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Extended primary fermentation, no secondary - consensus?

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hatrickpatrick

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Hey folks, new brewer on my second batch here! Been reading a lot of threads about this here, but as the threads are generally very old (2009-11) I just wanted to check whether the community consensus has moved on at all or remained the same over the past decade!

It seems a lot of people here advocate leaving a beer in primary for up to a month, then going directly from that to bottling bucket and bottle conditioning as normal. The general consensus in the threads I've read is that secondary fermentation for standard ale kits is unnecessary and somewhat a waste of time.

I have two buckets, one is my primary fermenter with a temperature strip on the side, and one is the bottling bucket with no thermometer and a spigot. Both use the same lid, which gets a proper tight seal and has an airlock.

When I was going to do a secondary, my plan initially was to rack to the bottling bucket as usual, but then clamp the lid on and wait an extra few weeks before actually bottling. It occurred to me that this could defeat the purpose though, as any yeast or sediment which falls out of suspension during this secondary fermentation would be at risk of coming through the spigot and ending up in the bottles anyway. The thought occurred to me of racking twice - transferring the beer to the bottling bucket just for a few minutes, washing out the primary fermenting bucket and then racking back to it for a few weeks for secondary - but obviously the drawbacks and risks to racking and siphoning more often than absolutely necessary are well documented.

So basically I'm currently planning to take the advice of the threads I've found here from several years ago, leave the beer in primary for up to four weeks as opposed to the recommended two weeks on the instructions for the kit, and then going directly to the bottling bucket and bottling on the same day. Is this something which would still be recommended, or has the community moved on from this concept in the eight or so years since the threads were made?

(PS: for info, the first kit I made was an IPA which somehow turned out red/amber, while the kit I currently have in primary is allegedly a 1.6kg (with 1kg added sugar) "European lager kit", but is quite clearly a lager-flavoured ale since the yeast is recommended for a 21 degree temperature and no mention of cold lagering is made in the instruction booklet for the kit :D Don't know if this info would have an impact on what ye would advise me to do regarding fermentation)
 
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DownstairsBrewing

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I'd say the consensus is firmly in the 'don't bother with secondary' camp for most styles that don't get any benefit from bulk aging. That would include both your kits. The original reason was to get the beer off the dead yeast, but research seems to have established that the time scales are just too different. The trub isn't going to an effect on flavour with a month of exposure.

That said, between bottling time and wanting to do other batches using a bucket for primary, I still end up racking to a secondary in a carboy some of the time to free up a primary. I have not noticed much of an oxidation effect.
 

mongoose33

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There are only 3 reasons I can think of to secondary. Keith above covered two (racking onto flavorings, aging).

The third is if you need to clear your primary so you can make another batch, and you need a large enough fermenter with enough headspace to accommodate the krausen.

I stopped using secondaries after my 3rd batch. I solved the fermenter space problem by buying more fermenters.
 

Yooper

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I generally have my beers between 10 and 20 days in the fermenter, and rarely use a secondary. A month is a long time, but many people do like the flavor imparted by the longer contact with the yeast. I don't, so once the beer is finished and clearing, and dryhopping is done (if doing it), then I package the beer.
 

Kent88

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Secondary can be a nice option if you have carboy/bucket space, but no keg/bottle space, or if you want to rack onto some kind of flavoring like fruit, spice, etc. Or sometimes you want to get the beer off the trub and you aren't 100% sure that it has finished fermenting (which you see sometimes with big, high gravity, high ABV beers).

But if you have a reasonably big beer (nothing that you're trying to get above 12% ABV) and you pitch a healthy yeast starter with the recommended number of cells (there are tools online to help you understand that), aerate well, and keep it at the right temperature, usually your beer will ferment out before you would need to be concerned that it was sitting on the trub too long.
 
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