• We have a new forum and it needs your help! Homebrewing Deals is a forum to post whatever deals and specials you find that other homebrewers might value! Includes coupon layering, Craigslist finds, eBay finds, Amazon specials, etc.

Can I skip the secondary fermentation?

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

GRHunter

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
564
Reaction score
13
Location
Michigan
I bought a Brewers Best Weizenbier kit and it recommends a secondary fermentation for clarity and cleaner taste. Being as it's my first batch of beer I really don't want to tack on an extra 2 weeks on to my finish date. So for an impatient newbie is skipping the secondary fermentation really a big deal?
 

mkory

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2009
Messages
156
Reaction score
2
Location
Fishers
You can skip the secondary fermentation, but you shouldn't skip the two weeks. The beer will significantly improve during that time as the yeast is still doing work to your beer. I do 3 weeks in the primary, then bottle.
 

Erythro73

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2009
Messages
311
Reaction score
7
Location
Montreal
Patience is a virtue. You'll be rewarded for it with a greater taste. Take your hydrometer readings, and if it's stable for 3-4 days, you can bottle.

But people here recommend to not do a secondary fermentation and only primary for 4 weeks. Use the search function to know more.
 

llazy_llama

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 20, 2009
Messages
2,832
Reaction score
92
Location
Rapid City, South Dakota
Not using a secondary fermenter isn't a big deal if you plan on leaving it in primary longer. Skipping out on a secondary vessel and bottling early is generally going to lead to inferior beer. There are plenty of articles with pages upon pages of discussion detailing the extended primary/no secondary technique, but I doubt anyone around here would encourage you to skip the secondary and bottle early (which is exactly what you'd be doing.)

Just be patient. We all get the urge to rush things, but if you do, your beer will suffer for it. Good things come to those who wait, especially when it comes to beer. Give it time, and it'll be better for the wait. :mug:
 

Bob

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2007
Messages
3,928
Reaction score
162
Location
Christiansted, St Croix, USVI
Truth. You don't need to rack the beer if you don't want. I tend to, because I like to fine the beer in the second vessel. But plenty of brewers - including me from time to time - just leave the beer in the primary the entire time.

By no means skip the two weeks of bulk aging. Your palate will thank you for it.

Look at it this way: You've just spent a not inconsiderable amount of time, effort and money on brewing better, fresher beer than that which you can buy. Why on earth would you rush a centuries-old process? Yeah, I know - to enjoy your beer more quickly. But in this game patience is the best of all virtues (okay, it runs a very close second to cleanliness, but you get my point).

Have patience, young padawan. :D

Regards,

Bob
 

TipsyDragon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2009
Messages
2,607
Reaction score
25
Location
California
you can not skip secondary fermentation but you can skip using a secondary fermenter. most people get these terms confused. primary fermentation is the process of converting sugars to CO2 and alcohol. this process produces lots of byproducts that affect taste. during secondary fermentation the yeast clean up these byproducts. secondary fermentation occurs at the same time and continues after primary fermentation.

the logic behind racking to a secondary is to let the beer clear and drop yeast. allot of people on here, myself included, leave the beer on the yeast in the primary for a minimum of 2 weeks then go straight to bottling. the longer you leave the beer on the yeast the more they can clean up after themselves and a better product you will have. my advice is to wait 2 weeks plus as much as you can stand before bottling.
 

mikebiewer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2010
Messages
220
Reaction score
0
Location
Fargo, ND
I know it is tough... I've only got two batches under my belt and two more sitting here aging and it is super hard not to just go for it. However, that is why I've put myself on a 2 week schedule. Every two weeks I'm moving things over from primary to secondary, or secondary into bottles, or primary into bottles so that I can brew up another batch. I spend way to much money on 6 packs of beer and in about a month I'm going to have 3 beers on tap and 3 in fermentation stages. Its my goal consistently have 2 beers on tap all the time.

So like everyone else is saying...be patient. Start another batch to pass the time...
 

