The Glory of Secondary Fermentation

When we first started brewing, we went straight from our primary fermenter (a 6.5-gallon carboy) into bottles. As our home brewery expanded, we added other fermenters, and switched from always bottling to mostly kegging – but never made a switch to using secondary fermentation.

Meetings of the Ann Arbor Brewer’s Guild produced conversations in which most other brewers stated that they used secondary fermentation, racking their beers over at various points in the process (and when to rack to secondary is a topic complex enough to warrant a post all its own). We had to give it a try.

For our next batch, we transfered from primary fermentation in our carboy to secondary in a bucket, and let the beer continue to ferment for a week or so. When we eventually kegged, the result was a much cleaner, clearer beer, and there weren’t as many off-flavors that can arise from sitting too long on a yeast cake.

Since that fateful batch, most of our beers have spent at least some time in secondary – unless all three of our fermenters are occupied by different brews at the time. Racking to secondary is an excellent time to add additional flavors, and take a taste test to see what else the beer might need in order to achieve its maximum potential.

For the next round of easy ways to improve your brewing, secondary fermentation may have to make the list.

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