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General Category => Yeast and Fermentation => Topic started by: Stonecutter on October 30, 2015, 12:52:10 AM

Title: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: Stonecutter on October 30, 2015, 12:52:10 AM
First of all, I would like to hear what people have to say about the pros and cons of secondary fermentation.
Secondly, my specific brew system still includes my original two five gallon buckets (from a starter brew kit), one for fermenting, one for bottling. My main question is:
If I want to start trying to use secondary fermentation, will it work to just rack to the bottling bucket in advance of bottling day? My understanding of secondary fermentation is that the change in fermentation vessel removes the old yeast to prevent any off-flavors from autolysis, so I would think transferring to the bottling bucket a little early would allow fermentation to continue a bit longer without off-flavors. Thoughts?
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: BrewBama on October 30, 2015, 01:19:02 AM
I rarely rack to secondary unless I am dry hopping or adding some other late addition like bourbon soaked oaken cubes, cocoa nibs, etc. I believe at the homebrew volumes there is little danger of leaving the beer in the primary for several weeks. Just my limited experience to draw on for that info.
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: RPIScotty on October 30, 2015, 10:39:01 AM
First of all, I would like to hear what people have to say about the pros and cons of secondary fermentation.
Secondly, my specific brew system still includes my original two five gallon buckets (from a starter brew kit), one for fermenting, one for bottling. My main question is:
If I want to start trying to use secondary fermentation, will it work to just rack to the bottling bucket in advance of bottling day? My understanding of secondary fermentation is that the change in fermentation vessel removes the old yeast to prevent any off-flavors from autolysis, so I would think transferring to the bottling bucket a little early would allow fermentation to continue a bit longer without off-flavors. Thoughts?

I would do a search on this topic as it has been discussed thoroughly on this forum and many others. It boils down to this:

Camp 1: Doesn't make a difference and exposes beer unnecessarily.

Camp 2: Why not? If your sanitation is right, It can't hurt.
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: klickitat jim on October 30, 2015, 11:59:32 AM
Removing yeast early... think of it this way. We're planning a trip from California to Maine to have some nice fresh lobster. When we get there we are going to remove the engine because it seems like it will be worn out and starting to smoke. So why not just pull the engine out a few days early?
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: majorvices on October 30, 2015, 12:17:04 PM
First off, unless the beer is still actively fermenting when you rack, or you are adding fermentables to the secondary, it's not really a secondary fermentation. It's a "conditioning".

Second, you should really never, under any circumstances remove the beer from the yeast until it is finished fermenting because you can seriously slow or even halt fermentation prematurely.

Third, unless you can purge the secondary vessel with co2 you really do run the risk of oxidating the beer. I do believe that a short conditioning time can be good for a beer, but only if you purge that container with co2 first.

Lastly, as was mentioned, this topic has been discussed at length ad nauseam, and a search may be beneficial. But we also like to hatch these things out ad nauseam over and over again because, well, that's what we do here at AHA. :)
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: HoosierBrew on October 30, 2015, 12:32:44 PM
+1.  All the worries about autolysis were way overstated back in the day when every book and magazine made secondary seem mandatory. I think what a lot of the people perceived as autolysis was just old, poorly stored yeast from the LHBS and poor yeast practices at home.
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: klickitat jim on October 30, 2015, 12:33:13 PM
Its when the same person asks the same question over and over again... I think you have to have a press pass to do that.
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: HoosierBrew on October 30, 2015, 12:39:49 PM
Its when the same person asks the same question over and over again... I think you have to have a press pass to do that.

Or be one of my coworkers.  ;D
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: tommymorris on October 30, 2015, 12:42:49 PM

First of all, I would like to hear what people have to say about the pros and cons of secondary fermentation.
Secondly, my specific brew system still includes my original two five gallon buckets (from a starter brew kit), one for fermenting, one for bottling. My main question is:
If I want to start trying to use secondary fermentation, will it work to just rack to the bottling bucket in advance of bottling day? My understanding of secondary fermentation is that the change in fermentation vessel removes the old yeast to prevent any off-flavors from autolysis, so I would think transferring to the bottling bucket a little early would allow fermentation to continue a bit longer without off-flavors. Thoughts?
Are you experiencing off flavors in your beer? Maybe we can help you figure out the cause and help with corrective actions.
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: majorvices on October 30, 2015, 12:43:07 PM
+1.  All the worries about autolysis were way overstated back in the day when every book and magazine made secondary seem mandatory. I think what a lot of the people perceived as autolysis was just old, poorly stored yeast from the LHBS and poor yeast practices at home.

