Primary/Secondary Confusion

Just starting out? Find answers to commonly asked homebrewing questions here!
User avatar
baldguy80
Posts: 16
Joined: 4 years ago
Favourite Beer: Cream Ale
Location: Kingston, ON

Primary/Secondary Confusion

Post by baldguy80 » 4 years ago

Hi folks, I'm brand new at this homebrew thing, and have been reading this forum as fastidiously as possible. (This is my first post too!) I'm a little confused though, (and no, it doesn't take much).

I've got my first brew in my primary, (for a whole 24 hours now!) which is simply a Brew Canada Pilsner + 1 kg. of dextrose. Reading the instructions that came with the can says that I should be moving my wort to a secondary on day five. Buuuuut, reading here the consensus is; don't bother with the secondary. Should I just save my newbie brew the trouble and simply wait until my airlock is finished bubbling and my gravity is stable??

I know it's just a boring extract kit, but I don't want to screw it up! (My expectations are pretty low: just a drinkable first brew that my wife doesn't hate so she'll let me buy more stuff and experiment more!)

Thanks in advance for your input!
baldguy80 is waiting impatiently for it to be done...

Mr_Tastyfish
Posts: 425
Joined: 5 years ago
Favourite Beer: Homebrewed beer
Location: Orleans, ON

Re: Primary/Secondary Confusion

Post by Mr_Tastyfish » 4 years ago

I don't use a secondary fermentor, and really wouldn't consider it to be a necessary step for an extract-based brew. You should be just fine leaving it where it is until your gravity readings have been stable for a few days. After that, any secondary aging can take place in bottles or keg.

oro
Posts: 909
Joined: 5 years ago
Favourite Beer: one I am drinking
Location: Oro Medonte

Re: Primary/Secondary Confusion

Post by oro » 4 years ago

Welcome to brewing

Brew Canada is a good kit beer - used them for years

Leave in the primary for 3 weeks, transfer to a clean bucket to add your batch carbonating sugar(assuming your bottling). Bottle up let sit 2 weeks in a warm area to carbonate.
Beer has food value, food has no beer value...

Goulaigan
Posts: 456
Joined: 4 years ago
Favourite Beer: Mine
Location: Goulais River, ON

Re: Primary/Secondary Confusion

Post by Goulaigan » 4 years ago

Welcome to the board, I agree with the others, secondary is not necessary in most cases, unless racking on to fruit or dry hopping and wanting to harvest the yeast.

User avatar
baldguy80
Posts: 16
Joined: 4 years ago
Favourite Beer: Cream Ale
Location: Kingston, ON

Re: Primary/Secondary Confusion

Post by baldguy80 » 4 years ago

Thanks for the welcome and the replies, Mr. Tastyfish, Oro, & Goulaigan! I'll forgo the secondary then. I really appreciate the feedback!

Not too happy about the waiting period though.. 5 weeks?!? That just hurts.. (This is gonna be worse than waiting for Christmas.)
baldguy80 is waiting impatiently for it to be done...

User avatar
ECH
Posts: 318
Joined: 4 years ago
Favourite Beer: IPA
Location: Hanwell, New Brunswick (just outside of Fredericton)
Contact:

Re: Primary/Secondary Confusion

Post by ECH » 4 years ago

I guess I will be the one to go the other way.

I always secondary.

Now having said that, I have never done a Brew Canada kit, so not sure what it entails.

If they are the pre-hopped cans of malt that you just basically add so much hot water to, then so much cold water in your fermenter, pitch the yeast and go, then I would say no, you probably don't have to do a secondary.

However if you get into the extract kits where you have to cook for an hr. adding the hop pellets, and possibly specialty grains, they I would say yes.

Not 100% necessary, but a secondary will allow the beer to settle out any of the solids in it and you will end up with a clearer beer in the bottle.

As far as the waiting, basically if it has stopped fermenting and your FG is on target then it's good to go.

kombat
Member
Posts: 385
Joined: 6 years ago
Favourite Beer: Broadhead Wildcard

Re: Primary/Secondary Confusion

Post by kombat » 4 years ago

ECH wrote:a secondary will allow the beer to settle out any of the solids in it and you will end up with a clearer beer in the bottle.
ECH, your heart is in the right place, but this is an outdated myth.

Why would a beer clear faster if you disturb it midway through than if you just left it in the same vessel the whole time? The presence of yeast/trub at the bottom of the fermenter doesn't make the beer above it any less clear.

