Beginner. What is the purpose of secondary fermentation in a glass carboy?

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kingofsweden

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I bought the $75 kit from Northern Brewer and it came with the Irish Red Ale Recipe kit. the kit says to transfer it to a glass carboy for 2 more weeks after 2 weeks in the primary bucket fermenter. Then it says if no glass carboy is available leave it in the plastic bucket for 1 extra week.
 

JordanKnudson

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Using a secondary fermentor is often an unnecessary step. The main reason for using a secondary is to get the beer off of the yeast cake, but this is really only a major issue when you are planning to bulk age the beer for months after primary fermentation is complete. It can also be used to help the beer get clear, but really it's not especially important for most brews.

The use of a glass carboy is not necessary, either. You can really use any fermentation vessel that you want. Glass is non-porous, and that's why it's recommended for long-term conditioning/aging/etc., but if you wanted to do a few weeks of secondary using another plastic bucket, it wouldn't be a problem.

For your kit, don't worry about it. Give it 2-3 weeks in primary, transfer it to your bottling bucket, add your priming solution per the directions (unless you're using carbonation tablets) and bottle. Just make sure that your bottling bucket, tubing, and bottles/caps are all well-sanitized before you start.
 

Beernik

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It used to generally be accepted that you needed to get beer off of the yeast that accumulates at the bottom of the primary as soon as possible. That was because of something called autolysis, where yeast cells explode and release nasty stuff back into your beer.

Autolysis is generally only a problem for low quality yeasts or if you have big, tall conical fermenters.

The other reason might be if you were to leave it in a plastic bucket for a very long time, you could get oxidized off flavors because the plastic walls are oxygen permeable. But it has to be a really long time.

So, unless you are doing something really specialized, I say don't worry about it. Just leave it in the bucket for an extra week.

I only use my glass carboys when making cider/wine/mead or making a Brett beer. I use it for cider/wine/mead because I want to avoid odors in my buckets and glass is easier to clean. I use it for my Brett's also because of the cleaning issue.
 

BigFloyd

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What they said ^^^^^^.

Getting the beer off the yeast quickly is important for commercial brewers fermenting hundreds of gallons in large conical vessels due to the weight pressing down on the yeast (leading to autolysis), but it's not a real concern for us having our measly 5-10 gallons on the yeast cake 2-4 weeks. It's unfortunate that many kit instructions still tell folks to transfer out of the primary when it can be counterproductive to do so.

If you desire clear beer (as do I) and less bottle trub, cold crash the primary for 5-7 days at 35*F before transferring to the bottling bucket.
 

CraigKing

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I have two plastic Ale Pales, and two plastic Culligan water jugs I use for fermentation. Doing a primary and secondary, also gives you the flexibility to have multiple batches going at one time. I also noticed the clarity of my beer increased 100x when I started using a secondary. Plus, when you start adding things like dry hops or cocoa nibs to your beer, you can do those in your secondary and let things mellow.
 

Puddlethumper

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+1 to the above ^^^

That being said, I would like to touch on a couple finer points that you might find helpful.

For most beers you will be making, leaving the beer in the primary fermenter for 2-4 weeks, cold crash and package, will yield excellent beer. There will be occasions where you may find that glass 5 gal carboy pretty useful.

I like to use gelatin as a fining agent for light colored beers such as American Amber, cream ale or APA, etc. This requires that the beer be very cold before adding the fining agent. To do this I've found it useful to rack the beer to a smaller vessel (5 gal carboy) and chill it to 35-40F. Add the fining agent and allow to set for a few days. Then rack off the small amount of trub in the bottom to my keg (or bottling bucket). This yields an exceptionally clear finished beer with a minimum of sediment in the bottle. For this you could use either a glass or plastic carboy since o2 permeation isn't an issue.

The second use would be for long-term aging, such as a barleywine or Imperial Stout, etc. You will want to pull the beer off it's yeast cake within a few weeks and then move it to a glass carboy for aging. This could also be done in a keg. What matters here is that the aging vessel is as imperiable to o2 as possible and there is a minimum of headspace. Headspace in the keg can be overcome by purging with co2. Headspace in the carboy can only be overcome by filling into the neck, thus reducing surface exposure to o2.
 

pjj2ba

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As a beginner, the easiest thing to do is to leave it in the primary. No harm will come to your beer.

To use a secondary or not is a personal decision. By sitting on the yeast cake longer, that gives it more time to influence the flavor of the beer. Some folks prefer their beer without these extra flavors, so they will transfer the beer off the yeast once fermentation is complete. Many folks like the flavors from the extra time on the yeast, and others don't care
 
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