Secondary Fermentors: What Are The Best?

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Hi folks. I'm a bit of a noob to homebrewing and have only done a few brews so far with hopped and unhopped extracts and pre-prepared recipe packs. I'm loving the hobby though, and am already thinking about getting an all grain set up worked out sometime soon.

Anyway, I recently learnt that it is probably oxidation that's caused a slight cardboard taste in a couple of my brews, likely from aerating warm wort, and I've also been racking into a plastic fermentor which I read might also be a cause of oxidation due to them having so much headroom.

So what are the best options for secondary fermentors, and what do you geezers use?

On the rare occasions when I secondary, I use a plastic unit.

If I were to choose between no-cardboard and possibily clearer beer (yes I am oversimplifying) then to me it is a no brainer - try a brew without secondarying.
First off us homebrewers are not geezers.... cos im only 17. When racking into secondary i use a plastic fermenter which works fine. If you are getting a cardboard taste it might be that you equiptment isnt sterilised properly.


I rack my beer into 23 litre glass carboys and fit an airlock for about a month ,I bottle condition my beer for about 3-4 months, I am an AG brewer, as I really did not have much sucess with concentrates ,some of that was my inexperience and some was to do with the high fermenting temperature .

I would like to get a glass carboy, if only to use one for primary and watch the yeast do its thang B) I still enjoy looking through the plastic lid and watching the krausen develop and warble away.
Secondary fermentation is very important if you want to make good beers. Its all the better for your beers that end up in a bottle or in a keg. I am not a big technical brewer but I know what works.

1. I only do secondary fermentation in a Glass Fermenter for a number of reasons. When you beer has completed primary fermentation it becomes a nice little wort looking for trouble and the trouble is infections.

2. Glass is easy to clean and can hold your wort after it is transfered (racked) for long periods if you keep it COLD. If you can't keep the wort cold it has a real good chance of getting infected. be warned.

3. The advantages of secondary fermentation for Ales are the yeast settles and completes their job and when bottled you have a very fine sediment in your bottle and I believe it improves the flavour. Hold the Ale for 5 days at 18C in the secondary. I have been lagering my Ales in the secondary now for 2 weeks at 2C. If you keg your beers they will be crystal clear when carbonated.

4. If you are making true Lagers with true lager yeasts you have to rack your beer into a secondary and lager it for 4-5 weeks at 2C. The secret is make sure the beer has completed primary fermentation and should have been fermenting at 10-12C for 3 weeks. Raise the temp to 20C for 3 days and then Rack it to secondary for lagering.

Hope this help some Old and New Brewers
I use your 'standard' plastic fermenter for secondary, but I'm anal about cleaning and sanitation.
I find racking produces a much clearer and cleaner tasting beer.

P.S. I'd like a glass carboy thou!
different things work for different people.i have only done 5 k&k but already the info i have picked up from this site has improved my beer by 100 % .the things i have picked out are keep temp consistent,i am around 18 deg for primary ferments,then i secondry for another 7 days at the same last two beers have been done this way and there is an absloute difference in the taste,to get back to the original question i am only using the plastic fermentors for secondry and they do have a fair bit of head space but i have the airlock in and they always have a positive pressure in the fermentor so i reason that the nasties cant get in,and also i spend that extra few minutes making sure that my equipment is REALLY STERILE AND CLEAN
I have 2 or 3 second hand glass 23L carboys left. $45.00 each

I secondary (really, cold condition) in cubes for periods 2weeks-5 months, for extended ageing, 12 months or more I secondary in a cornie keg

Jovial Monk
I use 10 litre water containers with a tap at the bottom. You can get them at Bunnings for about $10. A 23 litre brew just fills 2 nicely with minimal headspace & the bonus is they are really easy to lift - especially in & out of the chest freezer I run as a fridge.
Hi Taflex

This issue came up at an Adelaide brew day on Sunday. It was clear that there are 2 groups. Those that swear by secondary fermentation, and those that see it as an uneccessary step.

Personally I fall into the second group. I mainly make English ales, and these beers are best drunk young and fresh. Bitters in particular rely a fair bit on well rounded and balanced hop flavours and aromas. The longer you leave the beer the more it will lose these essential hop characteristics. So CCing for extended periods of time will have a negative impact. Yes the CCing might help with clearing the beer, but so does things like Koppafloc, and finnings like gelatin.

So if you keg, when you reach your final gravity just rack from your primary to the keg. If it's an English type ale carbonate and drink young and fresh. If it's a strong ale, again rack from primary to the keg, and let condition in the keg. If its a lager same again, and just let it lager in the keg.

