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First time with secondary fermenter

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vaticanvoodoo

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Hey all,

I'm on my 3rd batch of homebrew. The first two weren't that great. After reading up on different techniques I decided to try glass carboys (instead of the food grade plastic). I also have read on this board and many other places the benefits of a secondary fermenter and was excited about the possibilities.

So away to the setup -

I am fermenting a 'blue moon' type beer. It was in the primary fermenter for 3 days and was very active. I started with the standard airlock but after 1 day I got a massive amount of head and had to switch to a blow off system. The head went down after a the last two days so I decided to rack it into the secondary. There was a bunch of sludge and stuff so I thought this would be the best thing to do. So I racked it in the secondary fermenter with the standard airlock and after about 2 hours it become very active again and filled the airlock! So again I placed the blow off on the fermenter.

And finally to the question! -

Is this a normal thing to expect with some homebrews?

I know that racking will mix things up a bit so that the yeast can munch on the rest of the suger (I did not splash in the least bit). Also I understand this can release gas..

Thanks for the help - I love to homebrew!
 

D-brewmeister

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Sounds normal, a good indication that there were plently of fermentables in the brew, and you know what that means in the end! :D How long was it in primary? I usually leave it in the primary for about a week, a bit less for lighter brews, a bit more for heavier brews. Then I leave it in secondary till it is looking pretty clear and still (i.e. very few rising bubbles, if any). If you moved it to secondary before it had done all of its fermenting in the primary, the only result should be that there will be more yeast sediment on the bottom of the fermenter, which shouldn't matter unless you leave it in secondary for a long time (like over 2 weeks) at which point the yeasy flavors might have more of an impact.
 

hawktrap74

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i leave it in the primary for 1 week then throw it in the secondary anywhere from 10 days to two weeks. It gives it clarity and crispness, for me thats important. :p
 

uglygoat

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sounds good.

try and leave as much of that sludge behind in the primary as possible, that's hop sediment, unfermentables and other nasties you don't need in your beer.

i have beer in the secondary that is a month old, i have to bottle it, but it will not hurt it to sit, as long as it was sanitized and sealed :)
 
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vaticanvoodoo

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It was in the primary for 3.5 days and there was A LOT of crap in the bottom so thats why I decided to move it to the secondary. You guys have put my mind at ease now so I thank you. I did my best to sanitize the hose and anything that came in contact with the liquid. I am paranoid that its never sanitized enough. Time will tell when I crack open my first bottle in a couple weeks or so!
 

Janx

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I rack to secondary after a week at most. In my experience, it's best to rack as soon as the initial blast of vigorous ferment is over.
 

schlach

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When you guys leave your beers in secondary for a few weeks, how important is it to minimize air-space? The reason I ask is... I have a lot of 6.5gal glass carboys that I brew 5gal batches into, but I have a lot fewer 5gal carboys to use as secondary fermenters. I can conserve the amount of glassware I need to buy if I can get away with racking the 5gal batch to a fresh 6.5gal carboy, but I haven't tried this before and am curious what to expect.
  • Will it oxidize faster?
  • Is there a contaminant risk?
  • Will the length of time I can leave it in the secondary be decreased?
  • What affect does this have at different gravities? Same answer for a 1.040 as for a 1.070?
My last beer was a very light (too light) extract, and it only fermented for six days in the primary and another three days in the secondary. I'm doing my first all-grain right now, and my reading when I put it into the primary was 1.055. I'm thinking it will probably spend quite a bit longer in the secondary, which is why I'm wondering about that extra airspace.

