When to rack to secondary

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Maylar

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I have my first gallon of cider in primary fermentation and I'm trying to decide when it'll be time to rack to secondary and get it off the lees.

It's been 3 weeks now. The bubbles in the airlock have slowed to about one bubble in 5-6 seconds. Most of the krausen has fallen and I can see a layer of lees in the bottom of the jug, but the cider is still cloudy. Since I used pectic enzyme I was expecting the cider to clear up a bit when it slowed down. It'd be hard to see exactly where the lees ends. I'm willing to wait longer, but I've read that keeping it on the lees too long will impart a bad taste.

I started with orchard cider and brown sugar, Nottingham ale dry yeast (didn't re-hydrate it first). Temperature has been 72-74. What should I be looking for?

TIA
 

hunter_le five

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If it's still bubbling I'd leave it be, but that's just me. Given that it's still fermenting, it may not be ready to clear up.

I've left ciders in primary for months with no ill effect, so I don't think another week or so is going to hurt anything here.

If you are satisfied with where the SG is at and want to speed things along, you can always try "cold crashing" by putting the whole thing in the fridge. After the cider has cleared up a bit over a few days in the fridge, you'll be ready to trasnfer.
 
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Maylar

Maylar

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Well, got around to measuring SG and it's 1.000 - racked to secondary yesterday. Doesn't taste funky but needs some sweetener (tart!). Will be bottling next weekend.
 

aellis

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there's really no reason to rack to secondary unless you're infusing with some other flavors.
 

jtratcliff

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Or you're bulk aging and want it off the lees... or into a smaller fermenter for head space reasons, or moving from plastic to glass, or ...?

:D
 

jiggs_casey

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The only time I secondary is when I am really, REALLY trying to get a clear beer or when I am racking onto fruit.
 

pricelessbrewing

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I did a cider a month or two back, and bottled right from. I may have disturbed the lees too much, but it seemed much lighter than traditional beer trub, and I ended up with a noticeable amount in some bottles. Next time I'll rack it into a secondary for cold crashing, then rack again to the bottling bucket.

On a side note, it's delicious with some apple raspberry concentrate, or cherry concentrate. The cranberry pomegranate is less tasty.
 

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I don't think the "no secondary" belief is one held by very many cidermakers. That reddit link probably refers to beer brewing, and this is a totally different thing.

You can rush a cider to bottle if you want to, but once fermentation slows, the cider needs to be racked off of the lees and topped up so that headspace is avoided and to protect the cider.

I rack my cider from primary somewhere between day 7 and 14, depending on the speed of the fermentation.
 

aellis

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does headspace really matter? if you haven't opened the airlock since fermentation began, the headspace should be full of CO2, not air. seems like racking it would introduce more air than leaving it alone.
 

pricelessbrewing

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The purpose of the secondary was to get it off the lees. Minimum headspace reduces oxygen exposure. And purging with c02 doesn't do much, at best you have 50% c02, 50% air swirling around unless you do a water fill to c02 push technique that I can't remember the name off.
 

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does headspace really matter? if you haven't opened the airlock since fermentation began, the headspace should be full of CO2, not air. seems like racking it would introduce more air than leaving it alone.
Yes, headspace really matters over the course of the process. Not so much for just a couple of weeks, but over a longer period it is the difference between a great cider or wine, or an oxidized or stale-ish one.

The headspace will have co2 in it, of course, during active fermentation but it's not a permanent thing and also even when it's producing c02, it's never going to be 100% c02.

Air permeates even the water in the airlock, so you want to top up to minimize that ullage (the name for headspace).
 
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