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Secondary Fermentation Pros/Cons

What is the advantage to a secondary fermentation? Some recipes call for it, some don’t, some say it is optional. I am new to home brewing. I have my first batch in the carboy hoping to be done this weekend.

I don’t want to be that guy, but this question comes up a lot. Take a look at the search results below, and come back here if you can’t find an answer to your question. Once again: Welcome to the forum!

http://forum.northernbrewer.com/search?q=secondary%20fermentation%20order:latest

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Secondary used to be the standard for every batch back when the thinking was to get the beer off the yeast as soon as possible. But that’s only a necessity for professionals with giant fermenters. Now it is either a recipe-specific thing or personal preference. Recipe based reasons are when you want to dry-hop, add fruit or some other addition. And dry hopping can even be done in primary. The other reason for secondary is bulk aging a heavy beer like a barley wine, scottish wee heavy or other high gravity beer. One reason not to go to secondary is that every time you touch your beer or expose it to the environment, you increase (slightly) the risk of infection. The other reason not to secondary is LBS (Lazy Brewer Syndrome)! I suspect this is the main reason for skipping secondary :slight_smile: …or should I say it’s the primary reason?

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Here’s what John Palmer has to say…

“Therefore I, and Jamil and White Labs and Wyeast Labs, do not recommend racking to a secondary fermenter for ANY ale, except when conducting an actual second fermentation, such as adding fruit or souring. Racking to prevent autolysis is not necessary, and therefore the risk of oxidation is completely avoidable. Even lagers do not require racking to a second
fermenter before lagering.”

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Looks like Denny and a host of other notable Brewers agree with you Barbarian!! Nice job!!
Sneezles61

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I am doing a coffee cream ale next and the directions say that secondary is optional. Does it really make much of a difference in the end product?

Almost every brewer will tell you that in order to notice the difference you have to drink 3-5 pours of the beer in question, in a relatively short time. It may help to not eat anything before doing so. If around others, stock up on stories that involve many side characters that nobody else in the room knows and who need there own side stories told fully before the main story can be fully appreciated. Only after doing this careful research will you be able to fully appreciate… what was I talking about?

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So I have to sit and drink several of my own beers…don’t threaten me with a good time.

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Yeah, try pouring down 5? 6? 7? (lost count)draft pints of Fat Head’s Imperial IPA on an empty stomach watching a Buckeye football game back home at the revered hometown watering hole “the Barn”. People kept buying me beers and I kept slinging them down…They are all drinking 4% light beers and I’m keeping pace with 9.2% monsters…I’m playing chess and they’re playing checkers, or so I thought. Didn’t end well. Thankfully, I’m still married.

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Sorry about drifting off topic there, but to answer your question(certainly see Denny’s response above), generally I don’t believe so. But it is a topic that produces a lot of discussion, many excellent homebrewers don’t secondary, and some do. Even some of the pros. I believe you can transfer to secondary carefully with minimal risk of oxidation, however, that said, I am firmly in camp “no secondary”(with the exceptions listed above ie a true secondary fermentation with fruit, souring, bulk aging, etc). Perhaps @loopie_beer will add his .02 ?

I will transfer to keg for a second dry hop, sort of a de facto secondary.

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Hop JUJU will get ya! Love that stuff!! :innocent: Chiming in on the actual topic, when I began with extract kits, I utilized a secondary fermenter for the first few batches for a few reasons, primarily being the instructions told me to do so, but at the time I only had one 6.5 gallon fermenter and multiple 5 gallon carboys, so this also enabled me to get another batch going sooner. Eventually I bought a second 6.5 gallon carboy and stopped bothering with the secondary. I also bottled for about the first year, until I convinced the wife to let me get a kegerator. :smiling_imp: Now I primary for 1-3 weeks (depending on the beer and what’s in process), then transfer to keg for any dry hopping, then into kegerator.

:beers:
Rad

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Hey Mr Steamer, I see you live close… If you decide to get serious, I’ve got my old original stuff…
I don’t/haven’t secondary, per se, for a long time… I wish years ago I knew about controlling fermentation temps… That there IS a game changer… Or was for me…
After controlled fermentation is complete… I let it set at room temp for a few days at least… I have the ability to push from my fermenter into a keg with CO2… And that is where the, per se comes in… Sometimes I’ll dry hop in the keg… So it sits at room temp… Another very cool process, transfer from the fermenter about 5 points from finished… I call this cask conditioning… into your serving keg and leave at room temp for a couple weeks… Of course I’ll pull a snit sized sample from time to time…
Sneezles61

Calling me out @voodoo_donut? :grinning:

I was trying to refrain but…
I’m pro secondary. When I switched to 10gal batches I would use two 6gal carboys to ferment then switch to secondary (which is really a brite tank). One time, I only had one 5gal carboy for brite as the other had beer in it. So I only racked one fermenter to the brite. It cleared substantially quicker and better than the one left in primary. Plus, I left more trub in the brite rather than carrying it over to my keg. Sure I lost a pint of beer but you’ll easily lose that in pouring the trub off the bottom of a keg when it’s carried over.
Personally I think risk of oxidation and contamination is over rated, unless you fail to sanitize your equipment or rack haphazardly. And if you are failing to sanitize a brite vessel than you’ll likely fail to sanitize your bottling equipment…
First, sanitize everything that will come in contact with the beer with StarSan. Use a tube long enough to reach to the bottom of the vessel and lay flat on the bottom. The beer has enough absorbed CO2 that any MINIMAL agitation will release it preventing it from absorbing O2 and scrubbing the headspace. And you could simply release some CO2 in the fermenter to flush the headspace for further peace of mind.
For me there is enough research that shows hop oils will attach themselves to yeast and settle out. Therefore, if you dry hop a cloudy beer you’re losing them.
Thanks @voodoo_donut:smirk: :sweat_smile:

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Thanks for all the answers everyone! I love being able to see different viewpoints from experienced brewers so I can someday be a smart brewer.

What makes it fun and you have probably noticed there are no right answers. Everyone one does things a little differently. The hobby evolves. I can guarantee this though the way you brew now probably won’t be how you brew in a few years. Enjoy the journey stay on the forum

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I used to find that a secondary greatly improved the drinkability and conditioning time of my bottled beers, but as my methods changed, I no longer found it at all necessary because I was achieving the same ends with different means.

First, I started using a refrigerator with temp controller as a fermentation chamber, which allowed me to cold-crash in the primary, which meant I was a lot clearer when racking to secondary. Secondly, I started kegging, which is effectively a secondary conditioning stage in itself.

If I used the same techniques that I did 20 years ago, my bottled beer would still have a lot of yeast sediment even with a secondary, and without, it would be way too much for me. I get the sense that a lot of people don’t have that problem to the extent that I did, but it was never clear to me if they were better at racking than I, more patient, or just more tolerant of yeast sediment and the effect it can have on the final product.

I think even 20 years ago autolysis was BS, and any differences between then and now are due to changes in the processes people generally use, as suggested above.

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