Author Topic: Have you changed your secondary approach  (Read 22750 times)

Offline SleepySamSlim

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Have you changed your secondary approach
« on: June 17, 2009, 11:52:10 PM »
I always do a secondary fermentation for improved clarity and a bit of mellowing. I've also always gone 14 days --- I'm now thinking for average ales that 7 days might be enough time. Some special ales might need 2 weeks

How many of you vary your secondary times ?
Some people tell you the old walkin' blues ain't bad
Worst old feelin' that I've ever had ...
-Robert Johnson

Offline stadelman

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2009, 07:52:31 AM »
I don't do secondaries at all anymore.  It's an extra transfer, wastes beer, is another vector for infection, usually pulls the beer off of the yeast too early and just isn't necessary.  I suppose you could make an argument for using a secondary with fruit, possibly dry hopping (although I prefer to do that in the primary) or lagering.

Generally moving to secondary is a waste of time and beer.  Leave it in the primary longer.

Offline UselessBrewing

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2009, 10:39:22 AM »
Everyone brews differently. I secondary usually for 2 weeks. If you use a fining agent like gelatin, you could pull it off secondary within 3-4 days. I like to bulk condition in the secondary for a couple weeks or longer depending on the beer.

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Preston
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Offline stadelman

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2009, 12:06:34 PM »
What are the advantages of moving the beer to a secondary versus just leaving it in the primary for the extra time?

Offline MaltLicker

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2009, 07:21:10 PM »
I often see a dramatic improvement in clarity after moving to secondary, and it does not take long.  I've transferred "simple" beers and the clarity was so good in just days that I bottled much sooner than expected.  It is certainly not required, but I personally worry less about infection after it's beer.  The alcohol and acidity are not nearly as bug-friendly as wort.  And big complex beers that need conditioning time are better stored on less yeast than you'd have in primary (if you were talking months and not weeks).

And I don't secondary wheats or wits b/c clarity is not important and those styles are best drunk fresh.

Offline SleepySamSlim

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2009, 10:41:53 PM »
I'm going to try 7 days in secondary on my current batch and see how it goes. Partly I'm driven by the desire to kick out more beer and partly as we are heading into Summer here in Oregon. Meaning that maintaining 68-ish degrees will require the chilling chamber I just completed for both primary and secondary.

And even though I have two carboys the cooling chamber becomes the bottle-neck in the process.

In getting through my first year of brewing (in Oregon) I can see that Spring and Fall are perfect temps for brewing ... 60s - 70s. During Winter I'll use my temp controller and heat belt on Primary and can secondary 2 carboys at once. But Summer will be a bit trickier ... ohhh to have a basement.

With modern sanitizers like StarSan I don't worry too much about infections ... I still scrub and wash like hell, but feel I can create a fairly sanitary environment.

Brew On
Some people tell you the old walkin' blues ain't bad
Worst old feelin' that I've ever had ...
-Robert Johnson

Offline stadelman

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2009, 07:31:31 AM »
I still don't buy it.  I think the positive effects of using a secondary are mostly psychological.  I think it's also a case of... I read this somewhere once and it's what I do, so I'm going to keep doing it.

Let's take these one by one-
1.  Bulk conditioning/Mellowing.  You can bulk condition in the primary.  Autolysis (at least in the first month) has been proven a myth.
2.  Clarity.  Gravity takes affect both in the secondary vessel and in the primary vessel.  Leaving the beer in primary longer will produce similar results.
3.  I started numbering these thinking I would go through the previous posts and come up with a list of several benefits to using a primary, guess there were just two.

Downsides as I see them-
1.  More work
2.  Another place to pick up contamination
3.  You're picking up more oxygen and increasing or hastening oxidation
4.  Loss of beer!
5.  A lot of times this is done too soon, you're pulling your beer off of the yeast before it's done working

Also Jamil Z and many top homebrewers practice and advocate a no secondary process for most beers.  Obviously there are times that a secondary is useful or required, but it's my belief that those times are few and far between. 

Break free from the shackles of secondaries!

Offline Wildrover

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2009, 11:07:33 AM »
A lot of this discussion (and with some an argument) I think needs to be put in context.  I know those who do not secondary at all and it works fine for them and its true that many say it is not necessary as I believe it is not.  However, everyone brews differently and has a different process that works for them.  To suggest that a secondary isn't good for anyone simply because it isn't good for your process is a little short sighted in my opinion.   

