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Secondary for ales

I’d like to start a thread about the practice of transferring to secondary fermenters. I know our host routinely reccomends them on most recepies, yet most books I’ve read as well as experienced homebrewers I’ve communicated with advise against it. With this being the case why do you suppose NB routinely reccomends it for even moderate strength ales? It would seem to me the chance of off flavors from autolysis is minimal with anything that will be in a fermenter for less than 5 weeks, and I’ve read many times about forgotten batches left on primary yeast cakes for months that turned out great. The risk of infection or introducing post ferment oxygen during a transfer seem much more likely. Also, I think many brewers transfer too soon and disrupt the primary stage causing attenuation issues and perhaps off flavors.
So what gives? Thoughts?

I don’t do it any more on normal strength ales.
Two or three weeks in the primary then bottle.

This isn’t intended as one of those “do a search” non-helpful responses, but this topic has been hashed and re-hashed on this forum and there are a ton of threads with everyone basically saying the same things over and over (myself included). It basically boils down to doing whatever works best for you - there are pluses and minuses to using a secondary, as with many other aspects in brewing, but most everyone uses secondaries for at least one kind of beer in their repertoire and then there’s a probably 50/50 split on whether or not to use one for “normal gravity” ales.

As to why Northern Brewer and other LHBSs continue to advocate using a secondary for their kits, I can only guess that it’s a mixture of laziness, tradition, a desire to generate additional equipment sales, and a genuine belief that using a secondary improves the beer. You’d have to decide the percentages for each reason for your particular LHBS, though. :wink:

That’s really the answer. I still do secondary for all of my beers (and particularly long secondary for my stronger ones, and then extended aging after that)

I find it makes a positive difference. Others find it makes little or no difference at all.
Having done it both ways, I believe my own sensory impressions.
That’s what the OP should do…try it both ways over multiple batches and different types of beer.
Its the only way to know for sure.

That’s really the answer. I still do secondary for all of my beers (and particularly long secondary for my stronger ones, and then extended aging after that)

I find it makes a positive difference. Others find it makes little or no difference at all.
Having done it both ways, I believe my own sensory impressions.
That’s what the OP should do…try it both ways over multiple batches and different types of beer.
Its the only way to know for sure.[/quote]

Rehash’d to death…I’ll still add my hash to the rehash, but I’ll make is short. This^^^^is my standard procedure and has been for the past 6 years of my brew-life. I too find it makes a positive difference.

I also second the recommendation: “try it both ways over multiple batches and different types of beer. Its the only way to know for sure” .

Then draw you own conclusions as to why it should be recommended or not.

:cheers:

When it comes to anything in brewing, certainly you use what works best for you. There are almost always several ways of doing things, and almost always more than one way that produces tasty beer. In my experience as well as reading, there’s not much benefit to transfering ales of low to moderate gravity. I guess I was just wondering why it’s still so heavily advised. Sorry if it’s a dead horse that’s already been severely beaten…

Either way, time helps most beers. Having said that, last night I enjoyed a Summer Blonde ale that I brewed on 6-16-12, so some light ones (and some Belgians, Hefes and hoppy beers) are best consumed fresh. No one can argue that over-handling your beer is a good thing, but with fastidious sanitation practices and care when transferring, you shouldn’t encounter problems with the “try it both ways, then decide” approach.

:cheers:

There is an interesting radio broadcast on Basic Brewing that I listened to, listen to that and make your decision afterwards.

May 24, 2012 - Secondary Experiment Results

http://www.basicbrewing.com/index.php?page=radio

+1 to the above podcast.

Seems pretty inconclusive. I’ll stick to primary only as there doesn’t seem to be a clear advantage to secondary, and very real risks…

That has been my strategy for the last few years - other than big/special beers - 3 weeks in primary and on to bottles or kegs.

It’s interesting that they discuss beer style as the likely variable rather than yeast strain. I would think different strains would react differently to being transferred off the cake and disturbed…

I consider style more than yeast primarily because I have never had any problem with clarity (due to yeast anyway). Any yeast I have ever used has basically settled out to minimal levels in 3 weeks. And once the beer is kegged or bottled, and chilled, it all drops out to nothing. The first glass or two from a keg is cloudy, and I don’t stir up my bottles when I pour - but otherwise, the beer is always very clear. That has always seemed like the primary argument for secondary - clear beer. I just don’t see any difference though.

As to style - If a beer is going to sit in a fermenter for over 3 weeks (bigger beers, secondary additions of fruit, oak, etc.) I would prefer to get it off the yeast. Also, I ferment in buckets - so if I am going to leave something in a fermenter for 2-6 months, I will move it to a carboy.

I agree with your obsevations about clarity, plus I really don’t care about clarity anyway. To me, it’s all about the flavor. The risk of off flavors from sitting on a yeast cake have been way overstated in my opinion. I think 2 to 6 months in a bucket might start to become a problem, but normal ale ferments of 4 or 5 weeks simply don’t warrent a transfer. That’s why I started the thread; it suprised me a supplier as reputable as our host would reccomend “2 stage fermentation” for most of its ales. I think experienced brewers don’t really follow kit instructions anyway, but for a novice, I think it’s bad advice to have them add a step that is quite unnecessary and exposes their beer risk of infection, oxydation, or underattenuation from transferring too soon…

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