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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: brewmasternpb on November 18, 2010, 05:57:04 AM

Title: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: brewmasternpb on November 18, 2010, 05:57:04 AM
OK, I've been seeing a lot of posts from some experienced homebrewers, saying that they don't use a secondary fermentation.  I've been brewing for 8 years, and I've always used a secondary.  I want to gather the facts, so I can evaluate my process, "it's a pain in the butt" is not a valid reason for me.  Here's how I see it:
Using a secondary increases the chances of infection, but if you sanitize everything well, it is a low risk.  The positives are that a secondary improves clarity, but I've heard people say that they get decent clarity without a secondary.  The reason I use a secondary fermentation, is to get the beer off of the trub, decreasing astringency and a "meat-like" flavor.  What I've been reading, is that keeping your beer on the yeast in the primary will aid fermentation.  I overpitch like crazy, so my fermentation is over in 3 days, so a week on the primary usually does it.  Anyway, I'd like input, thanks!
-Dave
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: euge on November 18, 2010, 06:39:56 AM
I think one should get their beer off the yeast sooner than later also. If you want to park your beer in a secondary go for it. I park mine in kegs since I rarely dry-hop or add fruit.

Certainly noticed a pronounced umami flavor in the porters I just kegged. Had reasons to do so but ultimately was just plain lazy and they sat in primary for 40 days. I agree with you. A good pitch and proper fermentation temps ought to have a beer ready fairly rapidly. Final gravity (for average beer) is reached in several days. So I skip secondary and either bottle or keg. Depending on the yeast I have so-so clarity all the way up to amazing.

Then they can prime and condition.

But final word...? Hard to say...
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: tschmidlin on November 18, 2010, 06:46:28 AM
You say you do it to "decrease astringency and a "meat-like" flavor", but if you've never done it differently then you don't really know that happens, right? :)  It's just what you've read, just like you've read a lot of people say that a secondary is not necessary.  And I don't think anyone is saying that they leave it sitting on the yeast for a couple of years, most people just package right away.

Doing a secondary is low to no risk of contamination the way I have done it, and low risk of oxidation, but no risk of autolysis.  If you're massively overpitching or doing extended secondary then maybe autolysis could be a real problem for you - but I don't, so it's not a problem for me.  Not doing a secondary eliminates some minor risks with no detriment to the beer over the short term, plus it's less work.  So I don't do one.

Brew 10 gallons (blend pre-fermentation if you do two 5-gallon batches) and try racking one carboy to secondary as normal and bottling/kegging the other immediately.  Then do a triangle test and see which you prefer and if there's a noticeable difference.  Then you'll know what to do for your beers.  ;)
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: majorvices on November 18, 2010, 08:31:22 AM
The only thing secondary is really good for is dropping sediment and brightening the beer. The exception is if you have a high gravity beer, in that case the secondary allows you to age the beer off the majority of the yeast (aging the beer for long periods on the primary yeast can give you the "meat" flavor you are talking a bout, but we are talking in excess of 6 weeks here.) If you keg then your keg acts like a secondary everytime! Its essentially a serving/bright tank all in one.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) there is no final word. Secondary is simply a tool you can use when you think you need it. I will say that I think than in many cases secondary in a glass carboy can cause more problems that it is worth. If you secondary, do it in a keg where you can purge the head space with Co2 and prevent oxidation damage to the beer.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: bluesman on November 18, 2010, 01:19:42 PM
Brew 10 gallons (blend pre-fermentation if you do two 5-gallon batches) and try racking one carboy to secondary as normal and bottling/kegging the other immediately.  Then do a triangle test and see which you prefer and if there's a noticeable difference.  Then you'll know what to do for your beers.  ;)

+1

There has been much discussion and debate over this issue around here lately. I can understand your concern. I use to rack into a secondary carboy for years religiously and have since omitted this step in my process. I typically keg my beer after primary fermentation with the exception of a big beer and/or some specialty brews.

If you keg then your keg acts like a secondary everytime! Its essentially a serving/bright tank all in one.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) there is no final word. Secondary is simply a tool you can use when you think you need it. I will say that I think than in many cases secondary in a glass carboy can cause more problems that it is worth. If you secondary, do it in a keg where you can purge the head space with Co2 and prevent oxidation damage to the beer.

