Secondary Fermentation....How Important is it?

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

Babbotts

New Member
Joined
Jun 7, 2022
Messages
4
Reaction score
1
Hello,

I recently was looking at ordering a 5 gallon extract beer kit from Northern Brewer. I noticed that most of their recipes call for a primary fermentation of 1-2 weeks and a secondary fermentation of 2 - 4 weeks.

I have a modest setup of a 6.5 gallon fermenter and a 6.5 gallon bottling bucket. I am not opposed to buying a new bucket but I wanted to know how important secondary fermentation is. I have only one brew under my belt and it came out pretty well so I want to make sure that I am not skipping an important step. I'll pose my questions in a list below:

How important is secondary fermentation?

Can I just let my beer sit in the primary fermenter for longer?

Can I use my bottling bucket as a secondary fermenter or would that cause oxidation issues?


Thank you in advance for taking to time out to share your knowledge!
 

Pacific Electric

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2020
Messages
41
Reaction score
42
Location
Los Angeles
Welcome to the hobby and the forum.

You don't need to secondary - some people do in special cases like adding fruit, and some people do because they feel it makes their beer better. If you search, there are dozens and dozens of threads debating the topic.

It's been a long time since I've bottled so I won't give advice on that or bucket fermenting, but this is the best place to get free advice and dig through old threads on all topics homebrewing.

Whether to Secondary Ferment or Not?
 

kartracer2

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jul 28, 2009
Messages
570
Reaction score
560
Location
Iowa,(westcentral)
@Babbotts
I used to do the "secondary" ferment long ago. As some may point out there really isn't a second ferment unless you add more fermentabls, aka fruit, honey. etc. after the "primary" fermentation.
A lot of the older recipes tell you to transfer to "secondary" after so many days. The claim is a more clear beer because you leave the majority of the trub behind when you do a transfer. The act of moving your beer to another container "just because" is a debatable topic but for the most part, an unnecessary task. While I don't do it any more some still do and it works for them with out negative consequences. Those risks may include risk of infection and more oxygen exposure. I let my beers ferment out in the same vessel as I started to ferment in and only transfer it when it comes time to package, for me, my bottling bucket.
The bottom line for me is to just let the beer sit a few more days after it reaches FG and then let it clear for a few days(weeks?) and then transfer calmly to my bottling bucket, add priming sugar and do the bottling chores..
Hope this helps,
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
 

IslandLizard

Progressive Brewing
Staff member
Mod
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
19,578
Reaction score
9,870
Location
Pasadena, MD
What they said! ^

Secondaries for most brews are old hat, posing more risk and problems, while there's nothing they cure. Your beer will clarify in your primary as well as it would anywhere else, while you reduce risk of infection and oxidation.

If you're using a fermenter bucket, keep it closed while fermenting. Only open to transfer to your bottling bucket when bottling.
To do gravity tests, after fermentation has completed, learn to do a suck siphon through the grommeted airlock hole in the lid with a 2-2.5' piece of (very) skinny vinyl tubing.
 
OP
OP
B

Babbotts

New Member
Joined
Jun 7, 2022
Messages
4
Reaction score
1
What they said! ^

Secondaries for most brews are old hat, posing more risk and problems, while there's nothing they cure. Your beer will clarify in your primary as well as it would anywhere else, while you reduce risk of infection and oxidation.

If you're using a fermenter bucket, keep it closed while fermenting. Only open to transfer to your bottling bucket when bottling.
To do gravity tests, after fermentation has completed, learn to do a suck siphon through the grommeted airlock hole in the lid with a 2-2.5' piece of (very) skinny vinyl tubing.

I had not thought about taking samples through the air lock hole. Thank you for the tip!
 

Ren06

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 8, 2022
Messages
67
Reaction score
410
I started brewing in February and have successfully brewed 10 all grain batches. During this time I only used secondary one time and that was for a belgian quad I made.

IMHO I don’t believe secondary is necessary to clear up your beer. You can leave it in the primary and when it’s ready cold crash it for a day or two which will drop the yeast to the bottom so you can have clearer beer.

Finally a personal tip, if you can invest in a tilt hydrometer I would suggest doing it. You won’t have to open your beer to test the gravity because it’ll send your readings bluetooth to your phone. It’s been a life saver for me. Good luck on your brews in the future, and here’s an example of my current DDH DIPA I’m fermenting now,

7801CECB-2453-4201-824C-1B7CFC763563.png
 

Rish

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
May 3, 2020
Messages
610
Reaction score
4,602
Location
Near Birmingham
If you want to bulk age a beer like quad or add fruit, etc., another vessel to do that in will free up your fermenter to brew another beer. Otherwise, as said, not necessary. I routinely leave my beers and ciders in the FV for 4 to 6 weeks with no issues.
 

ncbrewer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2011
Messages
4,821
Reaction score
1,511
Location
New Bern
There is some back-up for skipping secondary fermentation in White and Zainashef's Yeast book. On page 155 they discuss the two reasons most commonly given for secondary fermentation - off flavors and clearer beer. I won't go into their explanation, but they conclude "Both of these points are not completely valid."
 

D.B.Moody

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2020
Messages
1,412
Reaction score
2,389
Location
Kirkwood
I did four comparisons of secondary vs no secondary last year. My main conclusion was that it made little difference, and I was going to continue using a secondary because it settled the beer and I could bottle two weeks after brewing. I brew ales, not lagers, and mostly bitters, pale ales and such. I reported on this here: What does a secondary fermenter do?

But, to answer your question, @Babbotts , a secondary is not important.

Actually, I think the Northern Brewer fermentation time seems quite long and/or imprecise. I suggest you seriously consider buying a kit from some place else. I admit that I have no experience buying anything from Northern brewer.
 
Last edited:

jrgtr42

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2013
Messages
1,830
Reaction score
1,170
Location
Metrowest, Massachusets.
Most of those instruction sheets haven't been updated in eons.
Yeast don't work by calendars; they're done when they're done.
Depending on many factors, it could be done in a couple days, or it could be weeks.
Personally, I don't do secondarys unless (as others said) I'm bulk aging on fruit or wood (or whatever,) or souring.
I also leave it in primary for 3 weeks - that is, testing gravity at about 2 1/2 weeks, then again at 3. If it's the same, then it's packaging time. I used to do 2, but for some reason I had to leave it an extra week and it turned out the best beer I'd made to that date. So since them I've done 3. Occasionally it's not done so I need to leave it an extra again, for 4 weeks, and once 5. There's never been an issue with autolysis, or infection or anything.
 

odie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2016
Messages
2,018
Reaction score
1,131
Location
CC, TX
there is no need for a secondary fermenter. If you are doing a "secondary" phase, like adding candi or something, just add it to the original fermenter and brew on...
 

Latest posts

Top