Head space in carboy

I am a little confused when it comes to racking into my secondary 5 gallon carboy. In my 6 gallon primary I fill to the appx 5 gallon mark. When I rack to my secondary 5 gallon carboy I alway leave the sludge behind in my primary carboy. This leaves alot of head space in my secondary carboy. What is acceptable head space in the secondary.

Sludge? That’s a pretty disrespectul way to refer to the hard working yeast that just gave you beer!

I only use a secondary vessel for long term bulk conditioning of big beers, and then only if I don’t want to tie up a keg for it. The primary reason being the risk of oxidation.

If you have the ability to purge the headspace with CO2 I’d recommend doing that.

If you ended up with 4.5 gals or so of beer in a 5 gal carboy you should be fine if you were careful racking it and sanitized well.

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Thanks for the info. Yes I have appx 4.5 gallon in my sec. I was wondering if I should top off my primary to around 5.5 gallon next time so I fill the sec to the neck.
Thanks again

The ideal situation is to minimize the surface area of the beer exposed to air in a secondary vessel. This would mean the ideal is having the level of the beer into the neck of the carboy. A large surface area will increase the amount of oxidation compared to a smaller surface area for the same amount of time. Oxidation could be minimized by keeping the headspace purged of air with CO2.

Have you considered the need to rack to a secondary vessel and just leaving the beer in the primary until it clears.

This was my first batch I had made. I just started a batch of Caribou Slobber today. Maybe I’ll leave the Caribou Slobber in the primary for the duration. I had read that leaving it in the primary to long can give the beer an off taste. Was told that was one of the reasons to rack into a secondary. I’m a newbie so the more input I can receive is greatly appreciated. Thank again

A long time ago autolysis of the yeast was a possibility. With the new generations of yeast this is no longer a problem unless you may plan to primary for 4 to 6 months or longer. My Slobber is usually clear after three weeks in the primary.

Caribou Slobber a beer that improves with age. It is good after 6 weeks of bottle conditioning. It is better after 6 months.

without the ability to add CO2 is anyone adding small amount of yeast and a simple sugar to create a CO2 layer for long term storage? I currently have a Belgian quad (4.5 gallons) in a 5 gallon glass carboy and even though it is only my fourth brew, I am pretty confident in technique as great care was taken and I have a scientific background. I would plan to leave in carboy for the full three months but am a little concerned about the risk of oxidation.

You should be OK for 3 months with a half gallon headspace. Your beer is full of dissolved CO2 which will slowly come out of solution as it ages, which will give you some short-term protection from oxygen. Just don’t open it up any more than absolutely necessary.

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I hear people who say they move beer to secondary to avoid off flavors. A new brewer can increase their chance of of flavors more by moving it. Moving to clarify or age is another matter. That said there are other ways to clarify and age your beer.

Flars - I had the same issue with my first brew. I had a lot of space in my secondary and was concerned about the same thing. For my next attempt, I’ve definitely decided to bypass the secondary and bottle directly from the primary. Aside from dry hopping, adding fruit, or gaining clarification, I haven’t seen any convincing evidence to risk running a secondary. Is that a reasonable approach in your opinion?

It is a reasonable approach.

Bottling directly from the primary though may cause some inefficiencies. You would need to add the priming sugar to each bottle which to me would be time consuming. Added risk of the sphon dropping into the trub also. Adding the priming sugar to the fermentor would be hit and miss on getting the same amount in each bottle during filling. If you added the priming sugar and then stirred to mix it the trub layer would be raised.

I prefer to use the bottling bucket for getting the priming sugar well mixed and fill the bottles fairly efficiently. The out flow of the siphon tube will move the beer in a circular motion with the tube in a partial curl flat to the bottom of the bucket. The surface of the beer will be exposed to air, but only briefly during bottling. It is also very easy to fill bottles with one hand using a spring tip bottling wand attached to bucket spigot instead of trying to control a siphon.

I’m sitting on a mechanics rolling stool as I fill bottles. Roll instead of reaching.

Flars-thread stealing here but last Sat. I brewed a dry stout and had to put it in the last available fermenter, a 5 gal carboy. I wanted to watch it since the bucket blocks my view. Anyhow, the stout blew off the airlock and made a mess. Unfortunately I was lax and didn’t check on it thinking with current temperatures it wouldn’t be very active at 56. It’s now at 62 and bubbling but I’m wondering if it’s ok to top off with some water now that the Krausen passed. Otherwise I only have 4 gallons.

Adding a gallon of water is probably going to do way more harm than good at this point. The good thing about a DIS is they’re usually pretty low gravity and don’t need to stay in the fermenter too long. Your beer will be fine for several weeks with a gallon of headspace, so I’d just leave it alone until it’s done, then package as normal. It should be done after 3 weeks or so, and that isn’t nearly enough time for the extra headspace to cause a problem.

Thanks for your help, don’t think I’ll use this carboy again.

Keep it for future use, though… When I’m in need of a primary fermenter, I’ll rack into a 5 gallon carboy to free up the bucket. Also great when you want to re-use the yeast cake that’s in uour primary fermenter. Rack the beer to secondary, dump out some of the yeast cake, and pour fresh wort into the bucket.

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