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To secondary or not?

I know it’s been discussed many times but I am going to bring it up once more. For the first time I am making additions after the main fermentation period. I brewed a chocolate milk stout yesterday and the procedure calls for adding cacao nibs in the secondary. Is there a drawback to not doing a secondary and just adding the nibs to the primary after a couple weeks? I have never done a secondary but wonder if it’s something I should do for this. Anybody have experience with adding secondary ingredients without transferring to a secondary?

Also, should I be adding them directly or do I need to soak in some alcoholic beverage to sanitize before adding?

I would soak them in a couple ounces of vodka then dump the whole thing in. No need to rack to secondary.

Cool, thanks. I often hear people talking about only racking to a secondary if additions are being made. Is there a reason why people who don’t normally rack to secondary consider doing it if making additions?

My SOP is to sanitize in vodka, then add to primary fermenter. Have not had any problems yet

Good question… really good question…

If you want the yeast I would rack.

The flavors of some additions like oak cubes or fruit may be absorbed by the trub in the primary. Some brewers will rack to a secondary to avoid the possibility of this happening.

These days I only use a secondary if I’m harvesting yeast and dry-hopping, or doing extended aging. I figure it’s best not to have the hop debris in the yeast.

Is there a risk of sitting on the trub too long? for example…six weeks as opposed to 2-3?

Not really a risk at 6 weeks vs 2 or 3. It changes the flavor if you leave the beer on the yeast cake for a long time. Some people like it, others don’t.

I prefer to rack it to secondary if I’m going to leave it for awhile, and minimize the headspace as much as possible. It’s just a preference, lots of people don’t have any problems leaving it in primary. You don’t see too many pictures of infected batches in secondary with proper headspace, though. Buckets on the other hand? :mrgreen:

In my experience, yeast starts to die and give off-flavors after approximately 10 weeks in the primary. Six weeks should be okay.

Whether or not to rack to secondary is entirely up to you and your needs. I sometimes do, if I’m in the middle of a near-constant brewing schedule; I only have space for one 6 gallon primary fermentor, so if I’m brewing a lot (like every-other weekend) I’ll rack to secondary to free up my primary for my next batch, allowing the just-racked batch to continue conditioning in a secondary while I start my next brew. The last batch of Chocolate Milk Stout I brewed was a 3 gallon batch, so it went right into one of my two 5 gallon secondary carboys, where it stayed the entire fermenting, conditioning and “dry hopping” time (with cacao nibs, of course.) Quick turnaround beers like a Cream Ale or English Mild, will only see the primary vessel as well.

For what it’s worth regarding cacao nibs, I start mine soaking in vodka on brew day, using a volume of vodka that is approximately double the cacao nibs volume, in a clean, lidded jar. They will absorb a lot of vodka, so make sure you use plenty. When it comes time to add them to your beer I dump the full volume of vodka into the beer and then spoon the nibs into a sanitized muslin hop bag that is inside the neck of the carboy, using about 5 - 10 sanitized lead-free marbles to weigh down the bag, and sanitized unflavored dental floss to tie off the bag and suspend it into the middle of the beer.

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