Taking a beer from primary to secondary is debatable… I get that… but when a brewer says “I always transfer to a secondary” or “I just leave my beers in the primary for 3+ weeks”, then that is the time at which you need to stop listening to them…

The main benefit of transferring to a secondary is clarification…

When you move the beer off the yeast cake and trub, and you allow it to sit in the secondary, it is supposed to become clear… clearerrrr…

… well, at least that’s what the I-always-secondary people say…

See, I’ve left my beers in the primary for 3 weeks and have gotten beer just as clear, if not clearer than by transferring to a secondary…

… well, at least that’s what the I-just-primary people say…

… and the truth is, both are right… yeast will flocculate (clump together and drop to the bottom) over time regardless of whether they are in a primary or secondary fermentor…

So the question of whether to secondary or not is more of a strategic plan for me…

Aging, yeast re-use, adding fruit, dry-hopping, and lagering are about the only times I can think of right now to consider transferring to a secondary… and it’s not “always”….

Let’s take aging… the reason why aging in the primary is a concern is that yeast can and will die when left in an alcohol environment for long periods of time… even more so than because they are living in alcohol, they’ll die from lack of food… they’ll start eating themselves…

I’ve personally never aged longer than a couple of months, but I’ve heard of brewers aging for 3 months in the primary without seeing any of this… I believe that, but if I were to age any longer I’d likely transfer to a secondary and remove the yeast to avoid any dead yeast from giving nasty flavors to my beer…

… aging longer than a month may entice me to transfer to a secondary so I can use my primary for another batch… depends…

Then comes the issue of whether or not I will be re-using yeast. If I am, the best time to re-pitch is right after fermentation… and if I’m not ready to bottle, then I will transfer to a secondary just to get to the yeast…

Similarly, if I am adding fruit or dry hopping a beer and I feel like that will change the character of the yeast, then I’ll get the beer off the yeast before I add anything to it, so I can keep the character of the yeast and re-use it…

… if I’m not re-using yeast, then I won’t bother transferring to a secondary….

Then there is lagering… which is kind of like aging… you are dropping the temperature so low that it takes forever for yeast to do any work….

You usually have to lager for a month or two or more and I worry about needing my primary fermentor more so than yeast dying…

… but as you see, the benefits of using a secondary fermentor are more of a convenience and avoiding potential problems with long term storage or re-using yeast…

Sure, there is always the reduced risk of infection and oxidation by keeping the beer in the primary, but I’ve never been afraid to move the beer… just keep everything clean and sanitized and there should be no problem… just a hassle…

So if I sum up the benefits of a secondary it would be that it allows you to age and mature beer, keeps your beer away from dying yeast, and allows you to access yeast at their prime for re-using purposes…

There you have it…


    1 Response to "Benefits Of A Secondary Fermentor"

    • Brian

      Have a question about doing the secondary fermentation. I’ve heard about the the clarity part of the beer, which I understand and agree. But I’ve also heard that if you dont do secondary fermentation than the dead yeast can also give off bad flavors to your beer. Normally I only do 1 week in the primary fermenter and 2 weeks in the secondary. Just wondering your opinion on this. Thanks!

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