The difference between Primary/Secondary/Bottling

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GoingInCIDER

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Hey guys... just a quick question.

I notice a lot of people talking about 3 stages, but I always thought there was 2?

Primary and then Bottle.

If there are 3 stages, how long should I do each stage for and when is it ok to start taking little sample tastes?

Thanks!

GoingInCider
 

Maylar

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Some people don't bother with secondary, some do. Personal choice.

I like my cider to be absolutely clear. It takes time for that, and leaving the cider in primary that long can impart a yeasty taste. Some people don't care or notice. So I like to transfer to secondary when it gets down below 1.010 and get it off the lees.

Timing depends on a number of factors, including yeast, temperature and nutrients. Generally 2 weeks primary, 2 weeks secondary, but that varies.

Only time I'll taste it is when doing a SG test.
 
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I agree with maylar. As a rule of
thumb - if you plan to age in the carboy/fermenter you would want to rack to a secondary for aging after primary fermentation is complete. This should help to prevent any off flavors from autolysis of the yeast or any other gunk in the primary fermenter
 

bernardsmith

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Sample tastes from day 1. There is nothing about the fermentation process that will make you sick or taste disgusting and tasting your wines and ciders throughout the process will help you better understand from the "inside" what is happening to your fruit.
Others may disagree but the number of stages in the process is really not something that is objectively definable. The stages have as much to do with the wine maker (or cider maker) as it does with the fermentation process itself. Assuming you are ignoring the preparation of the juice (pressing, for example) or prep before you pitch the yeast (enzymes and K-meta) then you will ferment vigorously in a primary which does not need to be sealed from the air - indeed, quite the opposite as yeast requires O2.
If you bottle immediately then you bottle immediately but many cider and wine makers prefer to age their fermented liquors in air sealed carboys. This is the same process as the first mistakenly referred to as a secondary fermentation when the only thing that is secondary is the fermenter (the vessel) and not the process itself.*** It would be into the secondary that you would add any spices or additional fruit or even additional acids and tannins (they will be blown off in the primary).
Using a secondary has the advantage of allowing the wine or cider or mead to age off the lees or sediment which in some circumstances can cause off odors. It also has the advantage of assisting the wine to give up its vast collection of CO2 molecules. And so..
many wine makers and cider and mead makers don't simply rack once but two or three or four times in the course of 6 -12 months, each racking removing more and more of the sediment and fruit particulates that create cloudiness and so they have a brightly cleared product, very still and very dry with virtually no yeast in the wine or cider.. Is that two stages or three? or half dozen? I don't know. You decide. But then there is bottling and some wine makers and cider makers rack to a bottling bucket and bottle from there. And then there are those who transform their still dry wines and ciders into sparkling wines (adding more yeast and sugar and riddling)... Bottom line - and again I am sure that others on this forum will disagree strongly, but for me there are three stages - fermentation, aging and bottling - and as the great French film maker - Jean Luc Godard said -"Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end... but not necessarily in that order" , and so it is with wine - fermentation, aging and bottling although not necessarily in that order.

*** To confuse you even more (and I hope I am not doing that, GoingInCIDER), there is actually a secondary fermentation but that does not involve yeast. This is when the malic acids in wines and ciders are broken down by bacteria to produce lactic acids. Lactic acids are far less strong than malic and so the cider or wine tastes far smoother. Often, the way one ferments will prevent this malo-lactic fermentation from occurring and sometimes the chemicals that wine makers add to prevent additional fermentation from occurring when they add more sugar to sweeten the wine will create geranium off flavors in the wine or cider if the MLF (as it is often called) takes place spontaneously. But if you allow cider or apple wine to age 9 months in a carboy or a bottle the flavor changes significantly and the cider or wine seems to be transformed...
 
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GoingInCIDER

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Sample tastes from day 1. There is nothing about the fermentation process that will make you sick or taste disgusting and tasting your wines and ciders throughout the process will help you better understand from the "inside" what is happening to your fruit.
Others may disagree but the number of stages in the process is really not something that is objectively definable. The stages have as much to do with the wine maker (or cider maker) as it does with the fermentation process itself. Assuming you are ignoring the preparation of the juice (pressing, for example) or prep before you pitch the yeast (enzymes and K-meta) then you will ferment vigorously in a primary which does not need to be sealed from the air - indeed, quite the opposite as yeast requires O2.
If you bottle immediately then you bottle immediately but many cider and wine makers prefer to age their fermented liquors in air sealed carboys. This is the same process as the first mistakenly referred to as a secondary fermentation when the only thing that is secondary is the fermenter (the vessel) and not the process itself.*** It would be into the secondary that you would add any spices or additional fruit or even additional acids and tannins (they will be blown off in the primary).
Using a secondary has the advantage of allowing the wine or cider or mead to age off the lees or sediment which in some circumstances can cause off odors. It also has the advantage of assisting the wine to give up its vast collection of CO2 molecules. And so..
many wine makers and cider and mead makers don't simply rack once but two or three or four times in the course of 6 -12 months, each racking removing more and more of the sediment and fruit particulates that create cloudiness and so they have a brightly cleared product, very still and very dry with virtually no yeast in the wine or cider.. Is that two stages or three? or half dozen? I don't know. You decide. But then there is bottling and some wine makers and cider makers rack to a bottling bucket and bottle from there. And then there are those who transform their still dry wines and ciders into sparkling wines (adding more yeast and sugar and riddling)... Bottom line - and again I am sure that others on this forum will disagree strongly, but for me there are three stages - fermentation, aging and bottling - and as the great French film maker - Jean Luc Godard said -"Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end... but not necessarily in that order" , and so it is with wine - fermentation, aging and bottling although not necessarily in that order.

