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Do I need a secondary?

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worlddivides

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Hi guys,

So far, all of the ciders I've made I've done both a primary and a secondary, but the current cider I'm fermenting has the lowest OG of any cider I've ever made (around 1.051, I believe. I noted it down somewhere, but that's what I remember) and this is also the first cider I'm using an ale yeast on (the previous ciders were either "cider" yeasts or wine yeasts). I also have no intentions to rack this cider onto cinnamon, nutmeg, or any other similar flavors (which I actually did on my last cider), so I'm not sure if there really is any benefit to a secondary.

I know that putting it in a secondary will help clarify it, but to be honest, I've never really cared about clarity (I say, even though I put a decent amount of pectic enzyme in this one - and even though I've used KC Finings and other clarifiers in the past). As long as it tastes good, it's good for me.

So, what do you say? Is a secondary needed? Or even beneficial?
 
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I don't think a secondary helps clear cider any more than a primary does. The yeast will finish and settle out when they're ready too. Primary or secondary makes no difference to them. I would just leave it in primary till its done then bottle/keg as usual.
 

Maylar

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Leaving the cider on primary lees long enough for it to clear has the potential of picking up "yeasty" flavors. I've had that happen. If you don't care about clarity and don't care if there's sediment in your bottles then it's not a big deal. Personally, I get pleasure from admiring a cider that's crystal clear but that's me.
 

MarkKF

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Leaving the cider on primary lees long enough for it to clear has the potential of picking up "yeasty" flavors. I've had that happen. If you don't care about clarity and don't care if there's sediment in your bottles then it's not a big deal. Personally, I get pleasure from admiring a cider that's crystal clear but that's me.

I agree. I always rack mine, sometimes before primary fermentation is done.
 

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I agree. I always rack mine, sometimes before primary fermentation is done.
Me, too. Leaving cider long term in a bucket can cause oxidation, while leaving it long term on the lees can cause some off flavors. I treat cider very much like wine, with racking and keeping topped up in a carboy.
 

sashurlow

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I stopped racking mine to a secondary but I do let it sit in the basement for at least 5-6 months to age. I just drank a glass and got zero yeast taste. In fact, I don't work tomorrow, time for another glass to check for flavors I might not have noticed yet.
How long to people age their cider for? The yeast settles and there is very minimal movement in the carboy so I can't imagine that the yeast imparts much to the flavor. I also use glass and better bottle plastic carboys.
 
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worlddivides

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Me, too. Leaving cider long term in a bucket can cause oxidation, while leaving it long term on the lees can cause some off flavors. I treat cider very much like wine, with racking and keeping topped up in a carboy.
I hardly think 3-4 weeks is "long term," though. And I've never heard of beer or cider picking up off flavors from just a few weeks (or even 1-3 months) on the lees.

I know that some people leave cider in the fermenter for months, sometimes even up to a year, but I personally don't get the point. The only real benefit I can think of a secondary in my case would be clarifying, but I'm not much of a stickler for crystal clear cider (or beer) and technically it can clarify in the bottle (leaving a little bit of sediment on the bottom).

My general thought is that mead, wine, sour beer, and high-alcohol beer need aging. Regular beer and "regular" cider (i.e. not high alcohol cider) do not, but can benefit from aging (although that will depend on the style. IPAs do not benefit from aging, for example, but most stouts do). I've had cider that tasted great after 1-2 months.
 

MarkKF

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Mine sits in a glass carboy 6-9 months then goes in a corny. It could be in there a couple of months, too.
 

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I hardly think 3-4 weeks is "long term," though. And I've never heard of beer or cider picking up off flavors from just a few weeks (or even 1-3 months) on the lees.
Well, you should do what you want. What I think or do shouldn't matter a bit, if that is your experience.
I will say that beer is NOT cider- cider is much more like wine. It won't skunk, but it can get light struck. It is very susceptible to oxidation, especially if no sulfites are used. Comparing beer to cider is like comparing yogurt to kimchee.
 