MDBUCKHUNTER

Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
6
Reaction score
0
Location
BALTIMORE, MD
If you use a secondary you open up your primary for another brew. It makes the waiting easier.
Fantastic advice. This is what I highly recommend. Take that anxiety for a beer and put in into making your next batch. The next thing you know...your beer will be ready to consume.
 

iron_city_ap

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 26, 2009
Messages
808
Reaction score
12
Location
Valparaiso, Indiana
If you use a secondary you open up your primary for another brew. It makes the waiting easier.
Take a week off between batches so you can a: go over your mistakes and plan out batch #2 and b: space out your batches a little bit. Filling up your pipeline like that is a GREAT idea. You will probably want to tear into your 1st batch early, so it will buy your 2nd batch time to mature properly. You just need to have ALOT of bottles ready to go.:drunk:

Was the karate kid able to bust out that crane kick after 1 lesson? No. Dude had to wax cars and sand floors and paint fences for weeks, but look how his patience paid off.....
 

Revvy

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Dec 11, 2007
Messages
41,307
Reaction score
3,651
Location
"Detroitish" Michigan
If you use a secondary you open up your primary for another brew. It makes the waiting easier.
You can also buy another fermenter and leave your beer in primary for a month.

GRHunter, as much as you are impatient for your beer to be ready, you have to realize that you are not in charge of the beer, your yeast is...And they have their own agenda.

If you want to brew another batch, go get a second bucket, or brew a 4 gallon batch in your carboy but don't rush your beer out of primary, just because you're impatient.

The 1-2-3 method, or anything that advocates moving a beer out of primary based on a time frame of just a few days is NOT one of the best methods out there, even sillier than going by airlock action.

You can't really do something arbitrarily, you have to learn to "read" your beers, the hydrometer is the best way to do that.

You will find that many of us leave our beers in primary for 3-4 weeks (or more) and only secondary if we are adding fruit or oak, or to dry hop (though many of us dry hop in primary now as well)....and we have found our beer vastly improved by letting the beer stay in contact with the yeast.

There's been a big shift in brewing consciousness in the last few years where many of us believe that yeast is a good thing, and besides just fermenting the beer, that they are fastidious creatures who go back and clean up any by products created by themselves during fermentation, which may lead to off flavors.

Rather than the yeast being the cause of off flavors, it is now looked at by many of us, that they will if left alone actually remove those off flavors, and make for clearer and cleaner tasting beers.

Even John Palmer talks about this in How To Bew;

How To Brew said:
Leaving an ale beer in the primary fermentor for a total of 2-3 weeks (instead of just the one week most canned kits recommend), will provide time for the conditioning reactions and improve the beer. This extra time will also let more sediment settle out before bottling, resulting in a clearer beer and easier pouring. And, three weeks in the primary fermentor is usually not enough time for off-flavors to occur.
And often you will find that the yeast have their own timeframe, and agenda, because it is they who are in charge after all, not us. :D They've been doing it for 45 million years, so they are pros...

Patience is your friend. Learn to it and you will make great beers.

:mug:
 

spiny_norman

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2009
Messages
198
Reaction score
3
Location
San Diego, CA
I stopped using a secondary quite recently. Even with aggressively dry hopped beers I'm still only using a primary and I don't even bother fining anymore (simply cold crashing for a few days at the end seems to work just fine). And this is only because of the wisdom of generous seasoned brewers who are generous enough to share their experience.

I do 3 weeks in primary, dry hop, wait another 7 days, cold crash for 3 and then keg or bottle. I prime whether it's kegged or bottled so I then store at room temp for 4 weeks, cellar temp for x weeks (depending on style) and cold condition for 2 or 3 weeks before serving. I'm a novice though, so I could be doing it all wrong.

(If I was a commercial brewery... I'm sure those bright tanks are a heck of a lot cheaper than the fermentors so it probably makes a lot of sense for these guys to transfer asap to free up the conicals for the next batch).
 
OP
GRHunter

GRHunter

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
564
Reaction score
13
Location
Michigan
I think I'll leave it in the primary fermenter for a full 3 weeks, and then move it to the secondary for a final 2 weeks. I guess if it's worth doing it's worth doing right. Thanks for all the advise people.
 

AnOldUR

fer-men-TAY-shuhn
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Mar 12, 2007
Messages
6,863
Reaction score
860
I think I'll leave it in the primary fermenter for a full 3 weeks, check the gravity and if is ready then move it to the secondary for a final 2 weeks. I guess if it's worth doing it's worth doing right. Thanks for all the advise people.
Fixed that for you. :D
 
OP
GRHunter

GRHunter

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
564
Reaction score
13
Location
Michigan
Gravity? The instructions that came with my kit didn't mention anything about checking gravity before moving the beer. It just said wait 5-7 days then move it. Based on what people told me in here I figured some extra time in the primary would be a good thing. How do I know what the gravity should be before I move it?
 

elmetal

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2007
Messages
1,036
Reaction score
1
Location
Pembroke Pines
don't ferment a hefeweizen more than 14 days. seriously, if you do it'll be too clear for its own good.
 

