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Second Fermenter?

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nvillone

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I have recently just started home brewing and absolutely love it. Although it has only been a few months, I have brewed one beer a month since starting. I know I am still very inexperienced but I have been starting to think more about adding a second fermenter to my setup. From what I have been reading this seems to be a personal preference step due to possible contamination to the wort but I also know it helps clear up the beer along with helping the yeast with stronger beers. I haven't brewed any very strong beers yet, just an Irish Red, English Ale (twice) and I'm currently fermenting a Belgian Ale.

I understand all of the extra cleaning, sterilizing and cons that come along with adding a second fermenter, I am just not sure if I am jumping ahead of myself and should get a few more brews under my belt before I add a second fermenter or just dive into the deep end and see if I sink or swim. Any suggestions or stories of why/when you decided to add a second fermenter would help.



PS- I have only brewed 5 gallon all grain recipes.
 

RPh_Guy

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Hi and welcome to HBT!

What are the 10 worst possible threats to beer (assuming the recipe is reasonable)?
1. Oxidation
2. Oxidation
3. Off-flavors from fermentation (mainly from poor temperature control/ fermenting outside the optimal range of your yeast, also perhaps from underpitching)
4. Poor water chemistry (mainly for all-grain brewing, but also for extract)
5. Contamination (wild microbes)
6. Oxidation
7. Poor quality ingredients (e.g. old LME, old hops, milled grain stored for too long, etc)
8. Oxidation
9. Oxidation
10. Oxidation

Transferring the beer into a second vessel during fermentation drastically increases risk of oxidation and mildly increases risk of contamination.
The upside? There really isn't any. It does not help with clarity or help remove or prevent fermentation byproducts.
Autolysis does not occur if beer is left in primary, so there's absolutely nothing wrong with leaving beer in the primary fermenter until it's ready to package (which should be about 7-14 days after brewing in most cases).

Hope this answers your question!
:mug:
 
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Gnomebrewer

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If you want to try some new techniques with brewing, there are plenty of useful ones - eg. fermentation temp control (build a ferment chamber); move to extract with steeping grains, partial mash, all grain (depending on how you brew at the moment); kegging; try liquid yeasts with starters; try lagering; lots of different styles to play around with; etc. etc. Adding a secondary fermenter is not generally recommended any more (I only do it with some Belgian strains).

If you want to brew more often, but don't want to drink all that beer (it's not great for the waistline), try smaller batches. 1 to 3 gallon batches are really convenient to make inside (in the kitchen) and mean that you can have more brew days and more batches on the go at one time.
 

RM-MN

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From what I have been reading this seems to be a personal preference step due to possible contamination to the wort but I also know it helps clear up the beer along with helping the yeast with stronger beers.
No, it does not. The idea of using a secondary comes from commercial breweries where they NEED to get the beer out of the fermenter for 2 reasons. Number one is to free up the fermenter for the next batch. The second reason is that with their large conical fermenters the yeast gets compressed in the bottom of the fermenter with higher pressures and that tends to kill yeast which then autolyze and cause off flavors. You are not brewing in that large quantity so your beer does not need to be moved.
 

myndflyte

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Get a 2nd fermentor and brew twice per month. The only time I ever use a secondary is if I'm adding fruit or oak, but even then, unless the beer is going to age longer than normal, I may just add it to the primary.
 
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nvillone

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Guys thanks for all the feedback. Going to skip that secondary and will look into expanding my overall experience with different types of beers and flavors.
 

mongoose33

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Guys thanks for all the feedback. Going to skip that secondary and will look into expanding my overall experience with different types of beers and flavors.
No, no, no, you're misunderstanding the feedback.

Get the second fermenter, just don't use it as a secondary. That way you can have twice as many batches going at one time.

Unless...you don't have fermentation temperature control. If you don't have that, work on getting a ferm chamber in place.
 
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nvillone

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No, no, no, you're misunderstanding the feedback.

Get the second fermenter, just don't use it as a secondary. That way you can have twice as many batches going at one time.

Unless...you don't have fermentation temperature control. If you don't have that, work on getting a ferm chamber in place.
I caught what myndflyte said about brewing twice a month, I just meant I will not use it as a secondary after my primary fermentor for one batch.
 

Dland

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When brewing low temp lagers, I find a second fermentor useful. The primary fermentation is often not finished by the time I'm ready to make another batch.
 

