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cburba 02-14-2013 03:02 PM

Secondary Fermenter-How and When?
Hello everyone and thank you for any assistance you can give. I brewed my first beer on Superbowl Sunday. And American Amber. I had all intentions of moving it into a secondary fermenter exactly one week after but when I went to do it, I realized that my carboy wasn't as clean as I had thought it to be. So needless to say I didnt do the transfer. Here it is Thursday, close to 2 weeks since brew day, carboy cleaned and I am wondering if I should do the transfer now or is it to late and just let it ride. Also, my primary is a bucket so when I open the top to siphon, how much damage am I doing allowing air into it during the transfer? Any help is greatly appreciated.

KeystoneHomebrew 02-14-2013 03:07 PM

Honestly it's good that you waited this long. One week is playing with fire if you're not sure how far along fermentation is.

Make sure the beer is done or very nearly done fermenting before moving to secondary. While you're going to get some oxygen pickup, as long as you are gentle with the beer, it is going to be very minimal. How long do you plan to keep it in secondary?

duboman 02-14-2013 03:09 PM

Being an American Amber with no dry hop occurring or any further additions there is no need to rack to a secondary vessel. Just leave it in the bucket for another week to let it finish clearing and then package it.

For future reference there are a million threads regarding the actual need to use a secondary vessel so when you are bored do some searching and reading and determine what would work best for you.

As for siphoning, there is no concern as long as you siphon properly and "quietly" so you do not create bubbles or introduce oxygen to your batch of finished beer. This applies to any time you are moving your beer be it to secondary, bottling bucket or keg.

cburba 02-14-2013 03:12 PM

I was planning on an additional 2 weeks. My birthday is March 12th so wanted to bottle on February 24th so I can have in ready and chilled for poker night the 16th. So, transferring today would be fine you think? One of the reasons I wanted to use the secondary was that my primary is also my bottling bucket so I wanted to be able to do the transfer and clean the bucket. Then on bottling day, transfer it back into the bucket and bottle. Just trying to avoid having a bunch of junk in the bottom of my bottles.

chicken 02-14-2013 03:14 PM

You can skip the secondary altogether if you want to.

When I first got into brewing, the conventional wisdom was that you needed to get the beer off the yeast to avoid off flavors, and allow the beer to clear. But many brewers now say that secondary fermentation is unnecessary in most cases. One benefit of avoiding the secondary is that you minimize the chances of contamination or oxidation.

When you do transfer your beer to secondary or a bottling bucket, siphon quietly (avoid splashing) to minimize the amount of air getting into the beer.

chicken 02-14-2013 03:45 PM

Oops, missed a couple replies while I was typing.

Your bottling bucket being your primary does complicate things, I see. You probably could go ahead and transfer to the carboy now. Do you have a hydrometer so you can check the final gravity? Your beer is probably done fermenting, but getting a hydrometer reading can be helpful.

As the previous poster mentioned, there are a lot of threads about secondary vs. long primary that make for some interesting reading.

ACbrewer 02-14-2013 03:58 PM

To answer your question in general - when should I rack from primary to secondary. After the fermentation has finished - usually after 2 gravity readings that are the same and at or close to your final expected OG. Usually this will be in teh 7 to 10 day range. Higher gravity beers or lower pitches might take longer.

Is it needed? well some say yes others say no, as Chicken mentioned, there are a lot of threads on the 'secondary' issue. In general it is used by almost everyone when that have post ferment dry hopping, or are doing a fruit addtion, etc. I think many maybe even most have moved away from doing a secondary unless they have a reason like dry hopping.

In this specific case of yours, I think it is a wash, except you started in your bucket and now need to rack out to bottle. BUT even there you don't need to rack out if you don't want. Most people bottle using some sugar and water, but they sell 'carbination tabs' which are basically little sugar tables, well about the size of a piece of candy, so you could bottle straight - the first 2 or 3 bottles might get alot of yeast.

I personally use 2 bottling buckets, ferment in 1 for 3 weeks, rack to the other and bottle. But that is me. There are a lot of people on HBT, and there are 3x as many 'best methods'

ACbrewer 02-14-2013 04:00 PM

Oh if you decide to skip secondary's in the future, I strongly recomend that you don't use a carboy for primary if it is only 5 gallons. I'm not getting into a bucket v carboy pro/con (see other threads) I'm merely trying to avoid you coming back late with a "I don't have enough head space" post. Recommended is something like 20 to 30% head space. A 6 to 6.5 gallon carboy is prefered for primarying - along with a blow off tube.

cburba 02-14-2013 05:01 PM

I am thinking now after reading all these posts that my best course may be to just leave it in the primary for now. I am going to just go buy another bucket for bottling so I don't have to do two seperate transfers. I am having to just convince myself that this is the first of many so I can try different things as I go. As prepared as I thought I was, I can see how this is to become a never ending learning process. Thanks.

norsk 02-14-2013 06:17 PM


Originally Posted by cburba (Post 4903427)
As prepared as I thought I was, I can see how this is to become a never ending learning process. Thanks.

Bingo... Been at this a few years and have over a 100 brews under my belt... still learning more every day...

FWIW... fermenting in buckets with spigots makes life a lot simpler when it comes to transfers, sampling, etc.... and I rarely use a secondary.

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