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Planning on adding 5 lbs of frozen, thawed cranberries to a saison. Can I just dump them (gently) into the primary? I was planning on some sort of tertiary/bright vessel afterward for clearing it up anyway. Just figured I would save one 'racking' and have one less chance of oxygenation/contamination.

Maybe this should be a separate question, but in the tertiary/bright vessel, should I add some pectic enzyme with my gelatin? This is not the blondest of saisons, but will be serving this beer @ my HB guild's xmas party, and clarity always makes for a better drinking experience.

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Second part first... In my experience don't bother with pectic enzyme for cranberries. They don't seem to release that much. I speculate its do to their firm skins vs. raspberries or other fruits. A gelatin rest for should be fine. The few cranberried beers I've done cleared up just fine with out pectin.

The first part second... If you let primary come to a finish, then add the cranberries I think you'll be good. I did a cherry wheat and added 6lb cherry puree 3 days into the primary and the aroma wasn't where I expected it to be. Other fruit beers I have done I did with the fruit post primary and some of the subtle character is preserved better. Yes, fermentation will re-start but it won't be nearly as vigorous as when all the malt is fermenting as well.

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FYI, JZ says that cherries are one of the trickier fruits to work with. I think he says to add them after primary ferment and potentially supplement with cherry extract. If you went with ONLY extract, you risk getting a cough syrup-like flavor/aroma. I'm thinking the one-two punch is the ticket. –  Pietro Oct 9 '12 at 0:33

To answer your primary question, the reason you transfer to a secondary is primarily to get your beer of the yeast cake (to avoid autolyse caused flavor (meaty) mostly). If you're going to rack before packaging anyway, the beer isn't especially strong (OG less than 1.060 ish) and you don't want to leave the fruit on the beer for very long (say less than a week), than you're correct in assuming it's not needed for your fruit addition. However, it is quite important to wait until primary fermentation is basically done before adding the fruit or all the tasty flavor will blow off along with the CO2.

(to answer you meta question, this is totally two questions, I'd recommend editing your question and creating two, but maybe this is not such a bid deal. I'm not new to brewing, but I am new here)

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Sorry but racking into secondary to prevent autolysis is an old-school home brewing practice that's just not recommended anymore. Perhaps it was never really an issue, or perhaps the quality of yeast is so much better now, but either way, you don't need to do it, and you're better off leaving the beer on the primary for an extra week or two. And autolysis creates "meaty" or "fecal" flavors, the "cardboard" flavor you mention is a product of oxidation, not autolysis. –  Graham Oct 8 '12 at 12:57
    
First off, regarding autolysis, yes of course, meaty, my mistake. Answer edited to reflect this. To your primary critique, I agree that in practice a secondary is rarely necessary, but to say that 'you don't need to do it' and that it's 'old-school' is really trollish on your part. I mean howtobrew.com/section1/chapter8-2-3.html third paragraph. Regardless, the OP was implying transfer to secondary (the hint is the use of 'tertiary' in the post) so I was attempting to explain why that secondary wasn't needed. I really think the downvote was a bit much, but I suppose you're entitled. –  alsothings Oct 8 '12 at 13:18
    
Downvote was mostly because you used the words "secondary" and "autolyse" together in the same sentence. homebrewtalk.com/f163/… Nothing wrong with racking in order to manage fruit or dry hops, but you shouldn't invoke the autolysis bogeyman so quickly. That, plus the fact your original answer confused oxidation flavors for autolysis earned the downvote. This is how Stack Exchange sites work, there was no trolling intent. –  Graham Oct 8 '12 at 14:40
    
@alsothings: Note that John Palmer has reversed his earlier view on secondaries; pick up the current (third) edition of How To Brew for his current recommendation. –  TMN Oct 8 '12 at 19:13
    
right, I'm rarely a secondary guy. The most current wisdom I have read is not to rack UNLESS you are doing a true secondary fermentation (ie with fruit, brett, or something else). My question is, do you even need to do it THEN? I'm not sure you do, particularly if you are going to do a clarifying/bright vessel for some additional conditioning/clarifying. It doesn't seem like there is much practical benefit to racking BEFORE the secondary fermentation/fruiting. –  Pietro Oct 9 '12 at 0:31

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