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Is general consensus now to NOT use a secondary?

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ChiknNutz

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Still pretty green to brewing, but I thought it was best practice to go ahead and rack to a secondary. I only had the primary and priming buckets, so I recently bought a couple 5-gal glass carboys and auto siphon to complement my plastic bucket primary (William's Brewing kit). After doing more research, it seems that perhaps I wasted money on the carboys...other than being able to simply have more batches going at one time. If that is the consensus, should I have just picked up more bucket primaries and not the glass carboys? Thanks much.
 

rhys333

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I don't do secondary, but I'll be honest and say that some beers seem to benefit from a few days off the yeast before carbonating. This is specific to kegging for me. When I bottled, they would clean up beautifully right out of primary. Now that I keg, I sometimes detect a rawness that I think goes away by leaving the kegged beer at room temp for a day or two before chilling and carbonating. To be clear, the difference is very slight but I think its perceptible. I could well be imagining things.
 

Scott83

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Still pretty green to brewing, but I thought it was best practice to go ahead and rack to a secondary. I only had the primary and priming buckets, so I recently bought a couple 5-gal glass carboys and auto siphon to complement my plastic bucket primary (William's Brewing kit). After doing more research, it seems that perhaps I wasted money on the carboys...other than being able to simply have more batches going at one time. If that is the consensus, should I have just picked up more bucket primaries and not the glass carboys? Thanks much.
I'm pretty new too and am still working on a couple of kits that I had laying around. Those did recommend siphoning to a glass carboy secondary. However, if I do anymore kits, I'll just use the glass carboy. The cool thing about that is you can actually see the bubbles and movement from the very active yeast. I missed that when I just did the plastic brew buckets. It is another step that exposes the beer to oxygen and potentially bacteria, if the secondary carboy hasn't been properly sanitized.
 

RM-MN

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After doing more research, it seems that perhaps I wasted money on the carboys...other than being able to simply have more batches going at one time. If that is the consensus, should I have just picked up more bucket primaries and not the glass carboys?
I don't think you wasted your money on those carboys, you just haven't thought of the uses for them yet. They don't work for a 5 gallon batch of beer because beer has a krausen that will overflow....but wine and mead do not. Wine and mead need more time in the fermenter and that is where the lack of oxygen flow through the glass is a real plus. How about a perry? Should work good for that too.
 
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ChiknNutz

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Ya forgot about the fact that I can't use the 5 gal as primaries for beer, needs to be 6 or better. I did one batch of wine several years ago and it did not turn out good at all, so haven't tried another since. I would like to try a mead!
 

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I am a fan of doing split brews. I rack and bottle half, then will fruit or whatever to the other half and let it ferment/age a little longer. That could be a good use for those carboys if you get into experimenting at all?
I make a base beer then do something "weird" to the other half. I am looking at getting more vessels than just primary and racking buckets.
 
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ChiknNutz

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Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated. Normally, I am a research whore, but looks like I missed it on this one in regards to the unneeded-secondary-for-most-beers discussion. At this point in my journey, it's hard to justify a stainless conical or something of that nature as I am only bottling at this stage. I am leaning more towards a Speidel or Fermonster in the 7-ish gallon size for another primary and use the 5-gal carboys for specialty stuff that needs to age longer.
 

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General consensus is that unless to have a reason to use a secondary - don't! The act of racking the beer to get it off the yeast for a couple of weeks does nothing to improve the beer and there is some suggestion that it may be potentially detrimental to the beer.

That said, I am probably one of the few who do still regularly use secondaries. I strain everything going into the primary to keep the yeast clean, and move to secondary to harvest the yeast for future brews. I always add gelatin to my beers (I can't use Irish Moss due to allergies) and don't want to add it to the yeast I collect, so I rack to harvest the yeast and then add gelatin. I also add hops, spices, fruit, oak, etc to secondary that I don't want in the harvested yeast.

I probably toss out 75% of the yeast I collect, but I find it useful to have it on hand to use at anytime. Keeps the cost of yeast way down.
 
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RM-MN

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I did one batch of wine several years ago and it did not turn out good at all, so haven't tried another since.
I think there is an old saying about that that goes something like, "If at first you don't succeed, give up".

Or maybe it referenced trying again. Have you learned anything about brewing since you made that wine?
 

thehaze

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I never did secondary and I cannot see the point of it. As long as your fermenter is large enough, you can add anything to it. I've added from 12 oz hops to 10 lbs of fruit in the fermenter with no issue. Beers turned clear when needed, beers turned hazy when needed, etc. Secondary increases the risk of oxidation and contamination - maybe.
 

