Primary or secondary

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Active Member
Jan 18, 2005
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Dallas, Texas
So I got to thinking(sometimes a dangerous thing :D ) wouldn't it be better to pitch a new batch of beer on the secondary yeast bed, than the primary? It would seem to me that the primary has alot of unfermentables(sp?) and hop pellet crud that didn't get fillter out in it, but the secondary would be mostly yeast. I can see why you wouldn't want to do it with a batch that's been in the secondary over two weeks. Anyone see a problem with this?
I've never tried it, but what you say makes sense. Some reasons I'm not pressed to do it:

- I don't use hop pellets. If I did, and I couldn't keep them out of the primary effectively, I'd probably be much less inclined to pitch into the primary because of all that gross hop goop.

- Pitching into the primary is more convenient. I have an assortment of carboys that act as secondaries, and with all the different types of brews I make, and the sheer volume, sometimes beer sits in the secondary quite a while before a keg is ready or before the beer is done. But I brew once a week, so every week, last week's batch is ready to rack into secondary, leaving me with a primary full of vigorous yeast ready to pitch onto.

I think overall, the *yeast* in the primary is more suited to reuse. It'll be the most vigorous of the two, and you'll probably have a greater viable cell count in the primary than in the secondary. As you point out, though, it's not a perfect world and there are other factors that may make the secondary yeast look appealing. Let us know how it goes if you give it a try :D
You're right Janx, there are more yeast cells in the primary.

the point with re-using yeast is you have to brew something very close to the old batch as flavors like chocolate, ginger and chili peppers will transfer to the new batch.
I did some reading on this issue since this question came up, and it seems the hunch that the primary is the best yeast is correct. The general health of the yeast will be much better and more suited to further fermentation. Yeast in the secondary will be basically sick and dying because of the alcohol content.

FWIW, I have had great success doing very dissimilar styles on a bed of yeast. I've done a stout one week and a pale the next on the yeast bed. I'm pretty successful at siphoning off all of the old batch, I don't use hop pellets, so no hops are in my priimary. Now, if you used chili peppers and whatnot, it would be a different story, but as far as straight-ahead beer goes, you can brew lots of different styles on a bed of yeast. My current British ale yeast has made a couple Pale Ales, a Stout and now a Best Bitter.