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Secondary fermenter required for pale ale?

I just started my second-ever batch of beer. It’s currently in a plastic fermenting bucket with a built-in spigot. The instructions I received with my kit say to transfer to a secondary fermenter (glass carboy) after about a week, and then to bottle from the carboy once fermentation is complete.

I have an auto-siphon with the bottle filler attachment, but it still seems that it would be much easier to bottle straight from the primary because of the spigot. On my previous batch I racked to the carboy and bottled from there, but the auto-siphon took a while to get going and it required me to draft my wife into the process while I bottled.

I have done some research and it seems that many home brewers do not rack to a secondary fermenter, but I tend to follow instructions and now I’m conflicted.

I’m sure this has been asked directly before but I figured another post on this topic wouldn’t hurt. I appreciate any input the group has on this subject.

You do NOT need to rack to secondary. Just leave it in there until it’s done fermenting.

Why do so many brewing instructions include the secondary, including many of the ones I have looked at here on Northern Brewer? Like I say, I’m mostly interested in avoiding the carboy out of laziness, since bottling from the bucket with the spigot seems like it will be a lot easier. But I have seen some people arguing against racking to a secondary because of the risk of oxygenation and/or contamination, which could help me justify my laziness!

Racking to a secondary is “suggested” in order to help clarify the beer. It is not required. Just leave it in primary. This will reduce the risk of contamination by reducing the amount of equipment your beer comes in contact with. If you want to have extra clear beer, just cold-crash it before bottling.

Namaste!!

The only time I recommend using a “secondary” is when a beer is being dry hopped or if it is being aged for an extended period in bulk. I’ve found that I get better results from dry hopping when beer has been racked.

The clarity argument is rather dubious. I never experienced clearer finished beer from using secondary. The Basic Brewing guys did an experiment with Chris Colby from BYO a few years ago. They had mixed results, which seemed to vary based on the yeast. There was no difference at all for one batch. The other batch cleared faster in secondary, however there was no difference in the clarity of the packaged beer.

[quote=“kcbeersnob”]The only time I recommend using a “secondary” is when a beer is being dry hopped or if it is being aged for an extended period in bulk. I’ve found that I get better results from dry hopping when beer has been racked.

The clarity argument is rather dubious. I never experienced clearer finished beer from using secondary. The Basic Brewing guys did an experiment with Chris Colby from BYO a few years ago. They had mixed results, which seemed to vary based on the yeast. There was no difference at all for one batch. The other batch cleared faster in secondary, however there was no difference in the clarity of the packaged beer.[/quote]

+1. There’s really very little reason to rack. The main reason instructions say to rack to secondary is that a long time ago (like 40 years ago) somebody decided that racking the beer would improve clarity, and homebrewers and kit makers have been extremely slow to accept the truth that racking doesn’t make the beer any clearer than without.

[quote=“dmtaylo2”][quote=“kcbeersnob”]The only time I recommend using a “secondary” is when a beer is being dry hopped or if it is being aged for an extended period in bulk. I’ve found that I get better results from dry hopping when beer has been racked.

The clarity argument is rather dubious. I never experienced clearer finished beer from using secondary. The Basic Brewing guys did an experiment with Chris Colby from BYO a few years ago. They had mixed results, which seemed to vary based on the yeast. There was no difference at all for one batch. The other batch cleared faster in secondary, however there was no difference in the clarity of the packaged beer.[/quote]

+1. There’s really very little reason to rack. The main reason instructions say to rack to secondary is that a long time ago (like 40 years ago) somebody decided that racking the beer would improve clarity, and homebrewers and kit makers have been extremely slow to accept the truth that racking doesn’t make the beer any clearer than without.[/quote]
Yes, the recommended use of a secondary is a relic of how homebrew was done in the past. Even more than the clarity issue, it was recommended as a way to reduce the chance of off flavors due to autolysis of the yeast, which was a concern with the yeasts available to brewers back in the 70s and 80s when this hobby really started to take off, and something you could suffer from if the beer was left on the dead yeast for too long. These days, the yeast is much better quality and autolysis is something you don’t need to worry about. But the instructions persist for some reason.

