Why would you rack from Primary to Secondary before fermentation in complete?

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D the Catastrophist

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So, I'm asking this because one of the questions I see alot is 'Should I rack the primary to secondary after X number of days?' X being 5-7 comes up pretty frequently.
Personally, I rack when fermentation is almost entirely done(SG of 1.00 or below based on hydrometer), then usually at ~30 days, then whenever the lees accumulate again. The reasons for this are 1. avoid excess oxygenation from to frequent transfers as by waiting for it to be complete, more of the yeast will have dropped out, so the wine will automatically be 'cleaner', and so subsequent rackings as the lees settle will be more infrequent. @). No matter how good you are at racking, you will lose volume. If you lose volume, you have to make that up from somewhere to avoid excess headspace in your secondary vessel. Adding water (blech) or another similiar wine impacts the flavor, if you have too much headspace, you get more oxidation. I use a brew bag for any fruit so I could easily remove that if I was worried about an impact to flavor I could easily remove that, but again, I have never seen a need to do this early.

I've tried to look up why you would rack before fermentation is complete, but the main reason I see is 'Because the recipe says so', which to me, is the equivalent of just putting up your hands and saying 'I don't know, the rules are the rules' the contrarian in me wants to know 'why'. The next reason is 'the lees will impart a flavor'. but as far as I can tell, for any noticeable flavor impact, you need a longer time on more dead yeast that the amount that will have generated after only 5-7 days, or even a couple weeks.

Am I missing something? Does it gain more flavor if transferred to oak if it still has a more active fermentation?
 
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lumpher

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I secondary my wine when it's done fermenting. I have not had an "oxygenation" problem EVER in 13 years, beer or wine. People stress the "oxygenation " point so much now it's become the new fad buzzword, to make people think they know what they're talking about.
 

Coffee49

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Depending on the varietal, secondary racking can be done in 3 weeks for country or sweet wines or go 4-5 weeks for dry reds. Depending on a successful startup and SG. Juice is still working in secondary unless sorbate is added
 
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D the Catastrophist

D the Catastrophist

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Yes, and I do the same thing with my fruit wines, cider and meads. I ferment to dry in the primary before racking to secondary. Sweetness adjustments wouldn't be done until right before bottling.

My question is 'why wouldn't you wait until fermentation is done(dry), before racking to secondary'. What benefit is there to moving when sg is higher?
 

Raptor99

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Many people on this site recommend racking from primary (usually a bucket) when the SG is below 1.010. The reason to rack before fermentation is completely finished is that the wine is still giving off some CO2, which helps to exclude oxygen when racking into a carboy. For me, that point is usually reached within 5-7 days. Sometimes I get busy and don't rack until fermentation is complete.

The next racking should be done when (a) the wine is mostly clear, and/or (b) there is a large amount of gross lees. Many times that will be after about 30 days in secondary. With a heavy sediment wine I might not wait that long.

The short answer is that you rack when the wine is ready. The yeast don't look at the calendar. The rules about X number of days are a help to beginners who haven't learned what to look for.
 
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