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A few thoughts on this. First, I'd argue it isn't even a general consensus that secondaries aren't necessary--it's an overwhelming majority. The exceptions would be as noted above if you're doing something unusual (add fruit or oak, say), or if you are aging a beer for a very long time, or if you just need to free the primary for another beer.

I stopped using secondaries after about my 3rd batch (just completed #89) and haven't looked back. Unless you have the conditions noted above, secondaries are a waste of time, expose your beer to oxygen needlessly, and cost extra equipment.

Second, I'm firmly of the belief that new brewers should start simple. Learn the process, use a good basic recipe (a kit is fine), and figure out how to brew decent beer. The more complicated you make things, the more likely something will go wrong, and then how do you identify the culprit? Brewing isn't horribly complicated, but neither is it simplistic.

Once you have the process down, then start thinking about expanding your horizons. Seriously. Keep this as simple as possible, brew a good basic beer. Refine the process. Get that part down. Then think about recipe alterations and so on. Unless you have a base from which to grow, you can't really know how recipe changes will work.

Every once in a while we see a newbie (I was one, once--and I remember!) who wants to do a triple-hopped, left-handed stout with belgian and IPA overtones using orange zest cocoa nibs with a combination of ale and lager yeasts, fermented in an earthenware crock. I'm being facetious, of course, but you get the point--the more complicated, the more to pay attention to, and the more likely something will go wrong.

Think about it--you have the boil, have to learn how to use extract (if you're doing an extract kit), maybe how to mash (if you're doing all-grain), steeping grains maybe, how is the water, did you boil long enough, add the hops at the right time along with any other adjunct additions like a whirlfloc tablet, get it chilled down, transfer to the fermenter, get the yeast added correctly, maintain some temperature control while fermentation continues, establish when it's done, use a hydrometer to check, transfer to bottling bucket when done (and probably screwing up the siphon usage--don't ask me how I know), getting the bottles clean and sanitized, getting the right amount of priming sugar added, get the beer in the bottles and then capped.........and I've left a lot out.

Now, the learning part of this is fun--at least it was for me--but still. Complication is the enemy of newbies, and we want them to be successful. Make sure you can walk before you think about running.

Third, I think most experienced brewers would tell you that one of the greatest leaps forward in their brewing was being able to control fermentation temperature. Ferment too warm for the yeast and it will express flavors you didn't intend....that's code for "ooohhhh....that's not tasting good....." There are simple and inexpensive ways to do this, e.g., using a swamp cooler or cheap refrigerator.

So if you're thinking of a place to get better, think of fermentation temperature control.
 

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Ok so I have a question about adding sugar for bottling. I was told to add it directly to bottles to reduce risk of oxydation. But I find it will be easier to mix in and measure properly the amount if I add the sugar to a 2ndary vessel before bottling. Stir that around and then bottle. About every online tutorial on beer making talks about switching to a bottling bucket to add your sugars. Then bottling from the bottling bucket?
 

VikeMan

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Ok so I have a question about adding sugar for bottling. I was told to add it directly to bottles to reduce risk of oxydation. But I find it will be easier to mix in and measure properly the amount if I add the sugar to a 2ndary vessel before bottling. Stir that around and then bottle. About every online tutorial on beer making talks about switching to a bottling bucket to add your sugars. Then bottling from the bottling bucket?
If you're asking if you should get the beer off of the yeast/trub before adding priming sugar, then yes. You can do that by racking the beer to a bottling bucket with sugar or by racking it directly to bottles and adding the sugar there.

ETA: This thread was about conducting secondaries, i.e. moving the beer to a secondary "fermenter" for a while (days/weeks) before packaging. I think you're referring to a bottling bucket as a "2ndary vessel," but that's quite different.
 

Shawnstve

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If you're asking if you should get the beer off of the yeast/trub before adding priming sugar, then yes. You can do that by racking the beer to a bottling bucket with sugar or by racking it directly to bottles and adding the sugar there.