I agree with the above as far as a limited need to rack and would add racking to secondary when adding fruit. For dry hopping, I only rack to secondary if I plan on reusing the yeast, but that is just my personal preference. YMMV

Of greater concern to me is that you’re using a bottling bucket as your primary fermenter and plan on bottling from the primary without transferring. When you stir in the priming solution, you’ll also stir up the trub at the bottom and get a lot of it in your bottles. In future batches I would recommend using the carboy (if it is sufficiently large enough) as your primary and then transfer to the bucket with the spigot for bottling. I’m not sure what your setup is, but hopefully the bottle filler attachment fits the spigot like most kits. To me, the instructions you’re using sound backwards.

For this batch, If I were you, I would add the priming solution to the carboy after fermentation is complete and rack into that and bottle from there as you initially indicated.

Mabus, I had that same concern about adding the priming solution to the primary. On my first-ever batch of beer I transferred from the bucket to the carboy after about a week and let it sit in the carboy for another week or so and bottled from there. I felt like I got a good result, but if I can eliminate steps I’m all for it.

Here are the instructions I am working from:

http://www.sanfranciscobrewcraft.com/ar ... asp?ID=132

I may do as you suggest – wait for fermentation to complete, rack to the carboy with the priming solution and bottle from there.

Thanks,
Danny

Secondary requires another carboy or bucket.

$$$

Maybe wait until you need another bucket or carboy for multiple batches and then use one for dry hopping if needed.

Never need a secondary yet and have produced 15 great batches. I’m still a newb, but would rather not risk infection when my current process is producing great beer.

My $.02

Hey Grizz Talker,

I have the carboy already, I was just wondering if I could eliminate that from the workflow and bottle right from the primary (plastic) fermenter my beer is in now. As a follow up, as Mabus mentioned here, how do you prime your beer with just the one fermenting container? Do you transfer to something else first while adding the priming solution, and then bottle from there?

[quote=“Buttermaker”]Hey Grizz Talker,

I have the carboy already, I was just wondering if I could eliminate that from the workflow and bottle right from the primary (plastic) fermenter my beer is in now. As a follow up, as Mabus mentioned here, how do you prime your beer with just the one fermenting container? Do you transfer to something else first while adding the priming solution, and then bottle from there?[/quote]
Some people use fizz drops or something similar. Just drop the correct amount of priming sugar directly into each bottle. I’ve never used them, and have read that the actual carb level can vary from bottle to bottle more than if you mix the priming with the bulk beer. Or you could do like I do: rack it into a keg.

It’s a hold over from the “bad old days” of homebrewing when most of the info was based on what commercial brewers did, not what homebrewers needed to do. The only times I use a secondary are when I’m going to adding stuff to the beer…dry hops, fruit, mushrooms, etc. Otherwise, it’s just unnecessary effort.

And even more than that, it comes from the commercial brewing world. The skinny, tall conical fermenters that commercial breweries use produces a lot of pressure on the yeast which can lead to autolysis. But as homebrewers we don’t have that situation or problem.

Ok, I’ve skipped the secondary for almost all my beers. But I have a Baltic Porter and a planned barley wine. They age for months. Would you all still recommend not racking to a secondary carboy?

As you all know I disagree completely with your negative view of secondaries. I know from experimentation. That’s all I’m going to say. :wink:

That’s ok we still like you loopie, even if you waste your time with secondaries :smiley:

I have seen no evidence of off flavors developing when left on the trub, but I’ve never gone much more than a month in primary with a non-sour beer. If you plan to age it in bulk for months, you want to make sure it is not exposed to oxygen. A bucket is not the best container for that - a keg is ideal. A Carboys works too, or just age in the bottles.

That’s ok we still like you loopie, even if you waste your time with secondaries :smiley: [/quote]
Ahhh but I’ve switched to conicals. Secondary in seconds! :lol:

+1.
I’ve also experimented extensively with both methods, and quite some time ago I went back to using a secondary for just about all of my beers. For some of my bigger, long aged brews (traditional IPA and Porter, and Burton/Barleywine/Old Ale) I’ve even sometimes transferred to a tertiary vessel.

If done properly, it poses no real risks with regard to infection or oxidation.
As has been stated endlessly in past threads, the only way to determine what works best is to try it both ways and then go with whatever one’s personal observations suggest.

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