Think about it this way. From the moment fermentation ceases and convection activity in the fermenter stops, the liquid is basically still. Any sediment in suspension can then begin falling out. Particles that were already near the bottom don't have far to fall, so they start piling up at the bottom of the fermenter. Particles near the top, however, have the farthest to fall. Thus, the beer tends to clear from the top-down. That is, the top of the beer is clear first, while the remainder stays cloudy as particulates steadly fall through it to the bottom of the vessel.

Now let's say this process has been going on for several days, and the beer is 2/3 clear. Particles that started out at the top have fallen almost all the way down to the bottom, leaving the top 2/3 of the beer clear, and only the bottom 1/3 remains cloudy as those last particles finish falling. If you suddenly rack this beer to another carboy, you're mixing those particles back into uniform solution, and they'll have to start falling out of suspension all over again, some of which will be all the way back at the very top.

All other things being equal (schedule-wise), a beer that is left in the same fermenter the whole time will be clearer than one that is transferred/disturbed midway through.

delo978
Posts: 18
Joined: 4 years ago
Favourite Beer: stout

Re: Primary/Secondary Confusion

Post by delo978 » 4 years ago

I always rack to secondary also.....maybe it's just my igagination about clarity however I simply do it in order to have beer sit on the yeast cake for 6 weeks. I've always done primary for 2 weeks and secondary for 4 weeks then bottle and let sit for 4 weeks. Great flavour and clarity results everytime with no cold crash.

That's just my routine however....side note I brew AG so possibly why the additional step.

User avatar
Warthaug
Posts: 795
Joined: 7 years ago
Favourite Beer: The wet kind
Location: SW Ontario
Contact:

Re: Primary/Secondary Confusion

Post by Warthaug » 4 years ago

I think some additional clarifications are needed. The secondary fermenter serves a variety of purposes, depending on the beer:
  1. For high-gravity beers (or beers which are under-pitched), the use of a secondary fermenter can give the yeast the time they need to clean up off-flavours generated during stressful fermentations
  2. For fruit beers, and to a lesser extent dry-hopped beers, it allows the beer to be separated from the trub prior to addition of the fruit/hops. A lot of people dry hop in the primary, with success, so this may be less of an issue for dry-hopped beers than is commonly thought
  3. For beers requiring a very long aging period, it removes the yeast cake which can help reduce autolysis flavours
  4. For beers requiring a very long aging period, it can move the beer to a container less permeable to oxygen (e.g. if you primary in a bucket)
In other words, unless you brewed a strong beer, require extended aging, or brewed improperly (e..g. under-pitching) you don't need a secondary, and the drawbacks (oxidation, potential for infection and effort) outweigh any marginal gains that may or maynot exist.

Bryan
Visit my blog at suigenerisbrewing.com. Homebrewing, yeast wrangling, wild yeast and more!

User avatar
ECH
Posts: 318
Joined: 4 years ago
Favourite Beer: IPA
Location: Hanwell, New Brunswick (just outside of Fredericton)
Contact:

Re: Primary/Secondary Confusion

Post by ECH » 4 years ago

kombat wrote:
ECH wrote:a secondary will allow the beer to settle out any of the solids in it and you will end up with a clearer beer in the bottle.
ECH, your heart is in the right place, but this is an outdated myth.

Why would a beer clear faster if you disturb it midway through than if you just left it in the same vessel the whole time? The presence of yeast/trub at the bottom of the fermenter doesn't make the beer above it any less clear.

Think about it this way. From the moment fermentation ceases and convection activity in the fermenter stops, the liquid is basically still. Any sediment in suspension can then begin falling out. Particles that were already near the bottom don't have far to fall, so they start piling up at the bottom of the fermenter. Particles near the top, however, have the farthest to fall. Thus, the beer tends to clear from the top-down. That is, the top of the beer is clear first, while the remainder stays cloudy as particulates steadly fall through it to the bottom of the vessel.

Now let's say this process has been going on for several days, and the beer is 2/3 clear. Particles that started out at the top have fallen almost all the way down to the bottom, leaving the top 2/3 of the beer clear, and only the bottom 1/3 remains cloudy as those last particles finish falling. If you suddenly rack this beer to another carboy, you're mixing those particles back into uniform solution, and they'll have to start falling out of suspension all over again, some of which will be all the way back at the very top.

All other things being equal (schedule-wise), a beer that is left in the same fermenter the whole time will be clearer than one that is transferred/disturbed midway through.

I would respectively disagree, I have done it both ways, not racking to a secondary, and racking to a secondary for another week, and the beer has always come out clearer when racking to a secondary, and there is always still stuff that falls out of it, in the secondary.

As far as oxidization, or risk of infection. All the same precautions are taken, have haven't ruined a batch doing it this way yet, neither years ago when I brewed, or just recently getting back into it this year.

Post Reply