Author Topic: The final word on a secondary fermentation  (Read 6513 times)

jaybeerman

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #30 on: November 18, 2010, 03:04:25 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?

Offline denny

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #31 on: November 18, 2010, 03:24:55 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.
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Offline bluesman

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #32 on: November 18, 2010, 03:38:44 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".
« Last Edit: November 21, 2010, 04:54:54 PM by bluesman »
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jaybeerman

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #33 on: November 18, 2010, 03:46:27 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. 

Offline brewmasternpb

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #34 on: November 18, 2010, 09:46:17 PM »
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.
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Offline narvin

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #35 on: November 18, 2010, 11:10:55 PM »
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.
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Offline redbeerman

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #36 on: November 19, 2010, 05:40:49 AM »
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.
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Offline brewmasternpb

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #37 on: November 20, 2010, 02:50:02 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! 
Dave Malone
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Offline pyrite

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #38 on: November 20, 2010, 03:07:13 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..
« Last Edit: November 20, 2010, 03:16:29 PM by pyrite »
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Offline Malticulous

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #39 on: November 20, 2010, 05:16:37 PM »
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.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2010, 05:21:46 PM by Malticulous »

Offline brewmasternpb

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #40 on: November 20, 2010, 06:19:51 PM »
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.
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Offline malzig

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #41 on: November 21, 2010, 04:02:14 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.

Offline skyler

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #42 on: November 22, 2010, 02:16:17 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.

Offline denny

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #43 on: November 22, 2010, 03:58:24 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.
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Offline euge

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Re: The final word on a secondary fermentation
« Reply #44 on: November 22, 2010, 04:11:33 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.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2010, 04:15:07 PM by euge »
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