I've taken beer straight from the primary to the keg and from the primary to the secondary and I've come to the conclusion that I prefer the secondary.  This is because in my home brewery with my equipment the secondary makes a great intermediate step for the beer while it waits for an empty keg and frees up the primary for another batch.  The secondary also helps with clarity as well as getting that gravity down that one extra point or so.

But the main reason I secondary is because I primary in plastic buckets, not glass carboys.  I only have five gallon carboys but seven gallon primary buckets.  The buckets are also easier to clean and versatile as I use them as measuring devices during my brew day.  I like the ease in use and cleaning and the extra space for when I underestimate the amount of wort I've produced as well as the fact I shoot for six gallon batches to compensate for the beer loss due to trub and spent yeast.  I couldn't make a five gallon batch if I primaried in a five gallon carboy.  I also don't worry about breaking them as they get moved around a bit during brew day and are subject to some quick temp changes, something that would crack a glass carboy (I'm speaking from experience). 

However, the bucket is permeable so when the wort becomes beer and the yeast settles to the bottom the plastic stands a much greater chance of letting oxygen get to the beer than the glass carboy.  The perfect solution is to rack the beer to the secondary.  As far as beer loss goes, if there is any left in the primary after I move the beer over I will bottle what's on the bottom of the primary.  I don't like to lose beer so bottling whatever is left on the bottom of the primary after I have my five gallons in the secondary is a great way to store the beer for posterity. I only have three taps so there are only three beers on tap at any one time but I have all kinds of bottled homebrew because I've started this practice. 

I don't worry about contamination either.  I keep everything really clean and do my best to give everything in the area a good cleaning before I move anything from something to something else.  Like Preston says, once its beer it can do a pretty good job of taking care of itself. 

I've gotten to the point of where I really enjoy the day where I move the beer from the primary to the secondary (as well as bottle a few beers) because it gives me a chance to try the new beer and give me an idea of how well (or bad) things are going to be.  So I don't see it as "more work" its "more fun" to me.  This is my hobby after all, if I didn't enjoy the process I'd go to the store and buy beer.

I'd also be willing to bet my next pay check that when I move the beer from the glass carboy to the keg, the carboy is about a hundred times easier to clean than if I had used it to primary in.   

Finally, as alluded to earlier, often times I'll make a beer and it will become ready but there won't be an empty keg or I'll have a beer ahead of it in the queue.  Often times beers are going to be asked to sit for 5-8 weeks and every once in a while even longer before they get to the keg.  I'd much rather have that beer off of that initial yeast if its going to sit for that long.  Not to mention how long I'd have to wait to brew another batch if I tied up my primary buckets that long.

So, in my home brewery the pro/con list favors the secondary despite the fact it might not have much effect on the beer, the secondary has a huge effect on my process. 

$.02     

Offline stadelman

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2009, 12:51:31 PM »
"Obviously there are times that a secondary is useful or required, but it's my belief that those times are few and far between"

is a far cry from...

"To suggest that a secondary isn't good for anyone"

I've distilled a couple of "pro primary" points from your post-

1.  To combat the oxygen permeability of a plastic bucket.  I have no real metrics on this, but I'm wondering if the oxygen the beer picks up through the plastic is more or less than the oxygen the beer is going to pick up in the transfer to secondary.  Even if you flush the vessel with co2, there is going to be some pickup.  There's no magic "blanket of CO2" that exists.  CO2 is going to mix with O2.  Inf fact, just the oxygen in the transfer tubing is probably more than the oxygen that permeates the plastic bucket.  However, I will concede that a plastic bucket doesn't seem ideal for a month or more of storage. 

2.  Storage.  I can't argue with this.  If you've purchased 5 gallon glass carboys as storage vessels, that's what you have to use.  I don't recommend using something you don't have for storage.

The question I'm answering is NOT "What should Wildrover be doing and what kind of equipment does he or doesn't he have?"  I'm answering the question "Have you changed your secondary approach?"  My answer to that question is... "Yep... I usually don't do a secondary because (generally speaking) it's not necessary and doesn't really help."

