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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: chezteth on November 23, 2009, 01:38:41 PM

Title: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: chezteth on November 23, 2009, 01:38:41 PM
Hi All.  I have been brewing for a few years and normally rack my beers to a secondary fermenter before bottling or kegging. It would be less work to transfer from the primary to keg or bottles.  However, I don't want to sacrifice the clarification or quality of the beer I am packaging.  My question is...  do you feel it is necessary to rack your beer to a secondary fermenter?  Why or why not?

Thanks,
Brandon
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: a10t2 on November 23, 2009, 01:53:45 PM
I personally stopped using secondaries about two years ago, except in cases where I have a specific reason. Those could include dry-hopping, secondary fermentation using fruit or sugar, adding spices or oak, or anything I want to age for more than a couple months. I'm sure you'll get plenty of opinions on both sides.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: theDarkSide on November 23, 2009, 02:06:27 PM
No secondary here since I don't really make fruit beers, and I dry hop right in the primary.  I usually add my spices at bottling time ( make an extract with a little vodka and soak the spices for a few days ).  Never seem to have issues with clarity.  In fact, the comps I've entered seem to emphasize the clarity ( too bad the rest of it gets dinged...otherwise I'd look like Mr. T with all the gold medals :) )



Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: cracklefish on November 23, 2009, 02:08:33 PM
Some beers need to age or have additional ingredients as stated above. I feel most beers are just fine or even a little fresher with no 2nd. Clarity is usually an issue of time. Quality has too many other variables besides just time. I always make sure I am to FG before I do anything as I'm sure you know. I say give it a try and see what you think.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: majorvices on November 23, 2009, 02:49:24 PM
Secondary is unnecessary in most low gravity ales.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: Hokerer on November 23, 2009, 03:01:44 PM
Necessary?  absolutely not.  Desirable?  could be.  You really need to try it both ways and decide for yourself.  Brew the exact same beer twice, once with secondary and once without (keep total time the same) and see which you prefer.  I've done that and prefer to always secondary because I (and competition judges) prefer the result.

You'll get plenty of opinions both ways in this thread so you really need to decide for yourself.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: ndcube on November 23, 2009, 03:03:31 PM
I use them because I only bottle and I don't always feel like bottling.  Secondary is quick and easy.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: wilypig on November 23, 2009, 03:35:28 PM
I rack all my finished beers to a keg and secondary until I am ready to place on service or bottle. This may be for a few weeks, months or years depending on the beer/wine/cider/mead.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: Matt B on November 23, 2009, 03:44:42 PM
From a quality perspective, secondary isn't necessary. There have been more than a couple of experiments to demonstrate that having your beer sit on your yeast cake and trub for a few weeks isn't going to leave much in the way of off flavors. The main one I can think of off the top of my head is the collaboration between homebrew radio and BYO magazine.

However, more often than not I do transfer to secondary, as I find that kegging from secondary tends to suck up less sediment from my carboy, leaving less sediment in the keg in case it needs to travel, which it often does. Also, I tend to repitch the yeast from primary onto my next batch of beer, and the yeast is less viable after it's been sitting in its own waste (alcohol) for a few weeks, and I also need my only two 6g carboys again for that batch.

Now with that said, transferring to secondary runs the risk of introducing oxygen into your beer leading to off flavors, but also kicking off a secondary fermentation if your wort wasn't sufficiently oxygenated initially, and depending on the gravity and style of beer, this might be a good thing. But I purge the 5g carboys that I transfer into with some co2 to minimize oxygenation and seems to work well.

Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: denny on November 23, 2009, 04:49:39 PM
I decide on a brew by brew basis.  Sometimes a beer just isn't clearing the way I'd like after a few weeks in primary.  In those cases, if I rack to secondary it seems to get it to clear better.  Maybe the physical agitation, I don't know.  If I want to dry hop before kegging (unusual, I usually dry hop in the keg), or do a cold conditioning, I'll rack to secondary.  I prefer not to have to do a secondary, but I let the beer make the decision for me.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: bonjour on November 23, 2009, 06:12:48 PM
I'm with Denny on letting the beer decide.  I do find that I rarely need a secondary.

