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Secondary vs time in bottles

After some debaintg with myself, I decided to rack my brew (Irish Red, extract kit) to a secondary. I understant that is not a necesarry step, but as a first time brewer, i figured I better follow the recipe exactly.
Now, I’m wondering if 2 weeks in the secondary is really needed. My question is this - should I continue with the secondary for 2 full weeks, or would my beer be better served by spending an extra week in the bottles?

2 weeks secondary and 2 weeks bottles, or 1 week secondary and 3 weeks bottles?

It seems (according to various online info) that beer gains more quality by spending time in bottles than it does in a secondary? Any advice would be cool.

Either way, I doubt you would notice any difference at all in taste. Maybe being in the secondary longer would make the beer more clear, but if you bottle condition then get the bottles in the fridge, that’s when most of the material will drop out and rest at the bottle of the bottle.

Do what’s more convenient for you.

A week will be fine.

Many people skip secondary for beers that don’t need extended aging (usually stronger beers) and leave the beer in primary for 2 - 4 weeks (3 weeks being the most common length I’ve seen mentioned). I typically do 2 weeks primary, 1 week secondary for beers that I dry hop. Many people even dry hop in primary, but I like transferring first for some reason.

The primary consideration for me as far as when to open the first bottle is carbonation. In my experience, if the bottles are stored above 75 degrees, they’re usually carbed within a week. If they’re stored below 65, it takes 2.5 - 3 weeks. I usually try one as soon as I think it’s carbed, as I like to see how the flavors develop at various lengths of bottle conditioning.

One way to know if your beer is carbed yet is to use one plastic bottle when you bottle everything. Once it’s full, squeeze the remaining air out and then cap it. The bottle will expand as it carbs.

I’m one of the guys that almost always does a secondary. Benefit it that the stuff that would normally settle out in the bottles will instead settle out in secondary and subsequently the sediment transferred from bottle to glass is negligible.

Taste wise, I doubt there is any difference if you keep the time period constant as you’ve suggested. But I will say, once bottled, the temptation is very great NOT to wait any longer than necessary.

:cheers:

That’s a good point. I have a much easier time letting things age in a carboy than in bottles!

[quote=“StormyBrew”]Benefit it that the stuff that would normally settle out in the bottles will instead settle out in secondary…[/quote]If you leave the beer in the primary for the same amount of time as the primary plus the secondary, you’ll get the same sedimentation. Not that I’m against using a secondary, just wanted to point out that it’s not like a “bonus” process that does something extra. :wink:

To the OP, since you’re already in the secondary, once the beer is clear, go ahead and bottle, there’s nothing gained by an extra week of bulk aging at room temp in the secondary, IME.

Actually, I’ve found that is not the case. In that, the depth of the layer in primary is significantly larger than the depth of the layer in secondary.

In secondary, I can put the auto syphon all the way to the bottom of the fermentor and the pick-up is well above the level of the sediment. Plus, if I disturb it, very little goes into solution so the pick-up of sediment is negligible. But, that’s not the case with primary. With a thick layer of sediment i primary, I need to keep the end of the auto syphon above the level of the sediment, which means I leave much more beer in the fermentor. Then, if do accidently disturb the sediment layer, I get huge amounts in suspension that is immediately sucked up into the bottling bucket…or keg. And by huge, I mean in comparison to that which transfers from a secondary.

cheers.

[quote=“StormyBrew”]Actually, I’ve found that is not the case. In that, the depth of the layer in primary is significantly larger than the depth of the layer in secondary.[/quote]The amount of sediment is the same regardless of the vessel - if you’re doing a 2-week primary and a 1-week secondary, you’ll have the same total amount of sediment on the bottom of a 3-week primary.

[quote=“StormyBrew”]But, that’s not the case with primary. With a thick layer of sediment i primary, I need to keep the end of the auto syphon above the level of the sediment, which means I leave much more beer in the fermentor.[/quote]There are many ways to skin the same cat and your setup will dictate what works best for you. I don’t use an autosiphon and I cold-crash for a couple of days before racking to form a solid cake, so stirring up the yeast from the primary isn’t an issue for me.

I think we are sorta in agreement. The amount of sediment that will settle out within a fixed period of time is constant. For example, if 1 inch of sediment forms in 1 week, you get 3 inches in 3 weeks. If you leave it in primary for 3 weeks, your primary has 3 inches of sediment.

But, if you xfer at the two week point, you have 2 inches in primary and 1 inch in seconday at the end of 3 weeks…that’s all I’m suggesting. With only 1 inch in secondary at the end of three weeks, there is much “less” to disturb or xfer to the bottling bucket.

cheers.

Generally I want to have the product finished the way I want it before bottling, meaning it has fermented and clarified to serving quality before I’d bottle. I don’t want anything going on in the bottle except for the carbonation stage. After that it’s all aging, and that results in conditioning. I prefer to bulk age most of the time when a style requires it. Bottling is my presentation, so that’s finished product, not a place for debris past acceptable for the style.

To that note, it doesn’t really matter for most styles that you have a secondary vessel, or whatever you like to call it. 4 weeks in primary is typically the same as 2 in primary and then 2 in another tank, the only difference is less residual material in the second tank when you go to bottle, and if you are careful it doesn’t matter either way.

As a guideline, many folks don’t want the beer sitting on the original yeast cake and debris for over a month, so if your recipe has a longer time than 30 days in “secondary” as a guideline, you would consider following the guideline and get the beer off the debris and let it age without the degradation of decomposing yeast and trub.

You may find that your own special process works best for the result you want, and that is the beauty of brewing. It’s not incorrect if it produces the acceptable quality of product you wanted, and you can all bet that many great styles may have come around from some deviation from accepted practice through history :slight_smile:

I almost always secondary with the exception of when using my conical. The reason isn’t always to clear or bulk age, just to free up the primary fermenter for a new batch.

I do agree that you won’t gain much leaving it in the secondary fermenter longer so my vote is go ahead and bottle.

No secondary here… unless I’m adding fruit or something else that needs to sit around for a while. I even dry hop for a week in primary. The reason I don’t is really just laziness–all my fermenters are the same so there is no “freeing up” anything and using a secondary just means one more thing I would need to clean.

Almost all of my beers below 7% abv are 3 weeks in primary, 1 week carb, drink!

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