This gets at one of my fundamental questions.
Although we refer to this as “secondary fermentation”, I’m racking the beer from the primary carboy only once fermentation has essentially stopped (stable SG). The beer and yeast still seem to respire some, as evidenced by the positive pressure and occasional bubble from the airlock. Does the beer need to “breath” (or maybe just exhale a little) when in the secondary, thus the need for an airlock?
Or is what I’m calling “secondary fermentation” really just an early conditioning stage that allows for removal of sediments before the final conditioning stage? Does it need to “breath” through an airlock then, and if not, can I just keg it and seal it up with some CO2?
I’m still on the fence between force carbonating then bottling, or priming, re-yeasting and bottling this upcoming barleywine. I usually prime my big Belgians and bottle condition them but sometimes the results are irregular and slow.[/quote]
I have been using secondary for your latter description, more of a conditioning and making darn sure it is ready to keg or bottle. I used to rush the transfer more and did have actual secondary fermentation in the carboy. Now my secondary is just a week or so of final clearing before kegging. Or often until a keg blows and I need to get another in the pipeline.
I have a barleywine that has been conditioning (after primary and secondary) in a closed keg in my basement which is a steady 65-70*. My dilemma is I hate bottling now because of the reasons you describe. I was reminded last night as I opened a bottle that was way over carbonated. Since I don’t plan to polish off a whole keg of barley wine in a month or so, I hate to take up kegerator space or pre kegerator space. So bottling seems like the better answer, but my luck just has not been there.