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Old 06-12-2011, 02:13 PM   #1
kenpotf
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Default Secondary fermenter question

All,

I'm going to start brewing my first batch next weekend, but I've been reading up on using secondary fermentation for clearing. (Who doesn't like clear beer?) I have a couple of questions:

1.) When I siphon from my primary to a secondary, do I still need to have an airlock on the secondary, or is it okay to just cap the carboy, or put a lid on a bucket? (I don't have my secondary yet, but I'm deciding between better bottle and a standard 5-gallon bucket.)

2.) I've heard that you don't need to secondary for most unless you're going to be using fruits or other flavor enhancers like oak, etc. I'd like to get into that, so I'm also assuming that if I wanted, say bananas in my beer, I'd put mashed up bananas in the secondary before siphoning from the primary?

Thanks!

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Old 06-12-2011, 02:49 PM   #2
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1: use an airlock for multiple reasons, fermentation may not be done entirely so you want that co2 to escape, also changes in temperature or even barametric pressure will cause the fermenter to release gas so you want to give it the chance instead of waiting for the lid to blow, plus airlocks are cheap

2: I do secondary on most of my beers to clarify and to ensure that it is done fermenting so I don't get bottle bombs, if you are racking on top of something just put it in and put the beer in overtop, just make sure everything is sanitized first

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Old 06-12-2011, 03:00 PM   #3
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I only secondary beers if I'm going go dry hop them (or add some other flavoring post-fermentation.) If I'm not, I primary 3-4 weeks. That said, I dry hop the majority of my brews, so I used a secondary quite a bit.... Definitely use an airlock! Anything can make the beer release gas. I've noticed even hops absorbing liquid and releasing air can cause quite a bit of airlock activity.
Also, I'm sure you've heard, or will hear this, there's a risk of oxygenation and contamination any time you open your fermentor. This risk increases when racking your beer. Pay very close attention to sanitation of equipment and the room you rack in. To avoid oxygenation if you have a kegging system, you can use you co2 tank and lay a blanket of co2 in the carboy and immediately rack on top of that. If you don't have the co2 system, just be careful not to agitate the beer and you'll be fine.
All that said, if you're not adding anything to the fermentor, skip secondary. Your beer will still be clear if you ferment it fully in primary.

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Old 06-12-2011, 03:04 PM   #4
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Yes, put an airlock on your secondary. I dont think it really matters if you use a bucket for secondary, as long as youre not going to leave it in there for like 3 months. I would definitely pick up a carboy if you're going to be using secondary fermentation techniques, it can be glass or better bottle, I like to see what's going on in there, but that's just my opinion.

You really don't need a secondary fermentation, unless your dry hopping or adding additional flavors as you suggested. When adding the flavoring you can either rack (siphon) onto of it or simply add it after you transfer it to your other container. Not to change the thread and stray from your original question, BUT, you wouldn't want to just simply add chopped up banana to your beer without pasteurizing or another method of making sure you add clean ingredients to your brew.

Bottom line, secondary isn't necessary...you can just leave it in primary for a few extra weeks if you're just looking for a little more clarity. I would suggest picking up a carboy if you plan to lager eventually or use secondary fermentation. In the end, if you don't you can at least have 2 batches going instead of one.

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Old 06-12-2011, 03:18 PM   #5
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Another voice into the chorus of secondary being not needed as a 'standard practice' in order to get clear brews. Long primaries will get the brew just as clear, and has other advantages. Add the time you were going to use for secondary to primary and that should be when you start sampling to see if the brew is ready to bottle/keg. I'm not talking about when it's done fermenting, rather that it's actually READY for being bottled. You can hit the FG within a couple of weeks (depending on the OG), that doesn't mean the brew won't benefit from more time on the yeast.

I've dry hopped in primary, as has my brew buddy, with great results. One less racking in that process. Also makes adding dry hops take only a couple of minutes. I DO rack to another vessel when aging with something like oak, placing onto something that does better off the yeast, or I need to stop a previous flavor addition before adding another one.

The autolysis boogie-man has pretty much been put down for home brewers. At our scale, and in our shape/size fermenters, it's really not an issue. There are people (on these boards) that have gone 6+ months with a brew on the yeast cake without any issues.

A lot of what the more senior members (of these boards) have been saying about fermentation process has been validated in the new Yeast book (by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff)... I'm still reading through my copy, but I do recommend people at least look through it (at the bookstore) and decide if it's something they want to own. It goes into actual details as to the benefits of the long primary process, over primary/secondary (or bright tank)...

BTW, racking to secondary doesn't offer any more guarantee that fermentation is finished compared to leaving the brew on the yeast for the duration. The only REAL way to determine fermentation is finished is with matching SG readings spaced at least 2-3 days apart. Even then, I always taste the brew before bottling it up.

Keep in mind, any time you rack your brew, once fermentation has started, you run the risk of oxidation and/or contamination. Seems rather silly, to me, to open yourself up to those items when you don't need to. IF you're short of primaries, that's a pretty easy fix. Far better to get more primaries, IMO, than rack to open one up. Especially if the brew isn't ready yet.

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Old 06-12-2011, 08:21 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies everyone! I'm going to do my first batch all in my primary for 3-4 weeks like you suggested to see how clear I can get it. I do want to get to the point of trying to make a pumpkin ale which would require a secondary, but I'll hold off until I find out how my first batch goes. I appreciate all of the replies, and thanks for verifying that I need an airlock for my carboy...I think I'm going with a better bottle instead of glass....

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Old 06-12-2011, 10:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
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(Who doesn't like clear beer?)
If clear is your goal, I have three words for you, cold crash and gelatin.
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Old 06-13-2011, 12:51 AM   #8
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Um...what's that? "Cold crash and gelatin."

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