How many of you guys actually utilize a secondary fermenter?

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Primary Fermentation only VS. Primary+Secondary

  • Primary only. Keep things simple!

  • Primary and Secondary fermentation. I find it improves the _____ of the beer


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ddoherty

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Do any of you just use a primary fermenter rather than primary+secondary?

I'm extremely interested in home-brewing and want to try my hand at brewing my own swill (;)).

I was set on buying a starter kit with two glass carboys in order to have secondary fermentation, but from what I've read there's quite a few of you that don't bother with the secondary carboy.

Also, in order to consolidate threads, what is the starter kit with the greatest value? I can only buy online since there's no LHBS nearby. The closest is Heart's Homebrew in Orlando, and I've heard varying opinions regarding their service. Online is how I'd like to purchase my first kit.

I'm a college student on an independent college student budget, so I need to spend as little as possible to get this started. Would it be cheaper to piece-meal a kit from used items, or should I just spend a bit more and buy a put-together kit?
 

david_42

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Used is almost always cheaper, it just takes longer to find the items. Try craigslist first.
 

Funkenjaeger

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Your poll is rather poorly formed. It's set up so people can vote for either or both options, despite the fact that the two options seem mutually exclusive due to the way you worded them... But they really shouldn't be, because although there may be some people who ALWAYS or NEVER use a secondary, there are some who go either way depending on the beer, myself included. So, I just voted for both options.
 

DeathBrewer

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yeah, dude...where's all the options?

i use a secondary sometimes...ya know, when i'm too lazy to bottle, or i'm aging the beer and don't want it to sit on the trub or i want to add some extra clarity or i want to free up my primary.

There are many circumstances where it is indeed benificial, but rarely is it necessary.

EDIT: if you're trying out with your first brews...i would just keep it simple. get a 6.5 gallon glass carboy or better bottle and just use the primary for about 3 weeks for most brews (but use your hydrometer) and once you're comfortable with that, try some experimenting

:mug:
 

chillHayze

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I didn't vote. It depends on the beer.

Most beers get 2 weeks fermenting, then to the keg for 2 weeks (purged), then carbed and served in a week.

Over 1.060? Wait another 2 weeks b4 carb/serv cycle.
 
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ddoherty

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Funkenjaeger said:
Your poll is rather poorly formed. It's set up so people can vote for either or both options, despite the fact that the two options seem mutually exclusive due to the way you worded them... But they really shouldn't be, because although there may be some people who ALWAYS or NEVER use a secondary, there are some who go either way depending on the beer, myself included. So, I just voted for both options.
DeathBrewer said:
yeah, dude...where's all the options?

i use a secondary sometimes...ya know, when i'm too lazy to bottle, or i'm aging the beer and don't want it to sit on the trub or i want to add some extra clarity or i want to free up my primary.

There are many circumstances where it is indeed benificial, but rarely is it necessary.

EDIT: if you're trying out with your first brews...i would just keep it simple. get a 6.5 gallon glass carboy or better bottle and just use the primary for about 3 weeks for most brews (but use your hydrometer) and once you're comfortable with that, try some experimenting

:mug:
I see. I didn't realize that a secondary fermenter would be beneficial to certain beers and unnecessary to others. Also, I didn't realize that I set the poll to allow either or both options to be selected simultaneously. :drunk:

In addition to what DeathBrewer has stated, what other times would a secondary fermenter be useful? Are there any particular brews that specifically require a secondary fermenter?
 

malkore

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its not a secondary 'fermenter'. its a secondary clearing vessel. fermentation is over in primary.
a lot of the older literature out there started the bad terminology.

lagering beer requires a secondary, or at least all of what I've read suggests you bulk age the beer at cold temperatures. I do see posts about lagering in the bottle, but I don't usually read them as I'm focused on ales for the time being.

some yeasts are very hard to get to fall out of the beer. secondary and a cold crash can help a lot, as well as the use of fining agents like gelatin added at the end of secondary.

You can definitely start out with one vessel, and go for 3 weeks before bottling. Understand your beer may not be perfectly crystal clear, and that does NOT make it 'flawed'. its still gonna taste fine.
 

cclloyd

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+1 on it depending on the style or type of beer you are making. I rarely secondary stouts or hefes but usually do for anything where I want clarity.
 

Yooper

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Until I started kegging, I used a secondary for every beer. Now, I don't make stouts, hefes or porters, and I wouldn't secondary them. Even now, I will secondary the alt, and dry hop the pale ale in the secondary, but some beers will go right to the keg after a long primary.

