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Upgrading equipment-Bucket or carboy?

If you decide to secondary (and that’s a whole nuther discussion), Always opt for whatever will give you the least amount of headspace if you have a choice. So if you’re doing 5 gallon batches(for example), a 5.5 gallon carboy is a good size.I only do secondary when I’m aging a lambic, and I use glass because that’s what I have and because it’s a sour and will clean well. For standard beers, plastic is fine for secondary unless you’re maybe aging something like a barleywine for longer than a year.



I’ll second what @frenchie said about matching secondary to your batch size. I use 5 gallon plastic carboys for secondary, but a 5 gallon bucket would work, too. I saw kegs suggested not long ago… eventually, you could use them in a kegging setup (dual use items are great). For primary, buckets work great. I use the big mouth and a bucket, and have no clear preference.

Forget the carboy and get more buckets. You can get more beers in your pipeline. More variety to drink sooner. If you feel you must have a secondary get a 5 gal glass carboy but it’s a waste of time, effort and oxygen exposure for most beers.

Buckets for primary, plastic small-mouth carboys for secondary. You just have to be careful cleaning the plastic, as it scratches easily. And they can suck in the fluid in the airlock if you aren’t super careful moving them since the plastic bends a little when you pick them up. Small price to pay for not having to worry about them shattering.

I also use glass for secondary, but the newer glass carboys really are cheaply made. My old ones are so much thicker glass. The new ones are kind of scarey.

About secondary, for example, the chocolate milk stout states that it should be primary for 2 weeks and then secondary for 2-4weeks. The chocolate nibs should be added during the secondary. How would I do this? Of is that necessary since I will be adding something to the beer? Sorry if that is noob question.

Going “outside the box” with some ideas:

  • refractometers make a great gift
  • A digital thermometer is a great gift (partial mash, BIAB, steaks on the grill :slight_smile: …) and can be used for other types of cooking.
  • A couple of Little Big Mouth Bubbler®s allow you to build up a pipeline by brewing most weekends (or a couple of times a weekend).
  • It’s still traditional (and accepted) that “the bigger brewing size” is clearly five gallon batches with mash tuns and coil immersion chiller. But what about three gallon batches, BIAB, and no chill brewing?
  • It’s practical to brew two gallons of a normal strength beer with one gallon equipment (and two ferementers).

There are many ways to brew it well :slight_smile:


I secondary (just starting kegging, so possibly will do it less). Here are my basic rules.

I secondary when:
-I want clearer beer
-I dry hop
-I add stuff like fruit, nibs, coffee, oak
-I age longer than a month
-I want to free up a primary for my next beer

I don’t secondary when:
-I don’t care if it’s clear (dark/hazy beers)
-quick small beer to get going quickly

1 Like has a new line of carboys called “Fermonster”. I have a few big mouth bubblers and as much as I hate saying this… I won’t be buying another one. Northern brewer refuses to go back to the original lids despite all the issues. The fermonster has the same big mouth concept and also has a spigot at the bottom above the trub line. The lid is threaded so the chance of it popping off unlike the big mouth bubblers. They have 7 gallon version which is plastic, making it light weight and plenty of room for an aggressive 5 gallon fermentation. $33 or will cost you.
Good luck and welcome to brewing!!!

Those look nice… I’m still not sold on siphon less, so nice to see they have them without a spigot, too.

Yeah the siphonless carboys are really nice in my opinion. Super convenient and easy to use. The siphon sits just above the trub and when you transfer you can get the beer down pretty close to the bottom.

Thanks for that! That helped me alot knowing when and when not to secondary.

Although I do agree with Uber’s list of reasons for secondary, I have done additions like cocoa nibs, vanilla, and bourbon in primary after fermentation has finished. For me, less transfer means less chance of oxidation, and these additions have worked just as well for me in primary–particularly in a couple of bourbon barrel porters. There again, dark beer for which clarity is not an issue. The great thing is you can experiment on your own and figure out what works best for you. But it means you have to make more beer. Hooray beer!



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Funny you should mention bourbon barrel porters. I really want to make one. That’s my goal after I do a couple of other kits. How long do you let it ferment if you don’t transfer it to the secondary? Same amount of time just all in the same container?

Generally, you keep beer in bulk until it is ready. That means if you want to use a secondary, you should transfer just before it is completely fermented. That allows for the still active yeast to form a protective CO2 layer over the top of the beer.
Much easier and safer from an oxidation/contamination risk perspective though to simply leave it in primary.
Regardless of if you use a secondary or not, the beer is ready to bottle or keg when it clears. How much time it takes to clear varies a lot depending on the beer, but usually 2-3 weeks after fermentation finishes is plenty of time for an ale. If in doubt and using a kit, just follow the directions. Leaving it a little longer is usually fine, cutting things short typically is not.
Adding things like cacao nibs, dry hops, fruit, oak chips, etc. is usually the only time I will use a secondary, but that is probably just the last stage of my evolution from secondary for everything to eventually eliminating them entirely.

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Me still use glass carboys for secondary. Fermenting. Bit more work. I dont mind. But did order yesterday. 3 speidel. 6 gallon plastic fermtors. And one conical 6 gallon fermentor. But did you see at nb. They had a special on 4 bigmouth bubblers. And a nice price

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Usually 3 weeks minimum, along with stable hydrometer readings at least two days apart. On a home-brew level, you don’t have to worry about leaving the beer on the yeast cake too long until you’re talking probably 6 months plus. I will admit, though, racking to the bottling bucket from secondary is easier than racking from primary–not much trub to worry with. When I do another beer with cacao or vanilla, I probably won’t secondary-still let it all work in primary. However, I think my next brew is gonna be a kettle sour with late additions of fruit–for that I will use a secondary. Dont really have a good answer why, but with fruit additions it just seems messy to add it to all the trub,




I use the Fermonster and it works great for me. I like the screw-on lid and the way the bottom has a raised center with a dimple in it. This keeps my siphon out of the trub.

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I just looked those up. I know that secondary fermenting container should have little headspace because layer of CO2 build up will be less. Would the 6 gallon be small enough for a 5 gallon brew plus headspace?

@digitalman87 I’ve made several 5 gallon extract batches of NB’s Bourbon Barrel Porter kit. It is one of my favorites. There’s no single right answer here but I’ve had good success with about 2 weeks in primary, checking gravity to be sure fermentation is done, then a total of 5 weeks in secondary. I add the Bourbon and oak 2 weeks before bottling, that is 3 weeks after racking to secondary. I generally use a 6 gallon glass carboy for primary and a 5 gallon for secondary. I did just try the 6.5 gallon big mouth bubbler for primary. I’ll be moving a batch of the bourbon barrel porter from it to secondary tonight.

Yeah 6 gal is fine. It’s apples and oranges… if you try to split hairs over a beer coming out good based on your carboy being 6 or 7 gallons… ehhh probably got some bigger issues. You’ll be fine brother… I use 6.5 gallon big mouth bubblers and have no issues… aside from the manufacturer issues from Norther Brewer

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