First batch of beer in the secondary

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Jan 9, 2008
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I picked up a 2 stage brewing kit from a local shop here in Houston and started my first batch a little over a week ago. The instructions provided said to rack the beer into the secondary after only 4 days. Well after 4 days had passed, there was still a thick layer of foam on the surface so I called the brew shop and asked if I should still go ahead and rack into the secondary. They said to go ahead and rack, so I did. Now my beer has been in the secondary for nearly a week and there is still a small layer of foam on the top, however not near as much as before. Did I do something wrong here? I though there wasn't suppose to be a layer of foam on the top during the secondary stage?

EDIT: reading the sticky means I probably racked too early, did I mess up my first batch?
They are smoking crack.

I am not sure what their motivation is. It didn't hurt your beer, but you might as well have left it.

Secondary is for clearing, not for fermentation. Just let it go and it will be fine.
It's not messed up, but the best thing now is to just leave it alone and let it finish. I use the 1-2-3 "rule", at least 1 week in the primary , 2 weeks in the clearing tank, and 3 weeks in the bottle. The term "secondary" isn't right at all- it's more accurately called a clearing tank or bright tank. There shouldn't be any fermentation taking place in the clearing tank, it should be finished before you move it. However, since it's already moved, and it seems to be fermenting, you're ok!

I've left my ales in the primary for 2-3 weeks and I think I get a better beer from that.
only way to tell is to take a reading. I always follow this rule:

1 - don't rack until fermentation is FINISHED (you have reached your target gravity and it sustains for several days)
2 - don't rack until AT LEAST a week after brew day
3 - letting it sit longer is almost ALWAYS better...often i'll just leave mine in primary for 1 month, then transfer

what i would do now is take a reading and see if you have reached your target gravity. if you rack too early, sometimes you can get a stuck fermentation but by the sound of it, it just might take a little longer.

no matter what, i'd let it sit a couple more weeks in secondary to condition and clear
On the up side it sounds like you are still getting active fermentation in the secondary so everything will be fine.
My OG was 1.048, is there a target gravity I should expect it to reach?

When I went to the secondary it was 1.027 and as mentioned before, it's still fermenting away in the secondary.
For those of you who leave your beer in the primary for 2 or 3 weeks, are you using buckets or carboys? If I use a bucket instead of a carboy and leave it in the primary for 3 or 4 weeks am I risking oxidation?

BTW, I live in the Houston area too. There are two brew shops in the area I am aware of. I assume you are talking about the shop in the city that told you to go ahead with the secondary. I have been to both shops for different things and like both of them, but have gotten some questionable advice as well a couple of times. Good luck.
meatman said:
BTW, I live in the Houston area too. There are two brew shops in the area I am aware of. I assume you are talking about the shop in the city that told you to go ahead with the secondary. I have been to both shops for different things and like both of them, but have gotten some questionable advice as well a couple of times. Good luck.

Yeah, the place on the southwest side of town. Where is the other one?

Also, what do you do about the crazy temp. changes we get in Houston? How do you keep a constant fermentation temp? I'm thinking about getting a mini-fridge and modifying it.
The other shop is north in Spring/Woodlands area called Brew it Yourself. They have a club that meets once month and I plan to make some of the meetings. They also do all-grain demos at times.

The temp swings are a problem here. You are right about that. You defintely would need some kind of refigeration to make a lager. When I went out of town for the holidays I had my brother come over to feed my fish. Well he decided to do me a "favor" and turn off my heat. I got home and my house was 60F inside. I had bottled beer before I left and wanted to keep it around 70F for conditioning. I expected to return to some nicely conditioned beer, but the lower temp reduced the carbonation. I have sinced warmed them up and improved the quality dramatically. Can't wait to crack one of those open tonight, BTW.

To control the temps I just keep playing with my thermostat (this does run up my electricity bill). I try to use yeast that ferments between 65 and 75. I try to keep the temp around 68 or 70 in the location of my fermenter. If I put my thermostat on 73 I achieve the 68 - 70F temp in the corner of my bedroom, which is the coolest place in my house. (wife is just super happy about My utility room tends to be a little warmer so I put my bottled beer in there in a closed crate to help contain bottle bombs. I have a remote thermometer in the crate to monitor the temp. I was real surprised to learn how much the temps varied in my house from room to room. There can be as much as a 10 degree difference at times. I am still learning here also. I have only done 2 batches so far. I might try a Samuel Smith Winter Welcome recipe this weekend. Good luck to you.
Nobody is smoking crack or anything like that. There's more than one way to skin a cat, despite current trends in homebrewing over the last several years. The thing is called a "secondary fermenter" for a reason, and the reason is that we used to do quite a bit of fermenting in it.

Some folks, especially among those that have been brewing for many, many years, still like to rack early from the primary. You get your beer off the protein trub and get a clean yeast cake in the bottom of your secondary. Oxidation isn't a concern, since the beer is still actively fermenting and will purge all the O2 out of the vessel quickly enough. Neither diacetyl nor stuck fermentation are a concerns, since you still have plenty of yeast in suspension when you rack. Autolysis isn't any more of a concern than it is with the currently growing fashion of leaving beer in the primary for some weeks. The only disadvantage over any two-stage fermentation is that you have more sediment to deal with in the secondary, but it's all yeast and easy enough to work around.

Now, you run into problems when you want to rack after your fermentation has slowed down too much but not finished. That's when you get diacetyl problems because you take the beer away from the yeast right when it's trying to clean up after the party, and you don't bring enough yeast along to the secondary to finish the job.

I don't rack early, anymore, but that has to do more with habits deveoped during a time when I might have to leave my beer in the primary for more than a few days and the knowledge gained from doing so. Now, that same experience has become the common teaching. When I started brewing, it wasn't.

No one is smoking crack or anything like that. They are just doing things the way they've been doing them for quite a while, and they've been doing them that way because it works just as well as anything else.