ETA: This thread was about conducting secondaries, i.e. moving the beer to a secondary "fermenter" for a while (days/weeks) before packaging. I think you're referring to a bottling bucket as a "2ndary vessel," but that's quite different.
Ok sorry I posted in wrong thread. Personally I think it’s the same issue. This was talking about not adding oxygen, and many people have now told me not to do a 2ndary and also not to add to a bottling bucket but to add directly to the bottles to lessen chance of adding more oxygen. This is my question... seems like it’s the same issue as adding to a 2ndary. Putting in a bottling bucket runs much of the same risk no? Since your adding one more transfer step? I’m new so again I could be wrong on this. My question was is it best practice to try and measure out individual bottle amounts for sugars and add there in order to reduce risk of oxidation/contamination? Or is it something that really should be done in a bottling bucket? I’ll make a new thread for this, if it’s not part of questions that should be asked in this thread.
 

Ultryx

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I would say that definitely seems like the consensus for most beer styles at this point. I'm fine with that. Less work for me and less opportunity for oxygen ingress. My thought was that a secondary was meant to separate the beer from the trub and it's just not necessary.
 

VikeMan

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This is my question... seems like it’s the same issue as adding to a 2ndary. Putting in a bottling bucket runs much of the same risk no? Since your adding one more transfer step?
When you rack beer to a bottling bucket, you're mixing it with sugar, so the yeast will be active and use at least some of the O2. But you are correct in that a bottling bucket represents an additional exposure that could be eliminated.

My question was is it best practice to try and measure out individual bottle amounts for sugars and add there in order to reduce risk of oxidation/contamination? Or is it something that really should be done in a bottling bucket?
I don't bottle very often, but my preference is to dose the bottles directly. That might be a best practice, but I think you'll find that most bottlers use a bottling bucket.
 
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ChiknNutz

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So even the bottling bucket is generally frowned upon too? I understand the point to try and minimize the risk of contamination and oxygenation, but thought the bottling bucket just a necessary part of the process if not kegging.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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Ok so I have a question about adding sugar for bottling. I was told to add it directly to bottles to reduce risk of oxydation. But I find it will be easier to mix in and measure properly the amount if I add the sugar to a 2ndary vessel before bottling. Stir that around and then bottle. About every online tutorial on beer making talks about switching to a bottling bucket to add your sugars. Then bottling from the bottling bucket?
I bottle everything I brew. There are a couple of ways to add sugar to individual bottles (without a bottling bucket).
  • carbonation drops / tablets
  • measure sugar for each bottle (works for small batches)
  • Domino sugar dots (if you can find them in the right size)
  • create a syrup, use an "eye dropper" / pipette to add the syrup to each bottle
There are probably other approaches as well.

My question was is it best practice to try and measure out individual bottle amounts for sugars and add there in order to reduce risk of oxidation/contamination?
Maybe there are no "best practices" - just practices that result in enjoyable beer.
 

Ultryx

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So even the bottling bucket is generally frowned upon too? I understand the point to try and minimize the risk of contamination and oxygenation, but thought the bottling bucket just a necessary part of the process if not kegging.
The only time I would use the bottling bucket or transfer at all would be if I was going to bottle the beer straight from the fermenter. At some point I'd have to mix in the priming sugar and transferring to another vessel would be the ticket. If I'm kegging I don't bother with a secondary or transfer at all.
 

Bobby_M

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Moving a fermented product from one vessel to another is always some level of risk. If it's not perfectly sanitized (or your transfer path isn't), there's a contamination risk. More prevailent is the oxygen exposure. In wine making, free sulfur (from adding metabisulfite) protects from oxidation damage through all the racking and bottling phases. Brewers don't usually use stabilizing products (though some are experimenting with Brewtan-B). I feel fine moving beers wherever and will typically bottle condition big beers like RIS and Barleywine but I Co2 purge everything including backfilling the occupied fermenter with CO2 as it drains.
 
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ChiknNutz

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Guess I need to think harder about stepping up my game. I think the most appealing is to simply move from bottling into kegging (probably the corny kegs). As I am just getting back into brewing, I am right now in the middle of prepping all my bottles (i.e. removing labels). Some of these newer mylar-ish labels are a serious PITA to get off the bottle. That is enough to make me consider better solutions.
 

VikeMan

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I think the most appealing is to simply move from bottling into kegging (probably the corny kegs).
IMO, corny's are definitely the way to go. I suspect anyone who has ever had to deal with disassembling/cleaning/sanitizing a sanke keg would probably agree.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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I am right now in the middle of prepping all my bottles (i.e. removing labels). Some of these newer mylar-ish labels are a serious PITA to get off the bottle. That is enough to make me consider better solutions.
Many people who bottle will soak labeled bottles overnight. I do this as well.

A "pro" tip that I use is this: either the labels fall off overnight or the bottle gets recycled.
 
