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Basic Brewing Secondary Experiment

The Basic Brewing Radio
http://www.basicbrewing.com/index.php?page=radio
guys did an interesting experiment to see if secondary has any affect on beer. Of course, clarity was one of the main attributes they were testing for.

The procedure:

  1. Brewed 5 gallon batches of Belgian ale (WLP500) and pale ale (US05)
  2. After about a week in primary, racked half of each batch into secondary
  3. Bottled

Their findings:

  • Secondary cleared the beer faster (photos)
    http://traffic.libsyn.com/basicbrewing/BelgianProgress.pdf

  • There was no difference in appearance after bottle conditioning

  • In terms of flavor and aroma, the results were split: the unracked Belgian had more pronounced flavor, whereas they could not detect a clear difference in the pale ale

Personally I think the procedure is flawed, because it does not follow standard procedure for conducting a secondary and both samples are exposed to a significant amount of oxygen via the remaining head space after racking. I may be splitting hairs, but to perform the test properly IMHO, you would need to split each batch into two appropriately sized primaries, then rack one full carboy into secondary.

I believe secondary clears faster, but I do not fully trust the falvor and aroma findings.

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