adaptation or Lagtime phase, the Primary or Attenuative phase and a Secondary or Conditioning phase. The yeast do not end Phase 2 before beginning Phase 3, the processes occur in parallel, but the conditioning processes occur more slowly. As the majority of simple sugars are consumed, more and more of the yeast will transition to eating the larger, more complex sugars and early yeast by-products. This is why beer (and wine) improves with age to a degree, as long as they are on the yeast. Beer that has been filtered or pasteurized will not benefit from aging.

The reactions that take place during the conditioning phase are primarily a function of the yeast. The vigorous primary stage is over, the majority of the wort sugars have been converted to alcohol, and a lot of the yeast cells are going dormant - but some are still active.

The Secondary Phase allows for the slow reduction of the remaining fermentables. The yeast have eaten most all of the easily fermentable sugars and now start to turn their attention elsewhere. The yeast start to work on the heavier sugars like maltotriose. Also, the yeast clean up some of the byproducts they produced during the fast-paced primary phase. ...
It's easy to see how confusing the terms are...that's why we try to get outta the habit of saying secondary fermentation...and just say secondary...or bright tank (mostly just secondary, dropping fermenter or fermentation, since fermentation should be finished before you rack it to the secondary. After the hydrometer reading stays the same for 3 days.

Donman sums it up pretty well;

Quote:
dontman
I thought Palmer was actually pretty good about differentiating between Secondary Fermenting and Secondary Fermentation. I found Papazian to be less so. When I read Papazian the first time I was left with the exact impressions that you have and when I look at my brew logs from 1992 I was regularly doing 4 and 5 day primaries and then secondary. He actually made me feel like the sooner off the yeast cake the better.

You are confusing secondary fermentation with secondary fermenter. Very easy to do.

Secondary fermentation occurs while the yeast is still in solution immediately after the conversion of sugars to alcohol. During that time there is tons of proteins and partially digested sugars in solution in addition to the waste products of the yeast, plus any esters and fusel they create while they ferment. During secondary fermentation the yeast will clean up these esters, and the fusels, and reabsorb a lot of their waste products.

Once this process is complete if you choose THEN you can rack to the Secondary Fermenter. This is a also called a bright tank or clearing tank and it is where the sedimentation occurs. This is where the most of the proteins and other detritus fall out of solution and the beer clears. Yes, the yeast is still present in this tank but because the vast majority has been left behind in the primary tank any benefit from the yeast at this stage is greatly diminished.

Now as to using a secondary vessel, nowadays people rarely use them, except to add fruit or oak. Most folks instead opt for a month long primary instead.

If clarity is your ONLY goal, then Leave you can just as easily leave your beer a month in primary instead.

You'll find that more and more recipes these days do not advocate moving to a secondary at all, but mention primary for a month, which is starting to reflect the shift in brewing culture that has occurred in the last 4 years, MOSTLY because of many of us on here, skipping secondary, opting for longer primaries, and writing about it. Recipes in BYO have begun stating that in their magazine. I remember the "scandal" it caused i the letters to the editor's section a month later, it was just like how it was here when we began discussing it, except a lot more civil than it was here. But after the Byo/Basic brewing experiment, they started reflecting it in their recipes.

Fermenting the beer is just a part of what the yeast do. If you leave the beer alone, they will go back and clean up the byproducts of fermentation that often lead to off flavors. That's why many brewers skip secondary and leave our beers alone in primary for a month. It leaves plenty of time for the yeast to ferment, clean up after themselves and then fall out, leaving our beers crystal clear, with a tight yeast cake.
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Old 12-04-2012, 11:55 PM   #9
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Ok, it is an American Amber kit from Brewersbest. Like I said its my first attempt so I knew I'd probably screw up. The starting gravity was at 50 and was at 11 when I transferred.
I'm a little worried now from reading that I may have indeed screwed up. Sounds like its time to pick up another kit and this time leave it in my primary.

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Old 12-04-2012, 11:58 PM   #10
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Just leave this one alone for a few weeks. If it dropped to 1.011 when you racked you're more than likely ok. Some beers when people settle on premature-erackulation their beer gets stuck.

You didn't ruin your beer. Your beer will be fine. But as you do more batches and leave things longer you will find how easy it is to go from beer that is simply "fine" to beer that is outstanding, just by letting the yeast do their thing, and not rushing or interfering.

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