Hang Glider

Beer Drinker
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 4, 2007
Messages
3,245
Reaction score
232
Location
North Augusta
if your kit didn't come with a hydrometer, get one. The recipe should have stated O.G. or S.G. (original or starting gravity) and F.G. or expected final gravity.
Dissolved sugars in the wort raise the gravity of water (1.000) - that's the starting point. Yeast eat the sugars, and give off EtOH, lowering the gravity. Your hydrometer will come with instructions for measuring and calculating the differences. Fermentation is done when the hydrometer gives you the same reading for three days in a row - but leave it another 3 weeks....

and if you haven't figured it out, many kits have poor instructions. Remain here (HBT) to get the best information from the most brewers. While you will develop your own preferences, some of these things are science and we all mostly agree with them. Peruse the stickys, search for Hydrometer...etc.

and - keep in mind we all want you to make good beer.
good luck!
 

Revvy

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Dec 11, 2007
Messages
41,307
Reaction score
3,651
Location
"Detroitish" Michigan
Gravity? The instructions that came with my kit didn't mention anything about checking gravity before moving the beer. It just said wait 5-7 days then move it. Based on what people told me in here I figured some extra time in the primary would be a good thing. How do I know what the gravity should be before I move it?
Generally speaking kit manufacturers, especially kit an kilo manufacturers, are concerned with selling more and more kits NOT with the brewer making the best beer possible. They know that if they say in the instructions to wait, they may loose some people to hobbies that have more instant gratification.

They also know that the time that a homebrewer will remain buying kits is relatively short...they know that after a few kits, the brewer will either give up, start brewing extract batches from recipes in books and places like this, formulate their own recipes, or go all grain...so they want to sell as many kits as possible to the new brewer before he moves on to bigger and better things.

SO they know that even their beer will taste better if you leave it longer...but they know that in the time you wait you will be reading and learning and be less likely to buy another kit...They can sell three or four kits to you if you follow their directions in the same time frame that listening to us and waiting a month and bottle conditioning for another 3-4 weeks.

Like I said earlier, if you arbitrarily elect to move or bottle your beer based on an instructions that say when it's done...and DOn't take a gravity reading, then more than likely you are interupting fermentation.

And if you head to bottling, then you pretty much can going to end up with bottle bombs.

Moving your beers arbitrarily after a week doesn't factor in the lag time that often happens to our yeast (as illustrated by the "Fermentation can take 72 hours...." thread. )

If you have a 3 day lag time while the yeast is reproducing, and then arbitrarily decide to rack your beer on the 7th day, you are racking with only 4 days or so of fermentation and more than likely racking way too soon.

You see many threads were new brewers who do that panic becausue suddenly they see this ugly growth on top of their beer after a couple days in secondary. That growth we end up telling them after they post a picture is a krausen and it's because it wasn't finished fermenting to begin with, and got kicked up agin by racking.

OR they post after a week or two in secondary that their beer is stuck somewhere between 1.030 and 1.020....and we tell them that happened because they again racked too soon. and left the yeast they needed to finish the beer behind....

Or they rack over when there is still even a krauzen on top.

So I don't believe in using the 1-2-3 method unless you are counting 1 on the day you actually see a krauzened formed on top of their beer.

In Mr Wizard's colum in BYO awhile back he made an interesting analogy about brewing and baking....He said that egg timers are all well and good in the baking process but they only provide a "rule of thumb" as to when something is ready...recipes, oven types, heck even atmospheric conditions, STILL have more bearing on when a cake is ready than the time it says it will be done in the cook book. You STILL have to stick a toothpick in the center and pull it out to see if truly the cake is ready.....otherwise you may end up with a raw cake....

Not too different from our beers....We can have a rough idea when our beer is ready (or use the 1-2-3 rule which, like I said, doesn't factor in things like yeast lag time or even ambient temp during fermentation and do things to our beer willy nilly, like moving it too early, or thinking our beer is going to be drinkable at 3 weeks....but unless we actually stick "our toothpick" (the hydrometer) in and let it tell us when the yeasties are finished...we too can "f" our beer up.