RM-MN

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When brewing low temp lagers, I find a second fermentor useful. The primary fermentation is often not finished by the time I'm ready to make another batch.
When brewing ales sometimes they are't done when I want to make a second batch and sometime not even for the third, fourth or maybe even fifth. Bucket fermenters are cheap, my brewing times may not be. Fill them all, empty them into bottles when time allows. Then fill them again.
 

shoengine

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When brewing low temp lagers, I find a second fermentor useful. The primary fermentation is often not finished by the time I'm ready to make another batch.
That's what I do, as I have five or six vessels that can be used as fermenters. Although most of my lagers end up only sitting in the fermenter for two weeks, and once terminal gravity is achieved I transfer them to secondary: kegs.
 

balrog

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Buy a bigger second bucket for wheat beer yeasties. They can have HUGE krausen.
Then a third big mouth bubbler so you can watch
Then a ... I think I have a problem...
 

LBussy

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Temperature control is probably your next step in making better beer. There's a lot of choices for that but I recommend something which uses PID and senses/controls the temp of the fermenter and not the refrigerator (like the STC1000 solutions). BrewPi (an obvious favorite for me) or Fermentrack are two great choices.
 
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nvillone

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I know temp control is a big factor when home brewing and I have found that keeping the temp where I need it during fermenting is difficult. I have seen temp control devices that help heat up the fermenter but do they also cool it down if need be (not that I have run into high temp fermentations yet)
 

mongoose33

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I know temp control is a big factor when home brewing and I have found that keeping the temp where I need it during fermenting is difficult. I have seen temp control devices that help heat up the fermenter but do they also cool it down if need be (not that I have run into high temp fermentations yet)
There are some devices out there that cool and heat wort, they are immersed in the wort. They're pricey.

Another way is inserting a stainless coil into the wort and feeding chilled water or glycol solution through it. This is typically in a unitank or stainless fermenter type of arrangement, again not cheap.

At the homebrew level, there are two basic ways people control temp. The cheapest is a swamp cooler; put the fermenter in a pan of water, drape a t-shirt over it that hangs down into the water, and as the water is wicked up into the shirt, it evaporates and cools. How effective depends on ambient, relative humidity, and so on. When I used one, I'd get 5 degrees-plus of cooling. Some will put frozen water bottles in the water to help cool the fermenter, replacing them morning and night or as necessary. It's not a particularly elegant approach, but it has the virtue of A) it works pretty well, and B) it's cheap.

The other way at the homebrew level is a refrigerated ferm chamber, typically a refrigerator or freezer. The refrig/freezer is turned as cold as it goes, and a temp controller like the Inkbird 308 is used to turn it on and off as the need arises. The temp controller will also allow for use of a heat source like a fermwrap or a seedling heat mat wrapped around the outside of the fermenter, so if the wort is too cold, it'll warm it up. Too warm and the controller kicks on the refrig/freezer to cool it back down. The temp probe from the controller is either inserted into a thermowell that extends down into the wort, or held against the side of the fermenter with a piece of insulation that isolates it from ambient temp so it monitors the temp of the wort.

I like the refrigerator option better than the freezer option simply because I've had two back surgeries and lifting a full fermenter is not that fun for me. But others use freezers effectively. Doesn't really matter, though there are other advantages to having a fridge, among them it can do other things too.

Below are a few pics showing variants of all this. I have a little dorm-style refrigerator for a ferm chamber, and a larger refrigerator. Both are controlled by Inkbird 308s. I have five of them, so that tells you what I think of them. :)

There are lots of ways to control fermentation temp, but the key is getting it controlled.

minifermchamber.jpg fermchamber2c.jpg fermchambers.jpg fermchamber2e.jpg probefoam.jpg
 

LBussy

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I know temp control is a big factor when home brewing and I have found that keeping the temp where I need it during fermenting is difficult. I have seen temp control devices that help heat up the fermenter but do they also cool it down if need be (not that I have run into high temp fermentations yet)
Not sure where in the world you live @nvillone so my answer may be US-based on some assumptions. People all over the world do this however so you can too.