Some beers clear very well and quickly, especially if you use a very flocculant yeast. All of my beers in the last year or two have been crystal clear when I've bottled, and I never use any finings besides whirlfloc in the kettle. I think it's because I've been very patient and waited for them and used the clearing vessel in each one.
 

cubbies

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I voted use a secondary. I use it for a couple of reasons. A) I like to brew, and I only have one primary fermenter. My beers typically go at least 4 weeks before going into the keg. So, if I only used Primary, I could only brew once a month...and that just doesn't fly with me. And B), I like to cold condition my ales. I give them 7-10 days at around 40 degrees to get everything to drop out and get the beer clear. I "could" do this in primary, but I just think it is easier in secondary.

However, having said this, primary doesn't necessarily make anything better. As a matter of fact, some people would definitely argue that by switching to a secondary vessel you are more likely to add oxygen and/or contamination.
 

homebrewer_99

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cubbies said:
...some people would definitely argue that by switching to a secondary vessel you are more likely to add oxygen and/or contamination...
Right. But if you don't hurry to get the job done, are meticulous about your sanitation practices, and don't splash to cause oxidation you should have no worries about using a secondary - ever...:D
 

uglygoat

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it depends. pales and bitters get two to three weeks in primary, then into the keg. darker beers, imo, do well with a little bit of bulk aging, but i've really just been leaving them in primary for four to six weeks. kegging has made me lazy as all hell, when it comes to transfering beers. big beers, like barley wine get an extended secondary, upwards of six months.
 

njnear76

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A secondary won't change the flavor of the beer, it will just make the appearance less cloudy and minimize some of the sediment.

I have not used a secondary yet on any of my beers. In my humble opinion, if you are brewing ales, most likely you don't need one.

As some have mentioned... There are risks (although minimal) to using a secondary: oxidation and contamination. It also takes 15-20 minutes to do the transfer and cleaning the equipment.

I usually brew stouts, porters, and ambers so for me there is no benefit to using a secondary.
 

TheJadedDog

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It really depends on the beer for me. Something low gravity that doesn't need a lot of time I just leave in the primary an extra week. Something that will benefit from bulk aging or something that needs more than a few weeks fermentation, I'll rack to secondary.
 

ohiobrewtus

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Like ChillHayze said, it depends on the beer. Most of what I brew stays in primary for 10 days then to secoondary for at least 2 weeks but there are exceptions.
 

McKBrew

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I like a secondary because it gives me options on time. Most everyone recommends only leaving it in the primary a maximum of about a month. With a secondary I have the option to let it sit at least two extra weeks, but if something comes up and I can't bottle then I can let it go a month or more with no worries.

If you are going to dry hop or make a fruit beer, the secondary is the best place to add these items as well.
 

Rick_R

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Would it be cheaper to piece-meal a kit from used items, or should I just spend a bit more and buy a put-together kit?
If your are looking for an inexpensive kit, buy a bottling bucket and a 12 quart aluminum pot (if you don't already have one). That, plus ingredients for an extract, is all you need. Use bleach/water for sanitizer, wrap the spigot of the bottling bucket in plastic wrap with a rubber band after sanitizing, and use a piece of sanitized aluminum foil (shaped with your finger) as an airlock. Bottle from the bucket after three weeks into sanitized plastic coke bottles, condition for three more weeks in a dark spot with bottles in a closed box.

Is it the best system? Nope. Have I tried it? Nope -- but now that I just thought this up, I may try it, because I'm confident you could make good beer with that simple setup.

Rick
 

CBBaron

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I'm not going to vote here because I do both.
For most beers a secondary is not needed so I only use a bucket for a primary then bottle after 3-4 weeks. However a secondary is desirable for big beers that you age for more than a month or IPAs that you dry hop.
As a beginner get a couple of buckets so you can get two beers fermenting at the same time or you will end up running out of beer and you will try to rush the process.
Craig
 
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ddoherty

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Wow, great responses! I've really learned a lot from this thread.

I think when I do get around to purchasing a kit I'll go for the primary only at first. Since I don't have the setup for kegging and I'll be bottling everything initially, I won't be brewing/drinking more than one batch at a time. When I eventually get a keg setup, I'll go for a secondary in order to try new beers and have more than one fermenting at a time.

Thanks for the edumacation! :D
 
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