Thanks for your input.
 

lalenny

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schlach said:
When you guys leave your beers in secondary for a few weeks, how important is it to minimize air-space? The reason I ask is... I have a lot of 6.5gal glass carboys that I brew 5gal batches into, but I have a lot fewer 5gal carboys to use as secondary fermenters. I can conserve the amount of glassware I need to buy if I can get away with racking the 5gal batch to a fresh 6.5gal carboy, but I haven't tried this before and am curious what to expect.
  • Will it oxidize faster?
  • Is there a contaminant risk?
  • Will the length of time I can leave it in the secondary be decreased?
  • What affect does this have at different gravities? Same answer for a 1.040 as for a 1.070?
Thanks for your input.
My last beer was a very light (too light) extract, and it only fermented for six days in the primary and another three days in the secondary. I'm doing my first all-grain right now, and my reading when I put it into the primary was 1.055. I'm thinking it will probably spend quite a bit longer in the secondary, which is why I'm wondering about that extra airspace.

The important part when racking to your 6.5gal secondary is that the beer has not been fully fermented. Like Janx said earlier it is best to rack your beer to the 2nd after the initial blast off fermentation.

The beer will oxidize if it in contact with oxygen. The only time it is contact with oxygen is when the beer is first racked to the secondary. Once fermentation continues and the airlock is on all of the O2 is replaced by CO2 and you are no longer in danger of oxidation.

If you sanitize properly there are no additional risks of contamination regardless of the size of your fermentor.

The length of time that the beer is left in the fermentor is not affected by the size of the carboy.

Different gravities of beer will just change how much fermentation will occur, so on a lower gravity beer if you wait too long to rack to the 2nd there may not be enough active fermentation to purge the O2 out of the head space, but this should not be a problem unless you let the beer finish in the primary then rack it to the 2nd.

I hope that helps!
 

schlach

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The beer will oxidize if it in contact with oxygen. The only time it is contact with oxygen is when the beer is first racked to the secondary. Once fermentation continues and the airlock is on all of the O2 is replaced by CO2 and you are no longer in danger of oxidation.

Okay, that makes a lot of sense. So really the question is, how long does it spend in contact with oxygen before displacing it with CO2, and what effect is caused by opening the fermentation lock in order to take gravity readings, and would a combination of those two factors dictate a logical course of action?

Seems to me that if I'm going to do this, I can probably get away with it, depending on roughly how long it takes my yeast to generate 6.5 liters of CO2, and keeping in mind that I should not disturb the airlock until I'm certain that I'm ready to bottle.

Thanks for your reply. Sound good to everyone?
 

Janx

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The bottom line is - don't worry too much about oxidation. It's not as though brief contact with oxygen instantly destroys your beer. Oxidation takes time, and beer is drunk young. Oxidation is a much bigger deal with wine or beers you want to age a looong time.

Also, there are degrees of oxidation. Think how hard you have to try to aerate your wort when you first make it. Shaking it for 10 minutes or more doesn't even aerate it all that much. So will opening the airlock damage your beer? No way.

Don't overworry about this one. It's truly not a big deal unless you seriously introduce some oxygen and then age the beer long enough to feel the effects. I always move carboys around, I don't worry about sloshing them much at all, nor am I very careful when racking to minimize air contact. The fact is, the beer will be releasing tons of CO2, and you just aren't introducing much oxygen. I never detect any flaws atributable to oxygen exposure.

Papazian's solution works in this case: Relax etc...

Cheers! :D
 

tnlandsailor

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Just a data point on the other end of the spectrum. I am sometimes (most times) not very prompt at racking out of the primary. I almost always leave it for 2 weeks before racking to a secondary. Not on purpose mind you, it's just that I can't seem to get to it. In the last year or so, I've left several batches in the primary for 3 weeks, one actually for 4 weeks (an American IPA). For nearly all of those beers, I bypassed the secondary altogether and racked straight to the keg.

I tasted the beers very critically, and had several folks in the club taste them as well (one was a national BJCP judge), specifically for yeast related off flavors - and we didn't notice any. One was a cream ale that was in the primary for 3 weeks. I don't think 3 or 4 weeks is long enough for autolysis to have an effect (autolysis: yeast death and decomposition), but apparently, several weeks does not ruin your beer. I guess the bottom line is to be more dilligent than me, but if you can't, it's probably still ok.

As has been pointed out already, oxidation problems occur during handling and racking, not aging. If you drink fast, you'll never notice it anyway......

Prost.
 
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