+1

I also use my keg as the secondary in most cases.

A secondary fermentation in a carboy can be done without detriment to the beer if done properly. The main concern is the introduction of oxygen and contamination. With proper transfer techniques these can be mitigated.

I think by and large a secondary fermentation in a carboy is not necessary and should be avoided but there are times when one is necessary. Use your best judgement and sound practices and one will make better beer.  ;)
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: majorvices on November 18, 2010, 01:33:07 PM
To add: most pro breweries use "bright tanks" which is essentially a secondary. They transfer into the bright tank to both free up the fermenter and to brighten and carbonate the beer. Then they package. But on the homebrew level a keg works as a perfect bright tank. And since you control the final destination of the beer it can act as both a bright and serving tank. You blow off the first few cups of yeast and the beer should flow relatively clear (maybe cloudy for the first several pours.)

If the first several cloudy beers bothers you you can use a keg exclusively as a bright tank. Just cut the dip tube by about 1 inch off the bottom of the keg. Let beer condition cold for a couple weeks and then run the clear beer off into the serving tank via a jumper. You will leave most of the yeast behind and lose a small amount of beer. But this is the easiest way to clear beeer. Some finings, such as gelatin, will help speed up the process.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: brewmasternpb on November 18, 2010, 01:42:06 PM
You say you do it to "decrease astringency and a "meat-like" flavor", but if you've never done it differently then you don't really know that happens, right? :)  It's just what you've read, just like you've read a lot of people say that a secondary is not necessary. 

Yes, that's why I'm asking for facts, to make an informed decision  :)
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: brewmasternpb on November 18, 2010, 01:47:22 PM
Thanks everybody for the discussion!  I don't keg, so that eliminates that idea.  Also, in 93 batches, I've never had a problem with oxygenation, and I've cracked open 5% beers after a year with no problems.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: majorvices on November 18, 2010, 01:50:36 PM
8 years brewing and you are still bottling?? You, my friend, have an iron will!  8)

I haven't bottled a batch of beer in years (though I have filled lots of growlers). That said, the irony is that owning a keging system makes bottling 100Xs easier. You can add the priming sugar to the keg, purge O2, shake to distribute sugar, and fill the bottles over the sink via the pressurized keg.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: theDarkSide on November 18, 2010, 01:52:52 PM
I'm lazy ( or pragmatic as Denny would say )...how's that for a reason :)

I've done a couple secondaries but don't anymore.  For the styles I do, it doesn't seem to affect anything.  For clarity, I use Whirlfoc in the boil and for the first time did gelatin in the keg.  I did the Lagunitas Brown Shugga clone and after 3 weeks and the intial pints, I can read a book through it.  I've never had a beer that clear before.  

But it all comes down to laziness on my part :)
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: corkybstewart on November 18, 2010, 02:43:38 PM
My work schedule years ago kept me from racking to secondary a lot of times-I'd brew, be gone for 2-3 weeks and come back and just bottle it.  I realized after a while it didn't make any difference in my beer so being lazy I quit using glass secondaries.  I've left beer in primary a month, rarely longer than that and never tasted any meat or off flavors.  Once and Imperial stout that tasted like kerosene when it got to FG tasted perfect after a couple more weeks in primary. 
Once I rack my beers to kegs the kegs usually sit a month or more until I need them so that's my secondary. 
If you've brewed 93 batches with secondary and never had an oxidized beer why even consider changing?  There are as many "right" ways to brew as there are homebrewers, that's the beauty of this hobby.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: thirsty on November 18, 2010, 03:23:39 PM
I don't secondary anymore because as far as I can tell it makes no difference in the taste of the beer.

Clarity is one of those things I just don't care about. The beer seems clear enough for me.

I also still bottle after four years mainly because I'm too cheap to by an extra fridge, kegs, gas, etc.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: jeffy on November 18, 2010, 03:51:32 PM
I've often thought that the pro brewers are paranoid about yeast autolysis more than homebrewers possibly because the amount of pressure on the cone of a tall cylindroconical fermenter is greater than what you would find in a bucket or a carboy.  Do you guys think there's anything to that theory?  That pressure on the yeast accelerates autolysis?

