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Secondary Fermentation

I am a rank amateur brewer, brewing an Irish Red Ale from a NB extract kit. I am making a 5 gallon batch in 6 gallon carboys, and I am almost done with primary fermentation. So far so good.

My concern is that if I rack to my secondary fermenter (another 6 gallon carboy), there will be a lot of space for air in the carboy (the beer comes up 3/4, so the whole diameter of the carboy is exposed surface area). With all that exposed beer and slow fermentation, I’m concerned about contamination.

I’ve seen other comments on this board about secondary fermenters. I know that some people say don’t bother. My questions are, given the amount of airspace in my carboy, how significant is the risk of contamination (seems to me a real possibility)? And what is the real downside to not racking to a secondary fermenter (sounds like my beer will not be as clear, but I’m brewing from extract, not all grains and fresh hops, how bad can it be?). Am I missing something?

Thanks for listening to amateur hour.

Racking to as secondary vessel does increase the risk of contamination. How much the risk is increased depends upon your procedures and Murphys’ Law. You also risk oxidation of your beer. How much depends upon your procedures.

You can let your beer clear in the primary fermentor the same as it would clear in a secondary vessel. Leaving the beer in the primary to clear also leaves the CO2 layer intact to protect the beer from infection.

Change your procedure slightly when you siphon from the primary to your bottling bucket. Tilt the primary a couple of hours before you plan to rack. Doesn’t need to be much. This will aid in picking up the maximum amount of beer without getting into the trub. Start the siphon with your racking cane high. Gradually lower it as the level of your beer decreases. You will end up with clear beer in your bottling bucket.

Doing this my Irish Reds have come out of the bottle with only a little yeast compacted on the bottom with proper bottle conditioning.

That sounds like a good plan. Thanks for the suggestions.

“And what is the real downside to not racking to a secondary fermenter be?”…

No downside to leave your beer 4 weeks in the primary with any beer.
The extra time is your secondary.
Other brewers have left their beers in the primary for extended time without issues.

If you do rack to second try to go slow at first with no splashing.

Depending how far you go as a homebrewer you could always purge your carboy with C02 and be done with it. That will take care of oxidation. Using good sanitation procedures is the key.

Welcome to the Forum jvv999 and good luck with your brew.

I am in the same boat as jvv999. How simple is purging the carboy? I have a tank of CO2, do I just blast it in there before racking or is there a special method?

Thanks to flars and wallybeer for the advice. It is much appreciated. I’m going to skip the secondary. I like the idea of filling the secondary with CO2, but I think that will be a project for the next batch.

Again, thanks.

I am in the same boat as jvv999. How simple is purging the carboy? I have a tank of CO2, do I just blast it in there before racking or is there a special method?[/quote]
Having a full tank of C02 You can blast away at will.

How long? Only few seconds. No more.

I always used to stress about racking beers until i started purging with co2. It was comforting to know that if the beers splashed some inside the carboy that it was only mixing with co2 and not air. BTW, to help with sanitation i highly recommend a wallpaper tray. It makes it so much easier to get your siphon fully submerged.

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