You sort of need to start with the proper terminology. You first have a controller. This is responsible for sensing temperature and causing devices to turn on and off to maintain a temperature in the controlled mass (be that air, water, whatever.) You have a system to either add or remove heat (you never really cool, physics tells us that) or both. When you add this to homebrewing you typically have a chamber of some sorts (a small refrigerator is an awesome choice, I have a couple of keg forts I use for this. The fridge provides a nice confined area in which to control temperature, and is also of course gives you that heat removal. It depends on your needs however. Some folks never need cooling or very little. If you have a nice cool place and/or are doing only ales, something like Son of a Fermentation Chiller can work.

When you hear (read) me talk about a controller though, you may think "thermostat." A thermostat is a sort of controller but not all controllers are thermostats. A controller, especially for our purposes, should be smarter. A thermostat generally turns on when the temp is a few degrees above or below it's setpoint, then the inverse happens on the other side. So, if it turns on at 68 for a setpoint of 70, then back off again at 72, you have a comfortable house but a 4-degree swing on your beer which is not a good thing for your yeast.

A controller can be a lot smarter than that. Let me use the analogy of a car since nearly everyone has driven. To maintain 70 MPH (again, I'm American so I apologize if you are not) you could keep your foot in one place till the speed dropped, or you could see a hill coming up and gradually apply more power so you maintain that speed without dropping. The steeper the hill gets, the more you press on the accelerator, and everyone behind you is happy. Now the top of the hill is coming, you begin to let off and as you head downhill you use less and less accelerator to make sure you don't come flying off the hill like TJ Hooker on a Saturday rerun. In this "circuit", you are the controller. You provide proportional, integral and derivative changes to the accelerator based on your desired speed and the environment, along with an understanding of the power of your car, to maintain a nice 70 MPH.

That proportional, integral and derivative control "loop" is called PID and is everywhere you look in the world. It used to be the realm of pneumatics (ever walk past a commercial thermostat and hear it hissing?) but things have almost all gone digital.

At the bottom end people use room thermostats. The problem with this is 1) the wide swing in most thermostats and 2) you are sensing the air around your beer, not the beer itself. Your little yeasties generate heat while they do their thing, and fermenting beer can be several degrees warmer than the ambient temp. As long as you are going to so "something" you may as well do it well. A lot of people kid themselves by saying "I don't need anything that expensive" or "I don't need anything that complicated" but done correctly the results are far worth a couple extra bucks and a few hours. Spend well, spend once, cry once. I don't know how many dollars I've wasted in my live "saving money." Solutions like the STC1000 or Inkbird do sort of control things in a nice compact package, and are fairly easy to implement, but my personal opinion is that if you are going to do it, do it well.

So hopefully by now you are with me that if you are going to do this you 1) want control not just a thermostat and 2) you want to control the beer not the chamber it is in. Are you with me? It's easily possible Here's a screen shot of @CadiBrewer's fermenting beer. You can see it's maintaining the beer temp (yellow/amber/straw-colored line) within 0.1°F which is pretty good in anyone's book:

Capture.JPG


Brewers have had hair-brained ideas to do this since they have been brewing. Some worked, some did not. When technology meets brewing however, wonderful things happen. As far as I know, Elco Jacobs in 2012-ish was the first to look at a pile of parts on his bench and an old fridge and decide "I'm going to do this right!" He created "BrewPi", an amalgamation of "brewing" and "Raspberry Pi" (a small single board computer) to which he added an Arduino Uno which is a small single board digital controller. For around $175 US back then you could buy a system that would yield these results. Amazing. He's improved it ever since and BrewPi 3 is far more capable than ever before.

He did another amazing thing though - the project was made open-source. Around 2014 or so he decided to abandon the Arduino in favor of more capable controllers because Brewers being the geeks they are, wanted more. Also in 2014, @FuzzeWuzze started the mega thread on making your own BrewPi "for cheap." It's gone through a lot of iterations since then, and there have been forks like BrewPiLess, Fuscus, Fermentrack and others. The original BrewPi (called "legacy") continued to be available on Elco's GitHub, but eventually it became harder and harder to make things work because technology moves on. Supporting software was no longer available since the Raspberry Pi's operating system no longer used some older, less secure, less mature packages. Someone resurrected BrewPi and now BrewPi Remix is available which is as faithful a representation of the original as possible while still adding some functionality and arguably easier to implement than it's ever been.

