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Minimizing headspace in secondary

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jbae

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For both primary and secondary fermentation, I use glass jugs that hold a little more than a gallon - dumping a gallon of apple juice leaves headspace, which is nice for primary because it can contain the bubbles but leaves excess oxygen in secondary (which I've heard can impact the final flavor). I am curious how people typically handle this problem.

Do you add more liquid when racking, increasing the volume? If so, what do you recommend that wouldn't restart fermentation or make the cider watery? Or do you rack into several smaller containers? A third option that I can think of is adding more than a gallon in primary, leaving little headspace, but this would cause the bubbles to creep up into the airlock (which doesn't seem sanitary).

I'm curious to hear from you!
 

Kent88

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I typically try to overshoot volume in primary.

I've heard of some people who add some kind of marble-looking things that can be sanitized to their fermenter. You can also purge with carbon dioxide.
 

Maylar

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When I started cidering I was a one gallon guy too. Racking to secondary lost about a quart which is a lot of head space. I'd wait until the ferment was completely done and somewhat clear before racking, so the time in secondary was as short as possible. Then bottle. Never had any foul ciders. As time went on I've added more carboys and now have a collection of all sizes so I can rack without space. And yes, I've used sanitized marbles to take up some volume when needed -

 

Chalkyt

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I can't remember who, but one of the "elders" on the forum suggested that you don't need to do the primary fermentation under airlock. You can do it in an open container (bottling bucket?) just covered with a cloth or bucket top to keep the nasties out. The idea is that primary fermentation generates enough CO2 to keep oxygen at bay and in any case I understand that some O2 is desirable for primary fermentation.

So, similar to Maylar I will do 5.5 litres in primary which gives me 5 litres for my secondary carboy. I only leave the cider in primary until the turbulent fermentation finishes and the "foam" settles, then rack to secondary under airlock with very little air space. So far so good.

What I have found is that it takes a lot of marbles to fill up the air space if I start with 5 litres and only rack 4.5 to secondary, so I gave up on that idea.
 
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Epond83

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I have a 1.4 gallon big mouth fermentor. I buy 1.5 or 2 gallons of cider and put 1.25 in the fermentor. Then with I rack I can have very little head space in a gallon jug.
 

AzOr

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You can always ferment a quart or so simultaneously of the same must. Then top off when you rack into your glass. Whatever doesn’t fit gets “sampled”.
 

Chalkyt

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Following my post above, I also recalled that in their books, Claude Jolicoeur " the vessel used should be wide enough to provide a good contact surface between the air and the must" and Andrew Lea "... with a lid slightly loose... to keep insects and other undesirables away", both indicate that exposure to air in the initial stages of fermentation is useful.
 

Maylar

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I have a 1.4 gallon big mouth fermentor. I buy 1.5 or 2 gallons of cider and put 1.25 in the fermentor. Then with I rack I can have very little head space in a gallon jug.
Yup, love my little big mouth. Whatever won't rack to a gallon jug goes into a mason jar or becomes a "sample".
 
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jbae

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Thanks for all of the suggestions! I had never considered putting something like marbles in the fermenter. I think my game plan for future batches will be to ferment another quart or so alongside a gallon of juice and combine them in secondary. I'll do that until I can find some slightly larger containers to use for primary.

If anyone else has any other ideas, please keep them coming! I read in a book once that they save finished dry cider that they use to top off the fermentation vessel in secondary. I've just had a tendency to drink my ciders soon after they're done :)
 
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