Gowanus Brewery

Chinook IPA Started by Jeremy
November 28, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, brewing, equipment, ipa, oxygen

Chinook IPA Ingredient KitLast week, I started the Chinook IPA, which I discussed in an earlier post, and this past weekend I moved the beer to the secondary fermenter. I changed slightly how I transfer the beer from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter and it worked out really well.

Before, I used a standard bucket with a grommeted lid for fermentation, but I lost a lot of beer when I went to move it to the secondary fermenter. This was with my California Imperial Pale Ale, which netted only 43 bottles, about a six pack short of what this kit would otherwise produce. First, with a standard siphon, some beer is allowed to run off to create the siphon, so loss is inherent with each use. Second, actually I lost suction as I siphoned the beer from one container to the other when the level neared the bottom of the bucket. So, I had to restart the siphon, which meant pouring off more beer. And, while doing so, I clumsily kicked up the trub so that it made more sense to cut my losses and discard what was left. In restarting the siphon, I also had to touch the end of the siphon hose to fill it with tap water, which unnecessarily introduced a new source of potential contamination–another issue that concerned me.

Primary Fermenter with SpigotFor the Chinook IPA, I traded out the standard bucket for a bottling bucket. The only difference between the two is that a bottling bucket has a spigot attached to it. The spigot is high enough from the bottom that you can pour off the beer without disturbing the trub. I still used a hose and bottling wand, but gravity does the work of the siphon and the whole process becomes much simpler. Plus, as the bucket empties, it is possible to draw off the very last of the beer by gently tilting the bucket toward the spigot.

It is definitely a more efficient and sanitary way to transfer beer to your secondary fermenter, but there were two new, small issues I encountered. First, the spigot assembly must be cleaned and covered in foil or plastic wrap at the time of primary fermentation to keep it clean until it’s time to use it. Second, the spigot may be clogged initially from settling hops or yeast, or it may become clogged during the pour. This happened to me and to unclog it I simply raised the end of the hose so that beer flowed back into the bucket, clearing the blockage.

There is actually a third issue that is equally relevant to both methods of moving the beer to secondary, but I need to do a little more research to resolve it. The main purpose of moving beer to secondary is to separate the beer from the trub, which would otherwise produce off flavors and affect clarity. I have read, though, that there is a third purpose, which is to introduce new oxygen to the beer to repopulate the yeast. Yeast population falls off during fermentation and exposure to oxygen promotes yeast reproduction. The issue for me is that using a hose to transfer beer from primary to secondary, whether by siphon or spigot, appears to minimize the exposure of beer to new air, potentially robbing me of an opportunity to improve my brew. On the other hand, there may be enough oxygen in the new air in the secondary fermenter to get this positive effect. I will keep my eyes and ears open for additional information on this issue.