So ... what's it cost? The answer is "it depends." Folks have "stuff" laying around so you never know. Assuming you have or can lay your hands on an old fridge, you add the cost of a Raspberry Pi (if you don't have one) which can be as low as $10 for the Raspberry Pi Zero W if you go to your local Microcenter or similar venue. Add an Arduino which can be under $10 for a Chinese clone, some miscellaneous wiring, a couple probes ... it's not that expensive. Or you can go the route of one of the other solutions which use ESP8266 controllers - I think ultimately the cost will be similar. You will be able to keep your yeasties VERY happy, brew beers you never considered previously. and it's just plain cool! :)
 
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nvillone

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Mongoose and Lbussy, thank you so much for your input. I will have to look into getting a refrigerated ferm chamber and a couple of temp controllers. Lbussy as handy/tech savy as I may think I am, I'm not sure I am up to the task of creating a BrewPi by myself (hahaha) but I will look into systems like that as well.
 

LBussy

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If you can tie your shoes and follow a recipe you can make one of these. While you do cross a couple of categories, you are not being asked to design or create. Just twist together a few wires and type a couple commands. I'd like to think any home brewer, especially one who has done all grain, has proven that he can follow directions enough to do one of these.
 

LittleRiver

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...something which uses PID and senses/controls the temp of the fermenter and not the refrigerator (like the STC1000 solutions)....
Everyone agrees that controlling the temperature of fermentation makes a big difference in beer quality.

I remain unconvinced that PRECISE control of fermentation temp (i.e. PID) makes a noticeable difference in the beer. A simple STC-1000 with the temp probe in a thermowell, or on the side of the vessel insulated by a block of foam works just fine.
 

LBussy

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@LittleRiver some yeast does not care a lot - true enough. However, some yeast does care and temperature fluctuation even more than a certain temperature does indeed stress yeast.

This is not just me saying it - feel free to reference White & Zainasheff, Fix, or any of the very accomplished experts who have studied it. When temps change (and they can do so more quickly than you think) the beer will ... well for want of a better term at the moment they will "puke" compounds from the shock. Will you taste it? Maybe not in an ale where you already have a short ferment coupled with a complex ester profile; but when it comes to trying your hand at lagers where you have a longer ferment and desire to eliminate most esters, you will certainly notice it.

I've been a home brewer since '91 or so, and I passed my BJCP exam back in '95 I think it was, maybe '98? Anyway, it's been a while. I say that not to brag how cool I am but just to share that I've spent a lot of time trying to make my beer well, as well as help make other people's beer better. I was very fortunate to have been on a panel who helped a now fairly famous brewery develop some very commercially successful recipes. I was in the right place at the right time for sure, and I got to experience "stuff" in a controlled environment that most home brewers would not. (All this makes me lucky, not smart!)

After you choose the right recipe, the best ingredients, and the right yeast; you have to choose the right temp and keep it there as closely as possible. I am convinced those represent the milestones on the path to good beer.

The fact is, making BrewPi, Fermentrack, BrewPiLess, Fuscus ... none of those are demonstrably more difficult than hacking the STC-1000. If you are going to do "something", my sincerest suggestion is to do it as well as you can, and eliminate that area from any future concerns. That holds true with all aspects of brewing: If you are going to go all grain; get the freshest grain you can and mash it with careful attention to details. If you buy liquid yeast; buy the right one, as fresh as you can, and make a starter. Keep your hops sealed and cold until you are ready to use them and if you can't care for fresh hops properly then use pellets where oxidation is minimized. We do all of these things to make better beer. Why stop at a thermostat after deciding to control the temps?

If you do make a controller, you will begin to see how widely and quickly the fermentation temps can change. It's fascinating to me really.

Oh and I think most of you know this but nobody makes any money from anything I've mentioned here with the exception of BrewPi (the commercial product, not BrewPi Remix or BrewPi Legacy.) I have no vested interest (nor does @Thorrak, @ame, @pocketmon or anyone else working on these projects) in anyone adopting them. I'm just here for the beer.
:cask:
 

Thorrak

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Everyone agrees that controlling the temperature of fermentation makes a big difference in beer quality.

I remain unconvinced that PRECISE control of fermentation temp (i.e. PID) makes a noticeable difference in the beer. A simple STC-1000 with the temp probe in a thermowell, or on the side of the vessel insulated by a block of foam works just fine.
I won’t comment on the PID vs thermostat debate, but my expectation is that thermowell vs block of foam does make a big difference in the temperature readings. Next beer I make I’ll try to take readings from both a side-mounted sensor and a thermowell and report back.
 
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