Fred
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: woody on November 23, 2009, 11:09:00 PM
I don't secondary very often, I usually use the keg as a secondary.   I do rack to a carboy to secondary for higher gravity beers that I'm going to age for awhile and beers that I dry hop
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: crabber on November 24, 2009, 02:55:51 AM
I used to reside in the no-secondary camp, but now I'm with Denny and Fred on letting the beer decide.  I think it depends a lot on the flocculation properties of the yeast.  Stubborn lager strains usually need some chill time in a secondary to clarify, or else can taste yeasty and very un-lager-like.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on November 24, 2009, 03:17:05 PM
Are we talking here about finishing fermenting in secondary fermenter or are we talking about transferring fully fermented beer to another vessel for flocculating and clarification?

These are two different things.

Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: Hokerer on November 24, 2009, 03:38:08 PM
Are we talking here about finishing fermenting in secondary fermenter or are we talking about transferring fully fermented beer to another vessel for flocculating and clarification?

These are two different things.

In general, don't you never want to transfer out of primary until fermentation is done, whether to a secondary or not?
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: denny on November 24, 2009, 04:48:41 PM
Are we talking here about finishing fermenting in secondary fermenter or are we talking about transferring fully fermented beer to another vessel for flocculating and clarification?

These are two different things.



In my case, I consider it to be the latter.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: bluesman on November 24, 2009, 05:46:52 PM
Are we talking here about finishing fermenting in secondary fermenter or are we talking about transferring fully fermented beer to another vessel for flocculating and clarification?

These are two different things.



In my case, I consider it to be the latter.

I used to secondary all of my beers religiously until I discovered that it really wasn't necessary for most beers. Yeah a Barleywine or a big beer would benefit by a secondary for aging and clarification purposes, but your typical ales don't really benefit from a secondary. I rack from the primary right into the keg for most of my beers.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: halenrush on November 24, 2009, 06:04:30 PM
Lately my secondary is straight to cold crash. 
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: chezteth on November 24, 2009, 06:15:27 PM
Thanks for all the replies.  I wait until fermentation is complete before transferring to secondary.  I have been using a secondary fermenter for the purpose of clearing my beer. I have done a couple of fruit beers that I transferred to secondary on top of some fruit puree.  It definitely sounds like most people are not using a secondary except in a few cases ( ie fruit beers ).  I think I will follow the advice "let the beer decide".  

Another question that goes along with this is...  If you bottle your beers, do you transfer to a bottling bucket before adding the priming sugar?  Or do you have another method of adding the priming sugar to the finished beer?  Thanks again for the guidance.

Brandon
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: denny on November 24, 2009, 06:21:40 PM
do you transfer to a bottling bucket before adding the priming sugar?

Yep.  I don't want anything that's settled to the bottom of the fermenter stirred up when I add the sugar.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: Hokerer on November 24, 2009, 06:49:16 PM
do you transfer to a bottling bucket before adding the priming sugar?

Not before, after.  Mix priming sugar with a little water, boil to sanitize, cool, add to bottling bucket.  THEN siphon the beer from the secondary into the bottling bucket.  Makes sure things get mixed up well that way.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: halenrush on November 25, 2009, 03:09:42 AM
do you transfer to a bottling bucket before adding the priming sugar?

Not before, after.  Mix priming sugar with a little water, boil to sanitize, cool, add to bottling bucket.  THEN siphon the beer from the secondary into the bottling bucket.  Makes sure things get mixed up well that way.