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ChiknNutz

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Ya I soaked them overnight in Brewer's Edge. Most of the paper labels came off in minutes, the others not at all. Planning to ditch the latter, not worth the effort.
 

ncbrewer

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Ya I soaked them overnight in Brewer's Edge. Most of the paper labels came off in minutes, the others not at all. Planning to ditch the latter, not worth the effort.
A few years ago I took the tour at Highland Brewing in Asheville. The guide said they use pull-off labels to make it easier for home brewers to de-label them. You live pretty close - they're probably available to you.
 
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ChiknNutz

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That's good to know, but that doesn't seem to be the case with the ones I have on hand now. While the labels do come off okay, the adhesive left behind makes them unusable unless you use something akin to paint thinner to get it off, cuz the Brewer's Edge did nothing for the adhesive.
 

eric_victor

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Why bother taking the labels off? Is it personal preference, or is there something that will affect the beer?
 

Elric

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Why bother taking the labels off? Is it personal preference, or is there something that will affect the beer?
Personal preference so your labels tell you what beer is in the bottle (assuming you don't just always brew the same beer again and again.
 

ITV

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That's good to know, but that doesn't seem to be the case with the ones I have on hand now. While the labels do come off okay, the adhesive left behind makes them unusable unless you use something akin to paint thinner to get it off, cuz the Brewer's Edge did nothing for the adhesive.
I use a razor blade to remove the adhesive (along with PBW solution) but if your beer label will cover the adhesive it may be a wasted effort.
 

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I use a razor blade to remove the adhesive (along with PBW solution)
I found that a bit of cooking oil and a stainless steel scrub pad does the trick pretty quick to get that sticky residue off. The oil acts as a weak solvent and also keeps the freed goo from sticking back onto the bottle.
 

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I'm pretty new too and am still working on a couple of kits that I had laying around. Those did recommend siphoning to a glass carboy secondary. However, if I do anymore kits, I'll just use the glass carboy. The cool thing about that is you can actually see the bubbles and movement from the very active yeast. I missed that when I just did the plastic brew buckets. It is another step that exposes the beer to oxygen and potentially bacteria, if the secondary carboy hasn't been properly sanitized.
Somewhere on this site is a thread about serious injuries from glass carboys. Something to think about. I have 2 glass carboys I'm using to age vinegar, but they sit in one spot and once this batch of vinegar is done the glass carboys will be retired.
 

corkybstewart

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Ya forgot about the fact that I can't use the 5 gal as primaries for beer, needs to be 6 or better. I did one batch of wine several years ago and it did not turn out good at all, so haven't tried another since. I would like to try a mead!
I do a cactus fruit mead every few years, but after initial fermentation I put it in a corny keg, stick it in the closet and leave it alone for 3-5 years minimum. After I had a glass carboy explode I've done almost all of my aging in corny kegs. The exception is 10 gallons of vinegar(5 apple cider, 5 red wine) and once I bottle that the glass carboys are gone forever.
 

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Why bother taking the labels off? Is it personal preference, or is there something that will affect the beer?
The last I knew, North Carolina requires home brewers to remove the commercial labels. Not like the label police are going to arrest you.
 

Elric

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You put new labels on each bottle every time? Round sticker label on the cap is way easier.
I don't, but others do. go look in the general forum, there is a pinned thread of nothing but the homemade labels people make for each of their brews. I probably will start labelling bottles soon as my wife will never choose one of the homebrews in a bottle as she doesn't want to have to navigate the little tiny stickers I have on the caps, she would rather a big bold label she can easily see, and the fact that I have left the original labels on just makes it worse for her...
 

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I've got some bottles that were paint printed, not stuck on labels. Still trying to figure out how to strip that off. Tiny cap stickers for the batches so far, experimenting with paper labels and some water-based glues.
 

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I do wine as well so I have:
4 carboys of 54L
5 carboy of 6G.
2 or 3 carboys of 18L.
Plus some of 10 and 5 liters
And few of 1G.

I like to do Lager beer so i use the 6 gallons to ferment and the 5 gallons to lager.
I do rack into bottles because i like to brew many differents beers..
Just brew 2 types of beer the 28th of October and will brew 4 more before the end of the year so for me kegging is not an option because i would have to have a 6 lines draft line lol.
I bottle 19 liters of beer per recipe and i can only drink so much and lately it's impossible to make a party so bottle all the way and preparing for next year 😎

Up to now never had any problem with oxygenation with secondary or bottling ( knock on wood 😅 )
 
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