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No more secondary?

Hey brewing friends. I have been listening to a lot of back-logged podcasts of Brew Strong from the brewing network in my studio and have found that both Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer as well as the whole Brewing Network crew are standing behind some newer findings that secondary fermentation isn’t necessary for most homebrew applications. In fact, they believe that it is foolish to conduct a secondary fermentation unless you are using fruit, adjuncts or massive amounts of dry-hops because yeast autolysis just doesn’t happen with the strains we have available and due to the fact that there really is very little hydrostatic pressure in such small vessels like carboys and buckets. They believe that this additional step can potentially have negative affects on the beer (oxygen exposure, potential contamination) and just isn’t worth the risk. From what I gather, it is most critical to control fermentation and to make sure that it gradually steps up in temp (not up and down) over the typical two week period before packaging. This approach assumes that aging will take place in the bottle or keg and not in another fermentation vessel. I just thought I would throw this thought out on the board to see how many of you feel the same way and/or to see how many of you have already been taking this approach to fermentation before cold crashing. obviously this won’t work so well if you are trying to harvest yeast…otherwise it is the new recommended approach? Chime in on the thread for some interesting discussion.

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I have not used secondary in 3 years except for bourbon barrel porter, or other beers where I am using additions like oak, etc.

I dry hop in primary if I am going to dry hop.

I use bottling buckets for fermenting and collect yeast into sanitized mason jars by simply pouring the yeast out of the spigot just before bottling (or at the end of bottling) if I want to reuse yeast.

Generally go about 3 weeks in primary and then bottle or keg. Lagers - I always keg, and just lager them in my beer fridge.

I think the #1 benefit to this is you are reducing a step that could contaminate, or oxygenate your beer. Once my beer goes in primary - drained straight through the spigot in my kettle, it does not get touched by me until I drain it from the spigot into a bottle or keg. The #1 reason for bad/subpar beer is probably contamination - this helps reduce the odds of contamination greatly IMO.

I also typically don’t secondary either. I see the secondary as more to help yeast settle and clarify the beer. I go from primary right to the keg, and dryhop in the keg if needed. Putting the keg in the kegerator at a cold temp helps the yeast drop out quickly, which comes out within the first pint or two.

I still like to use a secondary to clarify, and to bulk age my bigger beers.

If your process is good enough to avoid contamination in primary, then you shouldn’t have to worry about it in secondary.(If you only do a primary and 1/4 of your batches get contaminated, you probably don’t want to double your chances of contamination by doing a secondary. If you never get contamination or rarely then why worry about it?)

Maybe autolysis isn’t a problem, but I can imagine there still being hops and maybe some hotbreak still hangning around in the primary vessel after the boil that could effect flavor.

I also think bulk ageing big beers will mean more consistency in the finished product, than aging in bottles. 5gallons of beer in a carboy won’t fluctuate in temperature as much or as quickly it would in bottles. When you bottle you are also going to have some bottles with more yeast than others, which I think could effect how each bottle matures.

Like others, I seldom use a secondary for ales and rack straight from primary to kegs. I secondary lagers in kegs with shortened dip tubes and then use CO2 to transfer to serving kegs after lagering. I don’t bottle condition very often so, when I need bottled beer, I bottle from the keg.

I agree with their assessment.

I was talking to a guy at my LHBS on Saturday and I asked his opinion about bottling straight from primary. His response was that while there’s nothing wrong with it, racking to secondary first helps ensure a more uniform flavor from one bottle to the next once the beer is ready. He didn’t specify if he meant for big beers or average beers, but I thought that was interesting.

[quote=“ickyfoot”]His response was that while there’s nothing wrong with it, racking to secondary first helps ensure a more uniform flavor from one bottle to the next once the beer is ready.[/quote]The transfer to the bottling bucket will do the same thing. FWIW, I bottle directly from the primary (using CO2 and a racking cane) and the beer is consistent in the bottles, so I don’t see that mixing it in the secondary and then again in the bottling bucket would have any advantage.

I always use a secondary but my reasoning is more for freeing up a primary fermenter than anything. More kegs for conditioning or aging would be more money and bottling would be more work so I go with the secondary.

i haven’t used a secondary in over 10 batches and i am very happy with my results. i only use carboys, so i dont have to worry about ‘making room’. sometimes i’ll transfer into a co2 cleared keg for bulk aging

It’s not such a “new” idea. They and others have been saying it for a year or 2.

Right on Shadetree.

Based on various threads I’ve been reading/participating in, space is quickly becoming the only reason I secondary. I’m strongly considering a third 6 gallon carboy so I can brew weekly for 4 - 6 weeks without worrying about secondary.

Totally true Denny. The only reason that I say “new” is because new brewers are still purchasing Palmer’s book, which is in its 3rd addition and it still suggests a secondary. Plus, most of the kit beers are still suggesting a secondary as well. Do you find yourself using a secondary pretty often?

I’ve been brewing for six years and a “secondary” has never been part of my SOP. I think it was one of the handful of things that I read in the home brewing texts and immediately said, “Well that makes no sense.”

Totally true Denny. The only reason that I say “new” is because new brewers are still purchasing Palmer’s book, which is in its 3rd addition and it still suggests a secondary. Plus, most of the kit beers are still suggesting a secondary as well. Do you find yourself using a secondary pretty often?[/quote]

Almost never. I don’t have a set “rule” for it, though. I decide on a batch by batch basis.

I’m also an almost never. I still do for the occasional big beer that requires a five to six week fermentation.

So of those of you who never or rarely secondary, how many of you are racking straight to kegs or at least cold crashing before you bottle?

Of those of you who skip secondary and bottle from a bucket without cold crashing, how does resulting clarity compare to when/if you ever used secondary? Do you use finings?

I’ve only skipped secondary once and it was for a porter where I didn’t care about clarity.

I just racked an IPA to secondary on Friday (mainly to free up my primary). It tasted awesome and I found myself wishing I had just bottled it. My only hangup is clarity.

[quote=“kcbeersnob”]My only hangup is clarity.[/quote]Racking to secondary isn’t a magical clarifying tool - leave the beer in the primary for the same amount of time and you’ll get the same degree of sedimentation.

I’m happy to skip secondary on the bitter that’s bubbling away happily in my primary now. I’m using a highly flocculent yeast, so I expect good results.

Hmmm. I guess I’ll probably have to order another primary.

In regard to clarity - the biggest player in my experience is yeast. Some yeast just really drops and produces crystal clear beer. Some doesn’t. I, personally, really don’t care that much about how clear my beer is. That being said, I almost always bottle/keg straight from my primary bucket. I let my beer condition in my basement at about 55 degrees (unless it is a lager and I put the keg in the fridge). After a beer sits in my basement for a month - without being in the fridge, it is pretty well settle out, and very, very clear when I pour if I am careful not to stir up sediment. Storing beer in the fridge for a week or two clears it up even more. My lagers are generally crystal clear other than maybe the first glass or two that pulls yeast off the bottom of the keg. I think the type of yeast, some time, and maybe a bit of time in the fridge are enough to give really clear beer - unless you stir up sediment that might be on the bottom of the bottle.

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