If you bottle it's the exact same process, but just in the bottle. After you have reached final gravity, rack to your bottling bucket with the priming sugar, bottle, and let carbonate. If it needs any lengthy conditioning/lagering, just do this in the bottle, after it has carbonated.

This way you cut down on the number of times you need to transfer the beer, the number of times you need to clean and sanitise a new vessle, and the number of vesles you have lying around the house.


Scotty said:
First off us homebrewers are not geezers.... cos im only 17.

PS: Scotty, dont worry about the word geezer, it doesn't always mean an old person, in London slang it just means man. So when the Old Bill asks where you bought your car stereo you might say "some geezer in the pub". It can also be prefixed with an adjective like "dodgy geezer".
Some great info in there. I hope you guys don't get sick of my newbie questions too soon. I've been searching the forums for info and will try to keep 'em to a minimum.

That's an interesting take you have on things, MAH. I'm definitely an ale man, though I don't mind the occasional lager. I'm yet to brew one, but I'll be sure to give it a go once I get a dedicated fridge in effect.

I'm really not too concerned with the clarity of my ales at this stage, but am of course very concerned with their flavour. You've convinced me to give your method a go (I haven't even tried a brew withough racking to secondary yet).

And thanks for setting Scotty straight for me too. You're a diamond geezer.
Yeah I might give secondary a go. I am very eager to get the taste and clarity as best I can (and like expereimenting!).

I am considering using an upright carboy for primary then secondary into an inverted carboy to purge and yeast from the bottom before bottling - using an inverted for primary I have found out means wasting a hell of a lot of beer clearing the yeast before bottling - mainly because the carboy neck is too shallow for the yeast to settle all in the neck when inverted.

Using a carboy with a fermetap also means I can use the wand for siphoning into the secondary and get as much beer off the bottom by lowing the wand until I start to "siphon yeast" - which should be obvious through the clear transfer line.

Fussy - yes - but so are most "mad scientists"???
I found some good fermenters down at bunnings for 16 bucks. They are pretty much the same as a coopers one, but the lid is a bit different. And for secondary, where not much gas is being produced I dont even fit an airlock. I dont think I have had any cardboardy flavours in my beer.
Morry, check that the cheap fermenters are food grade.

Easy to do, look on the bottom where there will be some maker's marks from the moulding, with maybe a manufacturere's name and a triangular symbol with arrow heads on it and a number in the middle. 2 is good, this means it is manufactured from new plastic stock. 4 is bad, this means it is manufactured from recycled plastic stock, and you have no idea what the original plastic was used for.

New brewers should look towards getting the basics right such as temperature control, sanitation, fresh ingredients and good recipes before moving onto racking to secondary. As has been pointed out, every time you transfer your beer, there is a significant risk to the end quality. If you are a newer brewer, it better to just leave your beer in primary for an extra week after fermentation has finished. This will definitely help drop the extra yeast out. If at all possible, at the very end just before bottling, put it somewhere cold for a day or two.

With any secondary container, the empty space should be an absolute minimum, as the oxygen in the headspace will end up in your beer, this is bad.

Stainless steel is best, glass is good, plastic is ok.

If using glass, wrap it in something to stop the light getting to the beer.

SS: strong, almost unbreakable, expensive, easy to clean, doesn't take odours

Glass: must protect from the light, easy to break, you can watch your beer

PLastic: cheap, easy to clean, may take on odours
Hi There,

Was just looking at this website for info on AG setups, and I came across this article on racking into a secondary keg, then transferring thru disconnects to his serving keg.

Would this be ok to do? How important is it to keep the secondary vessel cool during this process?

Thats not a bad site that.

Is it totally neccesary to transfer to another keg for serving? Would it be ok to use a keg for the secondary and just either cut the dip tube or chuck out the first few beers?
Is it totally neccesary to transfer to another keg for serving? Would it be ok to use a keg for the secondary and just either cut the dip tube or chuck out the first few beers?

I used to rack to a secondary fermenter for CCing, but fridge space is a premium so now use kegs.
I don't bother to transfer to a serving keg. I CC for a week or two then gas and drink. The first glass or so is fairly thick - but that doesn't really bother me.

Thats what i was thinking of doing. i can kit more kegs for CCing then i can fermenters.
I thought the first might be a bit thick but if the guy on that site transfers to a serving keg and hasn't cut his dip tube wouldn't it still transfer all the crap at the bottom anyway and make the beer in the serving keg cloudy again?

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