I routinely leave my beer in the primary until it's time to keg.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: Tim McManus on November 18, 2010, 03:57:33 PM
I have 12 carboys I use for secondary fermentation and 6 for primary fermentation.  Why?  Because I make so much friggin' homebrew that I have to store the backlog somewhere.  I can only get 5 kegs in the fridge at a time, so the other batches are usually queued in secondary carboys for however long.  Oh, and I split 10-gallon batches with another brewer.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: denny on November 18, 2010, 04:01:28 PM
If you're an AHA member you can read what John Palmer has to say about it in the Ask the Experts section of the AHA website.  In a nutshell, here's his take...

"Therefore I, and Jamil and White Labs and Wyeast Labs, do not recommend racking to a secondary fermenter for ANY ale, except when conducting an actual second fermentation, such as adding fruit or souring."

For more info, check his entire answer.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: denny on November 18, 2010, 04:02:17 PM
I've often thought that the pro brewers are paranoid about yeast autolysis more than homebrewers possibly because the amount of pressure on the cone of a tall cylindroconical fermenter is greater than what you would find in a bucket or a carboy.  Do you guys think there's anything to that theory?  That pressure on the yeast accelerates autolysis?

I agree, and if you look at Palmer's answer in Ask the Experts, so does he.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: jeffy on November 18, 2010, 04:36:57 PM
I've often thought that the pro brewers are paranoid about yeast autolysis more than homebrewers possibly because the amount of pressure on the cone of a tall cylindroconical fermenter is greater than what you would find in a bucket or a carboy.  Do you guys think there's anything to that theory?  That pressure on the yeast accelerates autolysis?

I agree, and if you look at Palmer's answer in Ask the Experts, so does he.

I just read that answer twice and don't see anything about pressure mentioned.  I guess I missed something.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: micsager on November 18, 2010, 04:46:53 PM
I've been brewing about the same length of time as you.  One thing I've learned, is there is no "final word" on anything when it comes to brewing.  

Having said that, I do not use secondary fermentation. If your flavor reasons are ones that you, yourself have experienced, then you should do secondary.  If you've read about those flavors in a book, I think you try a batch or two without.

 pretty much follow whatever JZ says.  It's never served me wrong, and I love the 4-5 styles that I have settled into.  

Basic Pale
Hoppiness is an IPA from BCS
CDA, black IPA, or whatever name that I developed from a BYO recipe
And Amber from BCS
And in the fall, I have a killer holiday brew.

Every once in a while, I will do something else, but seldom.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: tschmidlin on November 18, 2010, 04:49:51 PM
I've often thought that the pro brewers are paranoid about yeast autolysis more than homebrewers possibly because the amount of pressure on the cone of a tall cylindroconical fermenter is greater than what you would find in a bucket or a carboy.  Do you guys think there's anything to that theory?  That pressure on the yeast accelerates autolysis?
Hydrostatic pressure is a known stress on yeast, so I'd say it seems probable that high pressure would accelrate cell death.  Highly probable.  :)
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 18, 2010, 05:00:03 PM
I've often thought that the pro brewers are paranoid about yeast autolysis more than homebrewers possibly because the amount of pressure on the cone of a tall cylindroconical fermenter is greater than what you would find in a bucket or a carboy.  Do you guys think there's anything to that theory?  That pressure on the yeast accelerates autolysis?

I routinely leave my beer in the primary until it's time to keg.

The pressure, depth of yeast in the cone (IIRC), and higher temp of the yeast in the cone are all reasons the pros dump the yeast or transfer.  This was covered in "Yeast", so there are some pretty experienced guys who think there is something to that theory.  ;)
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: denny on November 18, 2010, 05:27:22 PM
I've often thought that the pro brewers are paranoid about yeast autolysis more than homebrewers possibly because the amount of pressure on the cone of a tall cylindroconical fermenter is greater than what you would find in a bucket or a carboy.  Do you guys think there's anything to that theory?  That pressure on the yeast accelerates autolysis?

