What is the purpose of the secondary? - Home Brew Forums
Register Now For Free!

Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > What is the purpose of the secondary?

Thread Tools
Old 03-19-2009, 03:07 AM   #1
Mar 2009
New Jersey
Posts: 83

Okay, some of you have seen my recent post on the "Introductions" thread. I'm new here and new to homebrewing. In fact, I'm still doing some research on what starter kit to purchase and I'm hoping to make my first purchase in the next week or two.

After looking at various starter kits, I've noticed that some come with secondary fermentors and others do not. Likewise, I've seen some posts where some homebrewers use a secondary, while others do not. I suppose it is a matter of personal preference. But my question is; what is the true purpose of the secondary fermentor? Is it simply for clarification of the brew?

My follow-up question; is anything added to the brew when transferring from the primary to the secondary?

Thanks in advance.

Reply With Quote
Old 03-19-2009, 03:15 AM   #2
Jan 2009
Posts: 102

I currently have two primaries on the go, and no secondaries. I'm curious to hear the answer to this as well.

Reply With Quote
Old 03-19-2009, 03:28 AM   #3
Nov 2004
Posts: 2,635
Liked 207 Times on 173 Posts

A secondary fermentation will make the beer more "finished". Yes, more material will settle out of the beer but there are also processes still at work though at a much slower rate than in the primary. Secondary time lets certain byproducts of fermentation be "cleaned up" by the yeast and allows the beer to mellow, if you will. It's not absolutely necessary and many don't bother but it will improve most beers IMO.

DJ: Nothing is added at transfer to secondary. The exception would be the addition of fruit, cocoa, wood chips, etc to flavor a specialty beer.

Reply With Quote
Old 03-19-2009, 03:29 AM   #4
Jan 2009
Collierville, TN
Posts: 61

I've only done a half dozen batches or so and have always used a secondary; it seems that alot of the more experienced brewers have gotten away from it. I sue it mainly because that is what the recipe kits I bought told me to do. However, after reading so many more experienced brewers not doing it I am reconsidering. There are still a couple of reasons that I might continue using a secondary: 1)My primary is an 8+ gallon bucket -- with that much head space I hardly ever have any trouble with kruzen over flowing the air lock with a 5 gallon batch. Once the foam subsides I can put it in a smaller carboy without over flow freeing up my larger primary for another batch. 2)My secondary carboys are clear so I can see the progress of the beer finishing fermenting and clearing in order to decide when to keg it in stead of pulling samples. 3)It's fun to watch the beer evolve -- I wish my primary was clear so I could watch the initial phase. I guess using a primary was initially to get the beer off of the trub/dreggs which was thought to contribute to off tastes and to help it clear, but the experienced guys seem to say it doesn't make a difference. At this point I just like fooling with it. My 2 cents.

Reply With Quote
Old 03-19-2009, 03:34 AM   #5
Oct 2008
Posts: 229

Secondary gets the beer off the troob, or all the dead yeast, left over hops, etc.

It's just a matter of preference. I secondary my beer, then I can see when it is clear and ready for the keg.

Reply With Quote
Old 03-19-2009, 03:35 AM   #6
Aleforge's Avatar
May 2007
Wentzville, Missouri
Posts: 1,232
Liked 4 Times on 4 Posts

The clarify mostly, some higher gravity beers/meads/ciders can benefit from the aging off of the cake. In all honesty you will get a bunch of guys on here, some very well respected who skip the secondary phase. It seems as long as you allow it to finish up in the primary and settle you can skip the extra chance of infection and/or oxidation.

However then you get the guys who swear by it, so each their own really. If its just a normal gravity beer and you use Irish moss or another clarifying agent you will be fine to skip the secondary in most cases.
PRIMARY - Irish Red
PRIMARY - Apple Bee Cider
PRIMARY - Dunkelweizen
PRIMARY - Orange Blossom Mead

"A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Reply With Quote
Old 03-19-2009, 03:38 AM   #7
...My Junk is Ugly...
BierMuncher's Avatar
Jan 2007
St. Louis, MO
Posts: 12,420
Liked 809 Times on 439 Posts

Homebrewers call them secondaries. Micro-breweries call them "bright tanks".

It's where the excess yeast has a better chance of falling out, allowing the beer to clear better.

I'm a fan:
Click image for larger version

Name:	10Der_3.jpg
Views:	148
Size:	64.4 KB
ID:	10335

Click image for larger version

Name:	Blonde_Ale2.jpg
Views:	145
Size:	47.1 KB
ID:	10336

Click image for larger version

Name:	HappyFri_4.jpg
Views:	142
Size:	76.6 KB
ID:	10337

Reply With Quote
Old 03-19-2009, 03:42 AM   #8
Mar 2007
Oak Creek, WI
Posts: 538
Liked 6 Times on 3 Posts

Originally Posted by BierMuncher View Post
Homebrewers call them secondaries. Micro-breweries call them "bright tanks".

It's where the excess yeast has a better chance of falling out, allowing the beer to clear better.

I'm a fan:
I like them too! Usually I cold crash the secondary to help the beer to clear faster.

Given the volume BM brews, I'm sure he needs to clear his primaries to keep production flowing. That's another +1 for secondaries.

Reply With Quote
Old 03-19-2009, 03:46 AM   #9
Anthony_Lopez's Avatar
Mar 2008
Groton, MA
Posts: 1,536
Liked 24 Times on 10 Posts

I use a secondary for many of my beers. While it isn't necessary, contact with trub and yeast can lead to off flavors in your beer. At the volume we are fermenting, I'd guess this isn't as big an issue as with larger volume fermentation, and that is why many of HBT's veteran brewers are stating it as unneccessary (We all know what ASSuming does). During primary fermentation, your plastic bucket works quite well as a fermenter because so much CO2 is being created that oxygen permeation of the bucket is not a factor. Once fermentation subsides, oxygen can begin to leach in through plastic. If you are going to rack right into a bottling bucket after your primary and bottle or keg, then this is fine. If you plan on aging the beer, a glass carboy is your friend. With glass, the oxygen permeability is not a factor, and you can let that beer age as long as you'd like. My dubbel has been sitting for 3 months now in secondary, and has 3 more to go.

Aside from oxygen permeability, the secondary is great for racking onto additives (already mentioned above) The secondary is also helpful if you want to let the beer clear out more.
I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.
--Tom Waits

You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.
--Frank Zappa

My Cheap and Easy Stirplate

Reply With Quote
Old 03-19-2009, 04:45 AM   #10
Mar 2009
Posts: 368
Liked 1 Times on 1 Posts

I'd suggest not using a secondary for your first batch. The first batch is like torcher waiting until you get to taste it. If you start with a no-boil kit, a secondary isn't really necessary. When you start using specialty grains, you'll have more grain particles you want to let settle to the bottom. With a no-boil kit, you'll only have the yeast and since there will be yeast in the bottom of your bottles anyway, who cares.

That said, should you buy a kit with a secondary or not? That's entirely up to you. You can always buy one later.

Reply With Quote
Thread Tools

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Purpose of lagering? brewmonger Brew Science 16 03-07-2009 05:01 PM
Purpose for gypsum Bob869007 All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing 3 10-15-2008 07:18 PM
purpose of a starter? bringitonhome Beginners Beer Brewing Forum 7 10-01-2008 04:37 PM
carboy purpose gmal1 Equipment/Sanitation 9 05-11-2006 02:08 PM
What is the purpose of secondary fermentation? Fillabong Beginners Beer Brewing Forum 5 04-27-2005 01:47 AM

Forum Jump