Secondary Fermentation

Should I Secondary Ferment my Homebrew?

May 2015, Eric Seufert

Secondary fermentation is not really fermentation at all but conditioning the beer in a new vessel.  Typically a brewer makes 5 gallons of beer in a 6.5 gallon primary fermenter, then transfers to a 5 gallon secondary vessel with minimal head space.  We recommend 2 weeks in primary then secondary if you want to.  There are many opinions on this topic and we certainly have one too.

Advantages:  Aging your beer will clear you beer.  While aging in the primary runs a risk of autolysis (yeast death) and off flavors, we have rarely noticed this flaw.  If you want to age or lager your beer for a long time, use a 5 gallon carboy to do so.  Another advantage is additives.  Sometimes it is easier to add hops, cocoa nibs or anything in the secondary.  We’ve also developed a unique way of filtering them out of a secondary.  Using PET only, a carboy cap, racking cane, air filter and stainless screen, we can rig a device to start a siphon and the screen to keep hops and other bits out of your keg or bottle bucket.  CO2 works also, but please do not use Glass CPETarboys.  They can shatter with pressure.

We are still offering free PET 5 gallon Carboys with $80 purchase!

Disadvantages:  Racking the beer risks infection and oxidation. Racking to the secondary adds an additional racking, so if not completely necessary why do it. Also, if you are bottle conditioning, clearing the beer too much means no yeast for carbonating your beer.  If you find yourself in this situation, pitch new yeast in your bottling buck.  It is as simple as re-hydrating a dry yeast and dump it in.  You may also want to do this with stronger ales.  As a matter of practice, all Belgian breweries re-pitch at bottling.


Our Opinion!  If you are making a simple pale or brown or lower alcohol beer with no post fermentation additives, ie dry hop, ferment for two weeks then bottle it.  If you are making a beer that requires extensive aging, carefully rack to secondary.  When adding additives post fermentation, consider a secondary as a good method of filtering.  If you are kegging and require brilliant filtered looking presentation, rack to a secondary then put it in the fridge to flocculate out sediment. And most importantly, if you want to make more beer, but don’t feel like bottling, either buy a new fermenter or rack it out of the way and make some more homebrew!

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