I agree, and if you look at Palmer's answer in Ask the Experts, so does he.

I just read that answer twice and don't see anything about pressure mentioned.  I guess I missed something.

I must have missed something, Jeff!  I was sure that was in there.  Now I've got to figure out where I read it.  But I still personally agree with your hypothesis.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: jeffy on November 18, 2010, 05:40:39 PM
I've often thought that the pro brewers are paranoid about yeast autolysis more than homebrewers possibly because the amount of pressure on the cone of a tall cylindroconical fermenter is greater than what you would find in a bucket or a carboy.  Do you guys think there's anything to that theory?  That pressure on the yeast accelerates autolysis?

I routinely leave my beer in the primary until it's time to keg.

The pressure, depth of yeast in the cone (IIRC), and higher temp of the yeast in the cone are all reasons the pros dump the yeast or transfer.  This was covered in "Yeast", so there are some pretty experienced guys who think there is something to that theory.  ;)

I really need to buy that book.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: bluesman on November 18, 2010, 05:59:23 PM
I use a secondary (glass carboy) for aging barleywine and RIS. I could use a keg but don't like to tie up my kegs for that amount of time. I purge the carboy with CO2 and use an autosiphon for the transfer. I top off the carboy to within 2" of the top and cap it with an airlock.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: jaybeerman on November 18, 2010, 06:16:57 PM
brewmasternpb,

I've had the same thoughts and I'm definitely skeptical of brewers who seem too lazy to brew properly.  The key here (IMO so take this with a grain of salt) is temperature rather than the vessel.  Having observed brewers who transfer from the primary directly to the serving fridge (keg) I found their beers to lack the melding or aging qualities (at least initially) of beer that had sat in a secondary.  Problem solved; now I skip the secondary carboy and transfer to keg but the keg sits at cellar temps for a minimum of two weeks (longer for bigger beers) before seeing the colder temperature of my serving fridge.  In your case (bottling rather than kegging) that doesn't really help.  Ever thought of buying cheap ball lock kegs and counter pressure filling bottles from a primed keg?
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: micsager on November 18, 2010, 06:23:32 PM
brewmasternpb,

I've had the same thoughts and I'm definitely skeptical of brewers who seem too lazy to brew properly.  The key here (IMO so take this with a grain of salt) is temperature rather than the vessel.  Having observed brewers who transfer from the primary directly to the serving fridge (keg) I found their beers to lack the melding or aging qualities (at least initially) of beer that had sat in a secondary.  Problem solved; now I skip the secondary carboy and transfer to keg but the keg sits at cellar temps for a minimum of two weeks (longer for bigger beers) before seeing the colder temperature of my serving fridge.  In your case (bottling rather than kegging) that doesn't really help.  Ever thought of buying cheap ball lock kegs and counter pressure filling bottles from a primed keg?

"too lazy to brew properly"  interesting statement.  What makes transferring to secondary "proper?" 
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: jaybeerman on November 18, 2010, 06:40:20 PM
You'll note that I said that I don't use a secondary carboy either.  There are some brewers (none in this discussion) that care more about simplifying brewing than they do about the quality of the end product. If the shoe doesn't fit then don't worry about it.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 18, 2010, 06:57:15 PM
I really need to buy that book.

It is one of the few that I plan to read a second time.  Very good stuff.  I recommend it.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: beersk on November 18, 2010, 08:29:25 PM
I saw The Final Word and thought of the pre-prohibition cocktail...

I don't secondary unless it's a high ABV beer and I want to age it.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: denny on November 18, 2010, 09:23:19 PM
I'm definitely skeptical of brewers who seem too lazy to brew properly.

My motto is "The best beer possible with the least work possible while having the most fun possible".  But I'm curious about how you define "brew properly"?  What is "proper brewing"?  Who defines it?  Why doesn't that definition differ from person to person?
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: micsager on November 18, 2010, 09:57:12 PM
I'm definitely skeptical of brewers who seem too lazy to brew properly.