*** To confuse you even more (and I hope I am not doing that, GoingInCIDER), there is actually a secondary fermentation but that does not involve yeast. This is when the malic acids in wines and ciders are broken down by bacteria to produce lactic acids. Lactic acids are far less strong than malic and so the cider or wine tastes far smoother. Often, the way one ferments will prevent this malo-lactic fermentation from occurring and sometimes the chemicals that wine makers add to prevent additional fermentation from occurring when they add more sugar to sweeten the wine will create geranium off flavors in the wine or cider if the MLF (as it is often called) takes place spontaneously. But if you allow cider or apple wine to age 9 months in a carboy or a bottle the flavor changes significantly and the cider or wine seems to be transformed...
wicked feedback from everyone.

By the sounds of it, I wouldn't mind adding a second stage.
If I do this... do I still put an airlock on?

I've already added sugar to my primary in both my current batches (1 week in). One is with brewers yeast and other champagne. So if I just transfer to a secondary and let sit another 2 weeks, what would likely happen to my batches?

Also, being one week in now on both, if I were to sample a small shot, what should i expect? I don't have a hydrometer yet, but I'll get one tomorrow!

Thanks again. Impatiently waiting with GoingInCider! :)
 

bernardsmith

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Hard to know exactly where the fermentation is at without an hydrometer. The ciders are going to be yeasty and may have some sweetness (residual sugar) if the gravities are around 1.010 or 1.005 or may be dry (if the gravity is closer to 1.000 or lower. After a week they may taste quite acidic (you have removed much of the sugar so the acids in the apples are unbalanced). The alcohol may be sharp - depending on the temperatures at which you have fermented the sugars

You DO need an hydrometer because when the gravity drops to around 1.010 or lower you want to transfer (rack) the cider from the primary to a secondary fermenter and while (IMO) the primary OUGHT to be a wide mouthed bucket (food grade) that you can cover with a clean towel or loose lid (that makes it easy for you to stir the cider a couple of times a day to incorporate air and remove some of the CO2) the secondary really should be a narrow mouthed carboy with a bung and airlock. The idea here is that you fill the carboy right up into the neck so that there is perhaps an inch or so of headroom (so perhaps a cubic inch of air altogether). If you use a bucket or you don't really fill the carboy then that headroom will slowly fill with air as the CO2 - the carbon dioxide - dissipates and is replaced with air. Early on, you WANT the air to help the yeast do its job but after the yeast has fermented all the sugar then that air is going to bind with the fruit and will oxidize your cider and oxidation will damage the color and the flavor... Oxidation, of course, does not take place in a day or two but over time it will spoil your cider (or wine).. Brewers are less concerned , I think, because they tend to age their brews in weeks whereas wine makers (and cider makers) tend to age their wines in months...
 

Maylar

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*** To confuse you even more (and I hope I am not doing that, GoingInCIDER), there is actually a secondary fermentation but that does not involve yeast.
I agree with all you've said, but I think that you may be caught up in semantics. There is yeast fermentation going on if you rack to secondary before the sugar is gone. Yes, it's just a continuation of the primary and not a separate distinct process. But around here it's still referred to as secondary fermentation... rightly or wrongly.
 

bernardsmith

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I agree with all you've said, but I think that you may be caught up in semantics. There is yeast fermentation going on if you rack to secondary before the sugar is gone. Yes, it's just a continuation of the primary and not a separate distinct process. But around here it's still referred to as secondary fermentation... rightly or wrongly.
:confused:Rightly - or wrongly - reference to a secondary fermentation is what confuses novice wine makers and brewers. I just think that someone saw a new fermenter and assumed that the fermentation itself was different ( "Of course it's different: the first fermentation is aerobic and then the yeast shifts into an anaerobic fermentation"... or some such voodoo science)...
 

Maylar

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:confused:Rightly - or wrongly - reference to a secondary fermentation is what confuses novice wine makers and brewers. I just think that someone saw a new fermenter and assumed that the fermentation itself was different ( "Of course it's different: the first fermentation is aerobic and then the yeast shifts into an anaerobic fermentation"... or some such voodoo science)...
Understood. Just keep in mind that most questions into the subject here on the forum are in reference to racking to a second bottle at some point in the process. I think a simple explanation of why and when we do that is more useful and less confusing to a noob than going into a dissertation on the physics of fermentation.
 

Yooper

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:confused:Rightly - or wrongly - reference to a secondary fermentation is what confuses novice wine makers and brewers. I just think that someone saw a new fermenter and assumed that the fermentation itself was different ( "Of course it's different: the first fermentation is aerobic and then the yeast shifts into an anaerobic fermentation"... or some such voodoo science)...
I've been making wine, mead and cider for 25 years. Normally, when a winemaker refers to 'putting the wine in secondary' or "racking to secondary', they are not talking about MLF at all.

Many of us don't even airlock our primaries- they are in a bucket with the fruit crushed but not separated, and then press and put the wine in a carboy ('secondary') and airlock when the wine is about 1.010.

MLF is not referred to as 'secondary'- it is always referred to as "MLF" which happens after fermentation ends.
 
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