Dear Readers,

Welcome to episode three of brewing beer in the How To Brew All Grain Brewing series where I take you through the secondary fermentation stage of beer brewing at home.

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If you want to read the first two episodes you can read them here:

Episode 1 – How To Brew: The Basics Of Home Brewing Equipment

Episode 2 – How To Brew: Brew Day

About a week has gone by  in the primary fermenter and the initial vigorous bubbling of the yeast converting sugar to ethanol and carbon dioxide has probably subsided and the secondary fermentation can begin.

During the primary fermentation, a creamy cap forms on the top of the beer (and sometimes escapes through the airlock if your brew is particularly vigorous).  This cap and the debris floating in the wort such as bits of grain, hops etc. settles to the bottom of the fermentation vessel along with dead yeast cells.  This gunk at the bottom is known as the trub (or lees in wine making).

If you leave the beer on the trub for too long, it can impart off notes into the beer.
Make your best beer!

How do we combat this?  Well, once the primary fermentation has subsided which is usually around seven days; the beer is transferred into another clean and sanitized fermentation vessel and sealed with another airlock and left to ferment again.

The length of time you leave the beer to ferment in the secondary depends on the type of beer you are making.  Some recipes call for a week, some ten days. Barleywines or lagers for instance, can be in the secondary for a month to six weeks.

As discussed in Episode 1 of this series, there are lots of fermenters available and depending on what you are adding (or not adding) at this stage can influence your choice in vessel.  In the featured image, you can see toasted oak chips in the carboy which are to impart an oak flavor to my Scottish heavy beer however, I will have to swirl out the chips and get creative with a chopstick and the carboy brush; but I needed to use the glass carboy as the secondary to avoid any off notes and to free up the buckets for more beer!  

In another example, if you have a lot of hops to add at the secondary fermentation stage for flavor and aroma (this is called dry hopping); a glass carboy may not be the best choice for your secondary container because of the narrow neck and it will be harder to clean although there are carboy washing apparatus available to buy, I am assuming that as a novice home brewer you may have a carboy brush at best to clean the equipment with. For a beer which is heavy on the dry hopping, you may choose a plastic fermentation bucket instead as your secondary fermenter.  I have friends who brew and they only use plastic fermentation buckets for each stage of their brewing.


Want to move on the the next stage of beer making?  I’ll show you step by step how to transfer to the secondary.

Step 1: Clean

If you haven’t guessed it by now, beer making involves a lot of cleaning.  Wash the secondary fermentation vessel, airlock, stopper (bung) if your vessel needs one and racking cane with hot soapy water.

Cleaning a carboy

Cleaning a carboy

You want to be sure there is no dust, debris, remnants of brews gone by etc in your equipment.  Rinse thoroughly to make sure scented soap (if you use dish soap/washing up liquid) doesn’t produce any off flavors in your brew.

Step 2: Sanitize

Now your equipment is clean, sanitize each piece.  You can combine these steps if you have a product that both cleans and sanitizes.

In the picture below, I’m sanitizing a carboy that has been rinsed.

sanitizing a carboy

Ensure that all surfaces are washed with the solution to clean the equipment of potential microbial contamination.  Follow all instructions as indicated by the manufacturer.

Step 3: Transfer

Use gravity to your advantage when beer making.  Open up the primary fermenter then place the full container on a table or counter top.  Place the racking cane inside and feed the tube into the clean vessel for the secondary fermentation.  Start the siphon to transfer the beer.

siphoning beer

Here is the beer transferring into the secondary fermentation vessel.

Transferring beer

Here’s the full set up during transfer.

Secondary fermentation transfer

Step 4: Ferment Again

Place the airlock into the vessel and move to somewhere cool and dark to ferment again.

Secondary fermentation

Carboy handles make moving a full carboy a lot easier especially if you transfer in a different place to where the beer will ferment.

If using glass vessels, it is a good idea to wrap them up with blankets to block the light and reduce oxidation caused by light in the beer.

If you want to make a start home brewing but you don’t know where to start check out where they have free shipping on qualifying items and reasonably priced starter kits with everything you need to get started on your new hobby.

If you are interested in home brewing why not leave a comment and let me know how I can help you on your journey to some of the best beer you have ever tasted?  If you have any tips to share with me or other readers please share them in the comments or join the Misfit Gardening Community Forum I love reading your ideas, tips and tricks!

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