My motto is "The best beer possible with the least work possible while having the most fun possible".  But I'm curious about how you define "brew properly"?  What is "proper brewing"?  Who defines it?  Why doesn't that definition differ from person to person?

+1, I used to think continuous sparging was "proper"  LOL.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: jaybeerman on November 18, 2010, 10:04:25 PM
My motto is "The best beer possible with the least work possible while having the most fun possible".  But I'm curious about how you define "brew properly"?  What is "proper brewing"?  Who defines it?  Why doesn't that definition differ from person to person?

Like I said, I'm not referring to anyone in this discussion.  I was simply referring to the op "it's a pain in the butt is not a valid reason for me."  I define "brew properly" by the quality of the end product.  Initially I was skeptical of brewers who skipped the secondary, so I talked to a few locals and sampled their beer.  Then I personally decided to skip the secondary with most of my brews BUT I have found benefits to aging in the keg (see my comments above).  Denny, I'm a perfectionist and everything I do is done to the highest level possible.  Rather than take offense at the first sentence in my post why not take it with a grain of salt knowing that I'm a perfectionist and skip to the meat of my post?
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: denny on November 18, 2010, 10:24:55 PM
Jay, please understand I wasn't taking offense and I apologize if it came off that way.  And I totally agree that it's the quality of the end product that defines "proper brewing".  That's what I was getting at, and wanted to hear your definition.  For me, I can't always say that aging is the key to the best beer....but I'm certainly not saying that aging can't improve some beers, either.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: bluesman on November 18, 2010, 10:38:44 PM
I think Denny's motto is one to brew by...at least I intend to brew with that approach.

I too am also a perfectionist of sorts which can get in the way of pragmatism. I am always searching for better ways, methods and techniques to improve my beer regardless of the effort. I want to make the best beer possible at almost any price. However I believe that brewing should be fun and if I'm spinning my wheels, I am not having fun so I revert to a more practical means.

That being said, aging beer in a secondary carboy has delivered some pretty good results with my barleywines...
I am one to "not mess with success".
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: jaybeerman on November 18, 2010, 10:46:27 PM
Jay, please understand I wasn't taking offense and I apologize if it came off that way.  And I totally agree that it's the quality of the end product that defines "proper brewing".  That's what I was getting at, and wanted to hear your definition.  For me, I can't always say that aging is the key to the best beer....but I'm certainly not saying that aging can't improve some beers, either.

No worries. 
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: brewmasternpb on November 19, 2010, 04:46:17 AM
Thanks everybody!  I will check out the Palmer Q&A.  I understand what you meant by "too lazy to brew properly", that was partially why I asked the question in the first place.  I wanted to find out if there was an actual reason why people skipped the secondary, or if they just saw it as a trivial step, and if so, is it really trivial?  You guys gave me good stuff to think about.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: narvin on November 19, 2010, 06:10:55 AM
If I secondary ales, I still give them 10-14 days in the primary, and generally only transfer to free up my larger primary fermenters and make it easy to move the vessel around without stirring up sediment.  I see an advantage to using a secondary to age a strong beer only... if I am going to keg after 2-3 weeks, i'll skip it.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: redbeerman on November 19, 2010, 12:40:49 PM
I secondary in the keg.  I aged my RIS for a year in a keg,  I lager in kegs as well.  I use my glass carboys for things like sour beers that I intend to age for years instead of months.  It works for me.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: brewmasternpb on November 20, 2010, 09:50:02 PM
Alright, thanks for the tip Denny, that's exactly what I was looking for!  It's nice to get everyone's oppinions, and homebrew discussion is always worth-while, but now I have the facts!
In summary; high quality yeast, combined with our knowledge of pitch-rates have made a secondary fermenter unecessary (unless you are actually having a second fermentation).
And since we've conquered the problem of autolysis, we can focus on eliminating the problem of oxidation and contamination, by eliminating the secondary.
Funny thing, I believe every one of those points was covered in this thread, by different folks!  Good job gang! 
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: pyrite on November 20, 2010, 10:07:13 PM
I secondary in the keg.  I aged my RIS for a year in a keg,  I lager in kegs as well.  I use my glass carboys for things like sour beers that I intend to age for years instead of months.  It works for me.

