We have already covered the main steps to making beer, but your recipe may have included a section detailing the secondary fermentation of beer. So what does that mean?
What is Secondary Fermentation?
The process of racking your beer from the fermenter you started with into another fermenter. The purpose is to get the good beer separated from the sediment that forms at the bottom of the fermenter.
Racking your beer into your secondary fermenter is usually done after about one week. This is because the main (high-growth) portion of fermentation is complete. After this, the yeast will continue to eat what it can find…usually some of the off-flavor component and remaining sugars, but sometimes also the dead yeast.
How do you control what the yeast is eating?
Benefits of Secondary Fermentation
To keep your yeast eating only what helps your beer you will rack it into the secondary fermenter. The goal is to move it without any of the sediment…
Well, the sediment is where the yeast settles once it has been used up. Your active yeast cells will eat the dead yeast if it cannot find anything else. By racking into a secondary fermenter, you are removing the dead yeast cells and forcing the yeast to be productive.
Another benefit is the introduction of a little more oxygen. You yeast will survive on the sugars and dissolved oxygen inside your fermenter. After about a week, both the oxygen and sugars are pretty well used up. Racking to a secondary fermenter will introduce a little oxygen to keep things going.
So that sounds like a no brainer right?
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Unfortunately, there is plenty that could go wrong. Fortunately, it is not anything we haven’t already discussed.
The biggest potential issues is contamination. Nothing will make your beer turn out bad more than bacteria. If you skip the sanitization prior to racking then your beer will probably not turn out as you expect. Great news though…you are already an expert on sanitization so just make sure you go through that step.
Another reason most people do not use secondary fermentation is because of the added cost. A secondary fermenter is usually a glass or PET carboy (pictured here) and will need to be purchased.
I know for most of my posts I state that secondary fermentation is not required. At this point you are probably wondering why I am even bringing it up.
Well, the posts under “New Brewers” is for those just beginning to make home brew beer. Once you are comfortable you will probably be looking for ways to improve your brew. This is why I am covering secondary fermentation.
It is not a required step, but if you are making a recipe based on a commercially available beer then you want to take every step possible to get the closest beer taste.
So Now You Know…
Yes, secondary fermentation is not required if your goal is to just produce a batch of home brewed beer. If you want to improve the quality of your home brew then secondary fermentation is highly recommended.
I recently went out and purchased a secondary fermenter to begin using it. If you have experience with secondary fermentation or questions about secondary fermentation, comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org