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2009, 05:55:41 PM »
I personally have mixed feelings on secondary. The benefits of getting the beer off yeast before autolysis occurs are great, but like stated before it takes awhile for autolysis to occur. Even longer if the beer is cold. I generally just stick the whole carboy in the fridge when I'm ready to cold crash it, then rack it off into kegs about 4-5 days later. Never had a problem. I have to agree with the point about oxygen pickup. It is very valid. Although, if you have a conical fermenter and all you have to do is rack the trub and yeast off the bottom, by all means do it. That is by far the best setup. There is a good reason that professional fermenters are called Unitanks ( primary and secondary all in one ).

Darin

Offline SleepySamSlim

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2009, 07:47:59 PM »
Everyone needs to brew in a way that makes sense to them. I secondary based on the physical evidence that is presented to me every time I bottle or keg ... there is another 3/8" of trub at the bottom of the carboy. That means less suspended solids in the final product. I also know that time mellows the ale.

And as was voiced earlier - once its in the secondary it can stay there awhile should something come up.

Brew On
Some people tell you the old walkin' blues ain't bad
Worst old feelin' that I've ever had ...
-Robert Johnson

Offline Wildrover

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2009, 10:13:57 PM »
"Obviously there are times that a secondary is useful or required, but it's my belief that those times are few and far between"

is a far cry from...

"To suggest that a secondary isn't good for anyone"

I completely agree with this statement. You are right, that one statement you made, to me, is a far cry from suggesting that a secondary isn't good for anyone.

However, other statements attributed to you like:

"Break free from the shackles of secondaries!" 

or

“I still don't buy it.  I think the positive effects of using a secondary are mostly psychological.  I think it's also a case of... I read this somewhere once and it's what I do, so I'm going to keep doing it."

followed by a point by point refutation of a previous posters reasoning for conducting a secondary, to me, isn't a far cry from suggesting that a secondary isn't good for anyone and seems to take aim at other people's processes rather than just commenting on your own.   

My apologies if I misunderstood the point you were trying to make and misread your comments.

Offline MaltLicker

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2009, 06:36:58 AM »
Break free from the shackles of secondaries!

For me, it is more a question of trying things I believe will improve the current batch, rather than sticking with a set process.  I see many posts online that appear to be shackled by assumptions and personal preferences rather than a mindset toward improving the brew at hand.  Each brewer and process are unique in myriad ways, so it's impractical to say any single path is "the best."  Better to say this works for me and this is why. 

I still don't buy it.  I think the positive effects of using a secondary are mostly psychological.  I think it's also a case of... I read this somewhere once and it's what I do, so I'm going to keep doing it.

Also Jamil Z and many top homebrewers practice and advocate a no secondary process for most beers.  Obviously there are times that a secondary is useful or required, but it's my belief that those times are few and far between. 

So, you read someplace (presumably JZ) that secondary is not needed, you agree and don't do it yourself, and you're going to keep doing it that way?  Perhaps the positive effects of avoiding secondary are also psychological?   ;)   Meaning every brewer does what they think is right and makes them comfortable.

Offline tommiwommi

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2009, 09:09:39 AM »
If I'm working with a something that isn't going to take more than 2 weeks or dry hopping  (or you can dry hop in your primary)etc.  I skip the secondary on occasion (especially with wheats or darker suds), where clarity isn't much of a concern to that style.
  When I do pale or red ales I rack to a secondary. And there is a difference for sure. But even if you don't mind alittle extra sediment in your bottles, you can just stick to the primary method, it all settles out in the end.

 There is no perfect way to create a great beer, That's why its so fun and that's why there is a million people on here trading info, tricks and ideas all the time.


Offline econolinevan

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Re: Have you changed your secondary approach
« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2009, 06:51:52 PM »
question on wildrovers statement on bottling leftover beer in primary after getting your five gallons into secondary.  I usually have beer left over after transferring to secondary.  Bottling the left over beer is something I've never thought about.  Is there a good rule of thumb for how much dme or corn sugar is needed for however many fl.oz of beer @ what ever specific gravity?  I just hate pouring out such tasty liquid I've spent time to make.  AS far as the origional question.......I've never not use the secondary approach.  I'm a newer homebrewer (150gallons,5gallons @ a time) and going with secondary is the way I learned and I've never made a batch I wasn't proud of and I have a box full of 36" waist Levis I can't get into to prove it.  Now with what I've read today on this subject, I have something new to try, a beer bottled straight from the primary. Man, what a hobby!!!