+1.  Same here.  I use the glass carboy for aging beers that benefit from some oxidation characteristics, such as Belgian sours, and especially Old ales. I've noticed that even with an airlock on the carboy the beer in the glass carboy still gets somewhat oxidized. I think it has to do with temperature change and the atmospheric pressure decreasing/ increasing pulling some air into the carboy.

I've also noticed that the sour beers I transfer to corny kegs don't develop the fine sour flavors needed, compared to when I age them in glass carboys, or oak barrels..
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: Malticulous on November 21, 2010, 12:16:37 AM
I secondary for a few reasons. To harvest yeast and to free up primarys. If I had four temp controlled conicals I'd stop using a secondary. But then I'm not lazy, just cheap.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: brewmasternpb on November 21, 2010, 01:19:51 AM
Agreed.  From what I've learned, I will stop using primaries, with a few exceptions.  I harvest my yeast, so if I dryhop, I'll want to harvest before I drop the hops in.  This probably will go for any ingredients added to the fermenting beer.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: malzig on November 21, 2010, 11:02:14 PM
I've found that many more brewers have problems caused by a secondary than have received benefits from one.  One of the most frequent problems I encounter from newer brewers is beer transferred too soon and left with off flavors that the yeast most probably would have removed.  In addition, contamination induced during the transfer or slight souring caused by oxygen introduction that allows acetobacter metabolism seems to be another frequent problem that might have been avoided without a secondary.

The only advantage I've ever seen to a secondary, other than for extended aging of high ABV beers, is for bottling.  A secondary always seemed to reduce the amount of yeast I transferred into the bottles.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: skyler on November 22, 2010, 09:16:17 PM
I think your individual setup can have a lot to do with whether a secondary is worth your time and effort.

1. Fining - One reason not to rack is that, if you keg, you can brighten up (and fine) your beer in the keg. However, if you don't keg, and you want to reuse the yeast you have in primary, and you want to use post-fermentation fining agents, like gelatin or polyclar, then a secondary is the best time to use them. But, if you can't get your carboy down to refrigerator temp, then you might as well not use a post-fermentation fining agent, anyway.

2. Dry Hops and Other Post-Fermentation Additions - if you keg, you can dry hop in the keg (though I have had mixed results doing this, I still do it fairly often). If you don't keg, your only opportunity to dry hop is in the fermenter. Many people dry hop in primary, but this can be difficult if you want to re-use the yeast, or you want to give your beer an extended primary. The one time I had autolysis issues in a batch was when I left it sit in primary for 6 weeks. Since many (most?) people like to give their dry hops about two weeks, you may want to dry hop in secondary to get the beer off the yeast. The same would apply to oak, spices, fruit, or other post-fermentation additions.

3. Space - If you're impatient like me, then maybe you want to brew and all your buckets and 6.5 gallon carboys are already full of beer! A happy problem, I solve this one by racking one of the beers to make space.

4. Lagering - I have heard of people lagering in primary, but that option would be risky, IMO, if you planned on lagering for an extended period of time. I would be weary of leaving my beer on my yeast for more than 2 months, even at lagering temperatures - and many beers are lagered for even much longer than that. While you can certainly lager in a keg rather than a secondary fermenter, this may not be a good option if you dont keg or you have a limited number of cornies or a lagering fridge that isn't tall enough for a keg, or whatnot.

5. The "If It Ain't Broke" Rule - If you secondary, and are happy with your results, why change it? Likewise, if you do not secondary, and you get bright, beautiful beer, why secondary?

Personally, I do not get bright beautiful beer unless I secondary, cold crash, and lager; or use a post-fermentation fining agent. And I find the flavor of too much suspended yeast to be unpleasant, especially in hoppy beers, which can be biting and needlessly bitter when I don't clear out the yeast. I also like to reuse my yeast several times, and so I don't like putting anything (dry hops or polyclar or gelatin) in my primary vessel. So I frequently do a secondary. When do I not do a secondary? When I am brewing a cloudy style like a witbier, or when I am brewing a low-gravity beer with an English yeast strain, or when I just don't have time.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: denny on November 22, 2010, 10:58:24 PM
5. The "If It Ain't Broke" Rule - If you secondary, and are happy with your results, why change it?