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worlddivides

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Well, you should do what you want. What I think or do shouldn't matter a bit, if that is your experience.
I will say that beer is NOT cider- cider is much more like wine. It won't skunk, but it can get light struck. It is very susceptible to oxidation, especially if no sulfites are used. Comparing beer to cider is like comparing yogurt to kimchee.
Oh, I definitely agree with you there, which is why I keep my cider out of sunlight both during fermentation, aging, and while bottled (in dark brown bottles). I also use either glass or HDPE for fermentation to avoid oxidation.

I'm just saying that I've personally never experienced any off-flavors from leaving anything (beer, mead, cider, wine) on yeast or lees for a couple weeks or a few months. For things that I've done extremely long aging, I've done both secondary and tertiaries to avoid that. But in this case, I don't see any reason for a secondary other than clarifying since if I don't care for the flavor of the cider in the bottle, I can let it age in the bottle with pretty close to the same effect of it aging in a carboy (except much less chance of oxidation since it's glass vs. HDPE). I was just wondering if there was any reason to do a secondary for a plain low-gravity cider (at least, relatively low starting gravity for a cider) without any sugar, adjuncts, spices, fruits, or other things added. So far, it seems that clarification really is the only reason to rack to a secondary in this specific case.
 

1bottlerocket

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My first batch I racked to secondary but I only let it sit for about 12 hours. I ended up with a fair amount of yeast in the bottoms of my bottles but I have not noticed any off tastes as of yet.

My second batch I plan on letting sit in secondary for 48 hours or so to clear and then bottling.
 
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worlddivides

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Yeah... The shortest I've ever done a secondary was 3 weeks. I don't really think there's a point in doing a secondary if it's only going to be 12 hours. That just adds the risk of oxidation with no actual benefit.

That said, I also don't really see the benefit in doing a 6 or 9 month secondary on a low to medium alcohol cider.

I'm still considering doing a maybe 3-6 week secondary in my glass 5 gallon fermenter, but I've been really wary to use glass after my last glass fermenter broke about 9-10 months ago and almost caused a serious mess...
 

1bottlerocket

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The whole cider brewing is new to me so I am definitely learning as I go along. That being said, I pretty much knew that 12 hour was not enough but I was in a time rush due to family obligations. I guess I will try a secondary for longer than 48 hours then. :)
 

MarkKF

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All I know is the longer I've aged in a clear glass carboy the better it's tasted and the clearer it get. Just my experience.
 

bembel

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If clarity is not a concern you're fine to bottle after the primary has settled out, as long as the SG is below 1.002.

As for Carboy concerns I was given some awesome advice which I now swear by....milk crates. The cost the same as a Carboy handle, they protect the Carboy and aloe you to move them around with ease, and best off, if using plastic Carboys, the bottom will not flex pulling air lock liquids in.

Personally I use plastic Better Bottles for the primary then switch to glass for the secondary, and use the smaller one piece airlocks on the glass as they are easier to monitor small amounts of gas then the floater kind.
 
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worlddivides

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If clarity is not a concern you're fine to bottle after the primary has settled out, as long as the SG is below 1.002.

As for Carboy concerns I was given some awesome advice which I now swear by....milk crates. The cost the same as a Carboy handle, they protect the Carboy and aloe you to move them around with ease, and best off, if using plastic Carboys, the bottom will not flex pulling air lock liquids in.

Personally I use plastic Better Bottles for the primary then switch to glass for the secondary, and use the smaller one piece airlocks on the glass as they are easier to monitor small amounts of gas then the floater kind.
That actually wouldn't have prevented my last glass carboy that broke. It was fermenting for about 4 weeks in a soft cool brewing fermentation bag on soft carpet. I picked it up around the neck to pick it up and the bottom just snapped right off in the air (clean, as if it'd been sliced by some ninja sword or something) and 5-6 gallons of mead poured into the fermentation bag. I managed to avoid a mess by getting the bag to the sink before the mead soaked through, but yeah... It wasn't caused by the carboy coming in contact with anything. I think the glass had just weakened after constant use for about 2 years.

After that experience, I use a Speidel 30L HDPE fermenter for my primary fermentations and Better Bottles or smaller HDPE 5 gallon fermenters for secondary fermentation. I still have a 5 gallon glass carboy and a 3 gallon glass carboy. I haven't used the 5 gallon since that experience, but I do use the 3 gallon every now and then. I think since it's smaller and lighter, I feel a little safer.
 
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