And a little coil in the transfer hose in the bottom of the bucket helps a ton in stirring it up without oxidizing the beer too much.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: brewsumore on December 01, 2009, 11:02:57 PM
Are we talking here about finishing fermenting in secondary fermenter or are we talking about transferring fully fermented beer to another vessel for flocculating and clarification?

These are two different things.

In my case, I consider it to be the latter.

What the rest of these guys said...  Technically, going to secondary is done either at partial or full fermentation.  Ten years (or longer) ago it was pretty common wisdom to rack to secondary when fermentation was about 0 - 80% complete - often about five - seven days into fermentation.  Doing so prior to completion of fermentation left a lot of yeast in suspension to help ensure completing the fermentation in secondary, while getting the wort off of the trub.  The idea was to allow the beer to bulk mature and clear prior to bottling, to create cleaner-tasting beer while removing the threat of autolysis.  Dave Miller, in "Brewing the World's Greatest Beers" (1992) recommended racking off the trub 12 hours after pitching the yeast.

Since then, fears of autolysis have subsided significantly, and kegging is more commonplace.  The same bulk maturing, and/or cold conditioning happens in the keg, so arguably that IS secondarying. Or, if people are more particular about getting any yeast at all in their keg, or want to bulk age, dry hop, and/or add fruit prior to bottling/kegging, they will secondary in a carboy, conical, etc.


Personally, I learned a long time ago I prefer to secondary in carboys only after fermentation is done, and normally if adding fruit, or want to dry hop or cold condition, or see the when the beer has cleared.  And I recently went to kegging about 1/2 of my beer and so use the keg to secondary/dry hop/cold condition.

And sometimes I'll still go from primary to bottling bucket, especially for a low gravity ale. 
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: Brew.Drink.Repeat. on December 02, 2009, 06:40:03 PM
Even if you decide to do a secondary, IMO you shouldn't rack out of primary before three weeks or so. (And definitely ignore the old rule of racking as soon as the airlock stops moving, which can sometimes be as short as two or three days!)

One of the mistakes I see far too many people make is racking too early; give the yeast time to full complete the task you're asking them to do. Your beer will thank you for it. Remember: brewers make wort, yeast makes beer.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: pricepeeler on August 24, 2011, 12:13:27 AM
I am going to leave my beer alone.

Question, how long for ale is too long to leave in primary?

I know, look at your beer...

Thank you in advance,
Price
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: majorvices on August 24, 2011, 12:21:02 AM
Once the fermentation is finished you can let it sit 1-2 week without any issues. If you are in a temp controlled fermentation chamber and can lower the temp to 50 or below you can go several weeks. The colder the better.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: a10t2 on August 24, 2011, 12:29:50 AM
I've done a month or more without ill effects, even in the 60s.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: tubercle on August 24, 2011, 12:56:19 AM
Who resurected this old thing?

 Tubercle's take. No

 There is no such thing as secondary fermentation. It's all one fermentation and one fermentation only. Sometimes it is done in two seperate vessels in special circumstances but it is still only one;from begining to end. Secondary fermentation should be stricken from the vocabulary.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: a10t2 on August 24, 2011, 01:03:10 AM
There is no such thing as secondary fermentation.

What about bottle conditioning?
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: tubercle on August 24, 2011, 01:09:51 AM
There is no such thing as secondary fermentation.

What about bottle conditioning?

DAMMIT >:( >:( >:(  There you go messing up another one of my theories :D :D :D
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: ullarsskald1989 on August 24, 2011, 01:13:41 AM
There is no such thing as secondary fermentation.

What about bottle conditioning?
There is no such thing as secondary fermentation.

What about bottle conditioning?
There is no such thing as secondary fermentation.

What about bottle conditioning?
Who resurected this old thing?

 Tubercle's take. No

 There is no such thing as secondary fermentation. {snip}

How about when one racks off to a secondary vessel, adds to the sugar level and re-pitches???
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: tubercle on August 24, 2011, 01:21:16 AM
There is no such thing as secondary fermentation.