You can't really do something arbitrarily, you have to learn to "read" your beers, the hydrometer is the best way to do that.

You will find that many of us leave our beers in primary for 3-4 weeks (or more) and only secondary if we are adding fruit or oak, or to dry hop (though many of us dry hop in primary now as well)....and we have found our beer vastly improved by letting the beer stay in contact with the yeast.

But realistically, the only way to truly know what is going on in your fermenter is with your hydrometerThink evaluation before action you sure as HELL wouldn't want a doctor to start cutting on you unless he used the proper diagnostic instuments like x-rays first, right? You wouldn't want him to just take a look in your eyes briefly and say "I'm cutting into your chest first thing in the morning." You would want them to use the right diagnostic tools before the slice and dice, right? You'd cry malpractice, I would hope, if they didn't say they were sending you for an MRI and other things before going in....

Thinking about "doing anything" without taking a hydrometer reading is tantamount to the doctor deciding to cut you open without running any diagnostic tests....Taking one look at you and saying, "Yeah I'm going in." You would really want the doctor to use all means to properly diagnose what's going on. It's exactly the same thing when you try to go by airlock....

But without a hydrometer, then WAITING is the best answer as to when to secondary (again if you choose to, many these days don't and it has even been covered on Basic Brewing Radio and in Byo, the long primary/ no secondary shift in brewing consciousness.)

Your hydrometer, like patience is your friend. Learn to use both of them and you will make great beers.

:mug:
 
OP
GRHunter

GRHunter

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
564
Reaction score
13
Location
Michigan
My OG was 1.050 when I started as per the instructions which listed OG: 1.047 - 1.051

Down below is all that my instructions said about determining when the fermentation is completed. So my question is this. Not knowing what the FG is supposed to be how do I know when my fermentation is really done? I thought I read that if the gravity stays the same for 2 days that it has finished fermenting. Is this correct?

----------------------------------

Link to full instructions: http://www.brewersbestkits.com/pdf/1030_Weizenbier.pdf

FERMENTATION
9. MONITOR & RECORD
The wort will begin to ferment within 24 hours and you will notice CO2 releasing (bubbling) out of the airlock. Within 4 - 6 days the bubbling will slow down until you see no more CO2 being released. When fermentation is complete (no bubbles for 48 hours) take a FG reading with a sanitized hydrometer and record it in your ABV% CALCULATOR.7
 

Revvy

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Dec 11, 2007
Messages
41,307
Reaction score
3,651
Location
"Detroitish" Michigan
My OG was 1.050 when I started as per the instructions which listed OG: 1.047 - 1.051

Down below is all that my instructions said about determining when the fermentation is completed. So my question is this. Not knowing what the FG is supposed to be how do I know when my fermentation is really done? I thought I read that if the gravity stays the same for 2 days that it has finished fermenting. Is this correct?

----------------------------------

Link to full instructions: http://www.brewersbestkits.com/pdf/1030_Weizenbier.pdf

FERMENTATION
9. MONITOR & RECORD
The wort will begin to ferment within 24 hours and you will notice CO2 releasing (bubbling) out of the airlock. Within 4 - 6 days the bubbling will slow down until you see no more CO2 being released. When fermentation is complete (no bubbles for 48 hours) take a FG reading with a sanitized hydrometer and record it in your ABV% CALCULATOR.7
Airlocks are not a good indicator of fermentation.
Your airlock is not a fermentation gauge, it is a VALVE to release excess co2.

If your airlock was bubbling and stopped---It doesn't mean fermentation has stopped.

If you airlock isn't bubbling, it doesn't mean your fermentation hasn't started....

If your airlock starts bubbling, it really doesn't matter.

If your airlock NEVER bubbles, it doesn't mean anything is wrong or right.

I have 9 fermenters and I only get about 50% of my airlocks bubbling, ever, and have never had a fermentation not work.

Usually airlock bubbling, if the airlock does indeed bubble, usually slows down and often stops, long before the beer is done fermenting and the yeast is done cleaning up after itself. It's just not producing enough EXCESS co2 to bubble, NOT that the job is done...

To determine if the beer is finished fermenting (and like I said that is not the only job) you take 2 consecutive grav readings over 3 days....

I recomment the 12th and 14th day. If the readings are the same then the beer is done fermenting...

But like I said, that doesn't mean the job is done.
 
Top