I think it would be worth a test to see if you could achieve equally good results without the extra effort. If you did that and found that you didn't like the results, then you could go back to secondary.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: euge on November 22, 2010, 11:11:33 PM
Personally, I do not get bright beautiful beer unless I secondary, cold crash, and lager; or use a post-fermentation fining agent. And I find the flavor of too much suspended yeast to be unpleasant, especially in hoppy beers, which can be biting and needlessly bitter when I don't clear out the yeast. I also like to reuse my yeast several times, and so I don't like putting anything (dry hops or polyclar or gelatin) in my primary vessel. So I frequently do a secondary. When do I not do a secondary? When I am brewing a cloudy style like a witbier, or when I am brewing a low-gravity beer with an English yeast strain, or when I just don't have time.

I like this statement. In my experience residual yeast can carry off flavors as well. An unhappy beer sometimes benefits from clearing.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: a10t2 on November 23, 2010, 12:32:47 AM
Personally, I do not get bright beautiful beer unless I secondary, cold crash, and lager; or use a post-fermentation fining agent.

Have you tried cold-crashing in the primary? That's my SOP and with the exception of a few notoriously dusty strains I get clear beer from the keg immediately.

It's also the process most brewpubs use, although there you have the additional variable of filtration.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: maxieboy on November 23, 2010, 12:38:03 AM
I think it would be worth a test to see if you could achieve equally good results without the extra effort. If you did that and found that you didn't like the results, then you could go back to secondary.

Or you could take up knitting!  ;)
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: skyler on November 23, 2010, 07:50:51 PM

Have you tried cold-crashing in the primary? That's my SOP and with the exception of a few notoriously dusty strains I get clear beer from the keg immediately.

It's also the process most brewpubs use, although there you have the additional variable of filtration.

I cold crash 90% of my beers in primary before I rack them or keg them. Many brewpubs I have been to that don't filter their beer serve cloudy beer. The worst offender I can think of is Amnesia in Portland, OR - whose beers vary from unclear to extremely cloudy. I only find beers sufficiently clear at brewpubs who filter, use an English yeast, or have a substantial-enough system for a bright tank that puts out perfect clear beer.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: Kaiser on November 23, 2010, 08:19:33 PM
Many brewpubs I have been to that don't filter their beer serve cloudy beer.

I think this is more the result of shortened beer production time than having the ability to move the beer through a bright tank. The less time it takes to make a beer the less tank capacity and thus capital is needed in a brewery. Being served a beer that is not supposed to be cloudy annoys me. Oftentimes this comes with a praise how much more wholesome a cloudy beer is over a clear one.

Using a “secondary” should not be the reason for clearer beer unless it makes stirring up sediment during transfer less likely. But that is mostly a function of the yeast’s flocculation characteristic and the amount of beer your are willing to leave behind.  The only aspect of a secondary/bright tank that I’m willing to debate is flavor changes causes by prolonged yeast contact.

But just like the discussion about decoction vs. infusion mashing or batch vs. fly sparging, whoever writes the last post has the final word until there is another post ;)

Kai
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: a10t2 on November 23, 2010, 09:08:46 PM
My thoughts exactly, Kai.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: rylo1984 on January 11, 2011, 05:30:19 PM
Personally, I do not get bright beautiful beer unless I secondary, cold crash, and lager; or use a post-fermentation fining agent.

Have you tried cold-crashing in the primary? That's my SOP and with the exception of a few notoriously dusty strains I get clear beer from the keg immediately.

It's also the process most brewpubs use, although there you have the additional variable of filtration.

Hello all,

I am still fairly new to brewing and was wondering what is cold-crashing?  Currently, I am letting my beers ferment in the primary for ~7 days and then transferring to a secondary, where after about 2-3 weeks I keg it and put it in the fridge. 

Assuming you use a secondary, is 2-3 weeks in the secondary a good length of time in general for the beer to sit at cellar temperatures before kegging and refrigerating?