What about bottle conditioning?
There is no such thing as secondary fermentation.

What about bottle conditioning?
There is no such thing as secondary fermentation.

What about bottle conditioning?
Who resurected this old thing?

 Tubercle's take. No

 There is no such thing as secondary fermentation. {snip}

How about when one racks off to a secondary vessel, adds to the sugar level and re-pitches???

 You are just feeding the yeast so they can continue their (only) fermentation. Call it second helpings.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on August 24, 2011, 02:00:37 AM
Who resurected this old thing?

 Tubercle's take. No

 There is no such thing as secondary fermentation. It's all one fermentation and one fermentation only. Sometimes it is done in two seperate vessels in special circumstances but it is still only one;from begining to end. Secondary fermentation should be stricken from the vocabulary.

One of the NHC presentation in Minneapolis (I think) covered beer maturation by Steve Parks.  He had the fermentation laid out from the activity of the yeast, not the vessel.  Primary was consuming sugars as the energy source.  Secondary was when the sugars are gone and the yeast switch to acetaldehyde and diacetyl as the remaining energy source.  You can look that up in the NHC presentation archieves, going to bed now.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: ullarsskald1989 on August 25, 2011, 04:04:40 AM
Quote
Tubercle: There is no such thing as secondary fermentation.

Quote
Ullarsskald: How about when one racks off to a secondary vessel, adds to the sugar level and re-pitches???

Quote
Tubercle: You are just feeding the yeast so they can continue their (only) fermentation. Call it second helpings.

Cogent point here "re-pitch."

In example...I brew a high gravity braggot and pitch with an English Ale yeast to set the flavor profile.  I rack off the working braggot off the trub to a second vessel and add makeup liquid, which contains an increase of sugar content, I also repitch with a yeast that will add no character of its own, but will eat the additional sugar.

This is a second fermentation.

I've been brewing since 1974 and have learned that there are no absolute yeses or noes in our art, save the necessity for proper sanitation.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: oscarvan on August 27, 2011, 11:33:54 PM
I agree with only racking to secondary if the beer needs it, ie a fruit addition or a beer that needs aging. My beer stays on the yeast 3-ish weeks, then goes into kegs for conditioning. The clear, "stuff" settles and they go in the keggerator.

There is ONE exception that is working it's way into the above scenario: If the beer has to travel. This summer I brought 11 kegs with me on vacation, and they rode in the trailer, and then in the beer cart. Needless to say that whatever was in the bottom got stirred up. So, for future "mobile beer" I plan on getting organized enough ahead of time where I can spend three weeks on the yeast, and another 3-4 in either a carboy or a keg, and then when perfectly clear get transferred to another keg.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: majorvices on August 27, 2011, 11:39:36 PM
FTR I am 100% behind the usage of BRIGHt TANKS - just not secondary fermenters (which are usually just carboys.) A corny keg with the dip tube cut works pretty good as a BT.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: oscarvan on August 28, 2011, 12:50:38 AM
Why cut the dip tube?
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: majorvices on August 28, 2011, 12:59:11 AM
You cut the dip tube so that you can pull beer without pulling yeast. Then rack to other corny via jumper. In my brewery my brights have "stands" on the bottom that raise up above the bottom of the tank to let beer settle around the stand so that i can rack beer off yeast. Same principle, different engineering.