In larger breweries is can be a problem because of the amount of pressure in the massive fermentors, so dumping yeast of the bottom every few days is important. But in 5 or even 20 gallon fermentors are larger this just isn't an issue until the yeast actually start to die off a few weeks later.
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: HoosierBrew on October 30, 2015, 12:46:35 PM
+1.  All the worries about autolysis were way overstated back in the day when every book and magazine made secondary seem mandatory. I think what a lot of the people perceived as autolysis was just old, poorly stored yeast from the LHBS and poor yeast practices at home.

In larger breweries is can be a problem because of the amount of pressure in the massive fermentors, so dumping yeast of the bottom every few days is important. But in 5 or even 20 gallon fermentors are larger this just isn't an issue until the yeast actually start to die off a few weeks later.

I'd heard that about the pressure, Keith - how quick does that start to be an issue in your brewery, out of curiosity ?  At home I've left beer in primary for 6 weeks and not picked up on anything off, but that's 5 gallons under very little pressure.

EDIT -  I missed that you dump bottom yeast every few days. Need coffee.
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: tesgüino on October 30, 2015, 01:05:52 PM
If I want to start trying to use secondary fermentation, will it work to just rack to the bottling bucket in advance of bottling day? . . . Thoughts?
If you want to try secondary fermentation, you'll have to add more fermentables to the secondary vessel.


edit to add:
If you transfer before primary fermentation is complete, it's still primary fermentation, just in a different vessel.
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: majorvices on October 30, 2015, 01:12:30 PM
+1.  All the worries about autolysis were way overstated back in the day when every book and magazine made secondary seem mandatory. I think what a lot of the people perceived as autolysis was just old, poorly stored yeast from the LHBS and poor yeast practices at home.

In larger breweries is can be a problem because of the amount of pressure in the massive fermentors, so dumping yeast of the bottom every few days is important. But in 5 or even 20 gallon fermentors are larger this just isn't an issue until the yeast actually start to die off a few weeks later.

I'd heard that about the pressure, Keith - how quick does that start to be an issue in your brewery, out of curiosity ?  At home I've left beer in primary for 6 weeks and not picked up on anything off, but that's 5 gallons under very little pressure.

EDIT -  I missed that you dump bottom yeast every few days. Need coffee.

I only have 30 bbl tanks so it's never been an issue. I dump some off bottom when fermentation is finished, then harvest. I do make sure to dump right after fermentation wraps up though.
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: majorvices on October 30, 2015, 01:40:44 PM

edit to add:
If you transfer before primary fermentation is complete, it's still primary fermentation, just in a different vessel.

Now we are getting into silly semantics. It's still a secondary fermentation vessel. There is still fermentation taking place, but in a second vessel. Not that it matters, because it is a dumb move regardless in most cases unless you are trying to slow or stall fermentation.
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: denny on October 30, 2015, 03:34:33 PM
Here's what John Palmer had to say on this very forum....https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=15108.msg191642#msg191642

His bottom line...."So, the new rule of thumb: don’t rack a beer to a secondary, ever, unless you are going to conduct a secondary fermentation."
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: coolman26 on October 31, 2015, 02:39:14 PM
I remember starting out and always transferring to secondary.  I then got around you folks years ago and stopped that transfer.  My beers stopped that narly oxidized issue.  That is exactly it, if I'm not doing a "secondary ferment", I'm not moving the beer period.  It does more harm than good. 
Title: Re: Secondary Fermentation
Post by: Stonecutter on November 02, 2015, 06:32:33 PM
I realize it's a subject that has been discussed before, so I appreciate all of the helpful feedback.

My takeaways:

1) Using a single fermentation phase in a single fermentation vessel for 5 gallon batches should be fine and not result in any off-flavors, from autolysis or otherwise.

2) Secondary fermentation in a second fermentation vessel may be appropriate if adding new fermentables, post-brew day.

3) The off-flavors I have found are most likely due to poor temperature control during primary fermentation.