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Old 04-01-2008, 07:46 PM   #1
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Default Is there an advantage of aging in secondary instead of only aging in bottles?

DISCLAIMER: This is an extremely NOOB-ish question.

I'm well aware that beer needs time to condition after going through fermentation. I'm also aware that this conditioning process can occur in either the secondary fermenter and the bottle.

My question is this: is there an advantage to conditioning your beer first in the secondary fermenter and then later in the bottle? Why not just leave it in the primary for two weeks and then go straight to bottling?

The only obvious advantage that I see is the extra available bottles that you will have if you use a secondary. In other words, if you have a beer that needs months of conditioning time, it might be good to leave it in the secondary for a month or two and then the bottle for a couple of months. Doing so would obviously free up the bottles for a month or two.

Beyond this, what is the advantage?

The reason that I ask is that I have at least eight cases worth of bottles. Bottle availability is probably not going to be a problem as I live with four other guys and we buy a ton of craft beer six packs.

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Old 04-01-2008, 08:11 PM   #2
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Aging in the secondary has the advantage of getting the beer as clear as possible before bottling but there's a point where it isn't going to clear anymore. That's about the time when you ought to bottle to ensure there's enough yeast to do the job. I'm guessing this is somewhere around 3 weeks after primary fermentation has ceased.

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Old 04-02-2008, 10:18 AM   #3
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A slightly different take on the same question - I know that green beer needs time to mature, and that three-month old beer is, generally speaking, better than two-week old beer. But clearing aside, is there any other advantage to bulk-aging a beer in secondary rather than aging it in bottles? (I'm not talking about an IIPA or a barley wine, just an average-sized beer). One thought I had as to why aging in secondary might be better would be that you'd be aging the beer in bulk, so you'd get less variation and a more consistent development than if you had 40 bottles, each with slightly different amounts of yeast and perhaps at slightly different temperatures. Does anyone know whether this is the case? Or would 8 weeks secondary/4 weeks in bottle be no different to 2 weeks secondary/10 weeks in bottle?
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Old 04-02-2008, 11:03 AM   #4
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And how about with lager? I have lager out in the cold in a secondary, and it is getting harder to keep it cold without refrigeration. I'm using ice in bottles that I change out twice a day, but with warmer temps it isn't lasting. I've been doing it for 2 weeks already. If I bottle it I can split it up into insulated coolers that I know will keep ice for about 2 days, and also put some in the fridge. Is there any advantage to lagering in a secondary vs. bottles?
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Old 04-02-2008, 12:17 PM   #5
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The only advantage of lagering/aging in a carboy vs in bottles, is if you don't have any bottles to age with. So once the primary fermentation is done, it doesn't matter where you age the beer, as long as it's aged.
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Old 04-02-2008, 01:09 PM   #6
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Aging in secondary is faster than aging in bottles?
I am not sure whether this is true or not, but it makes sense because there are more yeast in the secondary than there are in the bottles.
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Old 04-02-2008, 01:20 PM   #7
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That's reversed- aging in bottles is quicker because of the smaller volume. It can be influenced more easily by the environment. That's why I age my wines in carboys before bottling- more uniform aging in a slower, controlled environment. It also makes the wine the same from bottle to bottle.

For beer, I don't think it matters. It's just more convenient for me to leave it in a carboy than to haul around 50 peoples for aging.

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