To get even clearer beer, should I put my secondary in the fridge for ~1 week just before kegging?  Is this what is meant by cold-crashing?

Thanks again for the help.

/RyLO
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: tschmidlin on January 11, 2011, 05:36:16 PM
Personally, I do not get bright beautiful beer unless I secondary, cold crash, and lager; or use a post-fermentation fining agent.

Have you tried cold-crashing in the primary? That's my SOP and with the exception of a few notoriously dusty strains I get clear beer from the keg immediately.

It's also the process most brewpubs use, although there you have the additional variable of filtration.

Hello all,

I am still fairly new to brewing and was wondering what is cold-crashing?  Currently, I am letting my beers ferment in the primary for ~7 days and then transferring to a secondary, where after about 2-3 weeks I keg it and put it in the fridge. 

Assuming you use a secondary, is 2-3 weeks in the secondary a good length of time in general for the beer to sit at cellar temperatures before kegging and refrigerating?

To get even clearer beer, should I put my secondary in the fridge for ~1 week just before kegging?  Is this what is meant by cold-crashing?

Thanks again for the help.

/RyLO
Cold crashing is rapidly dropping the temp of the beer, it typically helps sediment yeast and proteins.

If you are racking to secondary based on a timeline instead of fermentation, you'll eventually have a batch that isn't quite right.  Leave the beer in primary until it is done (or very nearly done) fermenting.

I don't do a secondary for most of my beers.  It stays in primary until it is finished, crash cooled, then kegged (sometimes kegged and then crash cooled).
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: tomsawyer on January 11, 2011, 07:02:42 PM
I've found that many more brewers have problems caused by a secondary than have received benefits from one.  One of the most frequent problems I encounter from newer brewers is beer transferred too soon and left with off flavors that the yeast most probably would have removed.  In addition, contamination induced during the transfer or slight souring caused by oxygen introduction that allows acetobacter metabolism seems to be another frequent problem that might have been avoided without a secondary.

This is my experience as well.  You would think the suspended yeast that is transferred would be enough to clean things up but apparently not.  It must be that the cake, even while its sitting on the bottom of the fermentor, is still metabolizing these compounds at a far greater ate than the suspended yeast.  Could be that the suspended "stragglers" are not as strong and the most active yeast drops promptly.  Its kind of surprising considering the relative surface area of a yeast cake versus suspended yeast.

I think its odd to do a secondary and then bottle.  Bottle conditioning just causes a new bloom of suspended yeast, undoing the week(s) of attempting to clear the beer.  Plus you might have to add bottling yeast which iwould have been there to begin with if you';d bottled after primary.  Bottled beer is its own secondary in my opinion.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: a10t2 on January 11, 2011, 11:55:53 PM
I think its odd to do a secondary and then bottle.

I also think that it's odd to do a secondary and then keg. Kegged beer is its own secondary in my opinion.  ;)
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: tomsawyer on January 12, 2011, 01:22:00 AM
At least with kegging you aren't feeding the yeast and causing more suspended yeast in your previously clarified beer.  But yes a keg is a convenient secondary.
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: tschmidlin on January 12, 2011, 06:06:14 AM
At least with kegging you aren't feeding the yeast and causing more suspended yeast in your previously clarified beer.  But yes a keg is a convenient secondary.
Unless you prime the keg instead of force carbonating it ;)
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: euge on January 12, 2011, 06:34:50 AM
At least with kegging you aren't feeding the yeast and causing more suspended yeast in your previously clarified beer.  But yes a keg is a convenient secondary.
Unless you prime the keg instead of force carbonating it ;)

Yes it wouldn't make sense unless you combine the two processes.  ::)
Title: Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
Post by: tschmidlin on January 12, 2011, 06:55:52 AM
At least with kegging you aren't feeding the yeast and causing more suspended yeast in your previously clarified beer.  But yes a keg is a convenient secondary.
Unless you prime the keg instead of force carbonating it ;)

Yes it wouldn't make sense unless you combine the two processes.  ::)
I don't prime my kegs, but plenty of people do . . . whatever works for them :)