I had about 20 corny kegs and about 6 of them had cut dip tubes. Even if I didn't rack the beer of the yeast I was able to pull clear beer out of the corny kegs with shortened tube as long as I didn't move them. ended up losing about 1 pint total. Maybe 2.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: euge on August 28, 2011, 02:19:59 AM
If you do it use a pipe-cutter not a hacksaw. A cutter will make it nice and clean.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: tschmidlin on August 28, 2011, 07:32:14 AM
Don't cut your dip tubes. :)

if you have to transport kegs, rack them to a new keg (which is not the same as doing a secondary).  You can blow off the start of the keg and then rack the rest to a new one, but realistically if you rack the whole thing the amount of yeast that gets transferred win;t be enough to seriously cloud 5-gallons of beer.  It might not be brilliant, but it will still be pretty clear.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: majorvices on August 28, 2011, 11:54:42 AM
It's easier just to cut a couple dip tubes.  ;) I agree, use a pipe cutter. They are cheap and easy to use. 1 inch off the bottom of the tube will help you rack off clear beer and you lose very, very little beer. This is the way the pros do it (though they use stands or conicals, not dup tibes), why not adapt it for the home?

Another tip: Biofine Clear. I've been using it recently and WOW - you can get filtered looking beer very quickly. Best fining agent I have used.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: bo on August 28, 2011, 02:15:00 PM
Don't cut your dip tubes. :)

if you have to transport kegs, rack them to a new keg (which is not the same as doing a secondary).  You can blow off the start of the keg and then rack the rest to a new one, but realistically if you rack the whole thing the amount of yeast that gets transferred win;t be enough to seriously cloud 5-gallons of beer.  It might not be brilliant, but it will still be pretty clear.

As tempting as it has been, I have never cut off any of mine either and wouldn't  recommend it. You'll get a shot or 2 of trub, but it'll clear quickly after that. Consider it extra B vitamins that you need anyway.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: majorvices on August 28, 2011, 02:37:59 PM
If you don't want to cut the tubes and you have cornies with the bent tubes you can actually just slightly bend them a little more to pull off about an inch or so from the bottom. That way you don't have to cut the tubes if that is a concern. I can understand why people would be a little hesitant to cut the tubes but it always worked well for me. Also, places like Morebeer carry dip tubes and they are pretty cheap. If you wanted to could just buy one or two of those and cut them so that you don't ruin your original tube.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: tubercle on August 28, 2011, 03:03:10 PM
Seems like I remember someone had a device that floated and pulled beer from the top of a keg. Maybe I just dreamed it.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: bo on August 28, 2011, 04:50:30 PM
That floating device sounds interesting.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: euge on August 28, 2011, 06:02:02 PM
IIRC the floating device is still in development, though he might have finished it. Last time I saw this was on HBT or NB. Don't remember which.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: dbeechum on August 29, 2011, 04:58:04 PM
Ya'll talking about a Cask Widge (http://www.ukbrewing.com/sundries.cfm#anchor40162) per chance?

More Info (http://www.caskwidge.com/)
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: euge on August 29, 2011, 06:30:46 PM
That's basically it- but for a cornie keg.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: tubercle on August 30, 2011, 03:51:39 AM
That's basically it- but for a cornie keg.
^^^^^^^^^^

 I remember seeing that video but what euge said.

 It either was fixed on the bottom of the dip tube or replaced it entirely, I can't remember that part, but worked under the same principle as the cask widge.
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: Mark G on August 30, 2011, 12:00:34 PM
That's basically it- but for a cornie keg.
^^^^^^^^^^

 I remember seeing that video but what euge said.

 It either was fixed on the bottom of the dip tube or replaced it entirely, I can't remember that part, but worked under the same principle as the cask widge.
I wonder if you replaced the liquid dip tube with another gas dip tube in a cornie, would the tubing for the cask widge fit over it? Anyone happen to own one?
Title: Re: Is it necessary to rack to a secondary fermenter?
Post by: James Lorden on August 30, 2011, 08:49:20 PM
I wonder, instead of cutting the dip tube, could you turn the keg upside down, switch the posts, then push the beer out of the gas-in post when the clearing is done?

I agree, secondary fermenters, are really just bright tanks, and the Dave Miller reference of transfering to a secondary after 12 hours is equvalent to dumping trub from a conical.

If I wan't to know if I should be doing something to my beer I look at what my pro-brewer friends are doing and then see how I can mimic that in my process.