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Primary to secondary timing?


I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about when to move a beer from a primary fermenter to a secondary. I’m brewing a kolsch ale and the recipe calls for 1-2 weeks in each fermenter.

I generally wait until vigorous fermentation and C02 production slows down and then transfer (at day 9 in this case). Wondering if there is a more thoughtful way of doing this and if it makes any difference in terms of beer flavor.

thanks for any thoughts


That’s pretty much what I do. If I’m transferring I’ll do it after a week before fermentation stops my theory being to scrub any O2 added during transfer. Generally I don’t transfer to a secondary unless I’m adding more fermentables which will restart fermentation. I’m sure there is a more thoughtful way but probably doesn’t make a difference as long as you’re sanitary.

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Do you bottle or keg? I keg so I don’t even bother with a secondary anymore, just transfer directly to the keg and let it sit until a spot opens up in the kegerator. Timing can vary depending on the beer. Typically mine stay in primary somewhere around 3 weeks. That being said I’ve never tried a kolsch.


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I missed that about the kolsch. I would treat a kolsch like a lager and cold crash and skip the secondary. I’m more nervous transferring low gravity beer.


Agree with Brewcat here, probably no need to secondary, and you definitely want to treat a kolsch like a lager.

The old wisdom was you transfered lagers when the fermentation was about 75% done, at which point a lot of the suspended solids and a fair amount of yeast had settled, and then let the lagering process proceed driven by the yeast that was still in suspension. The thought process was that by getting it off the dregs, you’d minimize the chance of off flavors coming out of the dregs.

Good theory, but my experience is that on a homebrew level, you don’t have to worry about off flavors from that source, at least not in a 1-2 month time frame. Leave it in primary till fermentation is done, then cold crash.

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I third this


Guess I’ll be the dissenter here. I find my beers clear better once transferred to secondary. So I wouldn’t skip it. Plus that beer will need to Lager more than a month which would be beyond my comfort zone of leaving it on all the trub and dead yeast.

Beer can’t read a calendar so you can’t simply go by days. Atmospheric changes can also lead to CO2 being released which means airlock activity isn’t reliable.

With that said, if I HAD to rack without a reading I would wait for about 2 days after airlock activity ceased. Pretty safe bet it would be done or close.

Hi all,

Thank you for the information and I have a follow up question or 2.

I currently have this kolsch in a secondary at about 57 degrees. I was planning to leave it there for about 2 weeks and let it finish fermenting.

What then?
Cold crash for a few days at 35 degrees, add priming sugar and bottle. Allow to carbonate at room temps?

    Lager at 35 degrees for a few weeks followed by priming sugar, bottling, carbonation at room temps?

Does it make a difference?

Secondly, I have brewed mostly strong ales and have had trouble with carbonation in the past. Consequently, I usually add CBC1 bottling yeast along with my priming sugar. I’m wondering if I will have enough suspended yeast to carbonate after my cold crash or lagering. Is there any need for CBC1 with this lower gravity beer?


Well maybe if you didn’t plan on kegging. But then again I wouldn’t make a lager if I was bottle conditioning. If I have a lager kegged an it won’t clear I’ll rack to another keg which I guess is the same thing just with less O2 contact

My advice,
At least 2 weeks in Primary.
Secondary is for Conditioning (dry hopping, etc).
If you do transfer, watch out for Oxidation and Sanitation issues creeping in.

I do transfer because I love dry hopping IPAs with leaf hops
and have recently learned how to transfer using CO2 .

My 2 cents.

See “Creating Off Flavors after Primary”

I treat my Kolsches and Altbiers like lagers, although for a shorter period of time. I let them ferment to completion and let condition a bit (usually 2 weeks) then rack to secondary and keep her chilled at 30-45 for at least 3 weeks, and longer if I’m waiting to accumulate bottles.
Now I’m going to tweak at all the “I don’t do secondary” folks. If you are kegging, then essentially you are racking to a secondary before serving. :grin: You can go ahead and disregard the last statement…

Kent- in answer to your 2nd post: there will be plenty of yeast left for carbonation after your cold crash, and with a 5-6% Kolsch, your yeast should be healthy and ready to go. No need for the CBC-1.

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Same here. Lots of sanatizing before transfer. Normalý do wait 8 days before transfer to secondary

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