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I like to use an ale pail with a spigot for my secondary. It makes it super easy to test the gravity before actually bottling/kegging/etc.

However, that sort of installation in plastic can open the process up to contamination, more so than other routes. Of course, opening the lid and putting a turkey baster in there isn't so safe either.

What are some solutions for testing gravity in the secondary without opening up the container fully? What are your thoughts on a spigot?

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10 Answers 10

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I have an alepale with a spigot. I don't think I get infections from it but I'm a clean-freak. I always take apart the spigot and soak it in 5-star. They are a lot easier to use vs starting a siphon.

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1  
I should probably take my spigot apart... I generally just fill the pail with sani and let some of it flow through the spigot. Clean-freak + brewing = good. –  hookedonwinter Dec 17 '09 at 16:45
    
the greatest chance of infection is between flameout and fermentation. this is when microbs have the best chance to infect. Now it doesn't take much to prevent infection. clean, sani, seal. if you have to open up primary it won't have negative impacts on the beer. relax, have a homebrew. once fermented the chance of infection through the normal course of homebrewing is almost 0. the alcohol prevents other microbs from taking residence in the beer. don't stress over this too much. find a technique that works for you and be done :) –  Jason Meckley Jul 26 '13 at 11:05

Yeah I don't see much way around it for the batch size. I have always just used a 5 gallon better bottle for my secondary ferm and just took the cap off and used a wine-thief that was sanitized. Never had a problem. Personally I don't pour the beer back into the batch when done - I tend to taste it so maybe that helps.

I then just siphon the beer into a bottling bucket on bottling day and use the spigot on that to do the actual bottle filling.

So far, knock on wood, I haven't had a problem or contamination.

As I move up to larger batches I will be looking into plastic conicals. (http://www.tank-depot.com/product.aspx?id=854) In theory I would add a port about 6 inches up from the bottom to use for this type of stuff, but not sure how that will work. Wont know till I try I suppose.

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I think this is a lot safer than having the spigot on the secondary fermentation vessel. –  Taylor Dec 10 '09 at 20:56

I have a spigot on one of my better bottles and it is convenient, but only if you have a full set of accessories to go along with it. The whole point of their stuff is closed transfers. I think it's ok as long as you are aware of the potential issues and are vigilant about cleaning.

As far as getting hydro samples, a sanitized turkey baster works as does a wine thief.

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I use a better bottle for my secondary and bought myself a wine thief. It can be sanitized and quickly dipped into the secondary for a test. Sure, it opens up air getting in, I'm not so much worried about that with small 5 gallon batches, but if I were doing larger batches then I'd want to have another method to extract samples without adding in more air.

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I am still somewhat of a beginner/intermediate, but life seemed to get so much better when I started using a pail with a spigot.

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I don't have any buckets or better bottles with spigots. I just use the auto-siphon to rack from primary to secondary and then from secondary to bottling bucket. I also bottle with an auto-siphon. Mind you, I do five gallon batches.

Were I to do larger batches I would invest in equipment with either a conical bottom or a spigot system. For gravity testing I use a simple wine thief.

I think there isn't really a controversy on "spigot or no" rather it is more about how you like to work, what equipment you have and how you weight the advantages and disadvantages.

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Contamination should not be a worry if your on top of your cleaning and sanitation. I would be more concerned about exposure to oxygen if your using a bucket for a secondary.

I know the better bottle have a spigot that can be rotated to be above sediment. A set up like that seems to be your best option.

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I always use a glass carboy for secondary and usually use one for primary. Until very recently I'd use a well sanitized GLASS turkey baster to take SG samples. I recently picked up a wine thief and love it.

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Also for the most part you will have a blanket of CO2 on the top of the beer, most of the sugars have been fermented, as well as some amount of alcohol which will help to ward off a stray infection. Sanitize your beer thief (I use the part of the auto-siphon as a thief) and relax, don't worry, have a homebrew.

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Something else to consider: in agreement with many other answers, I have been using a glass carboy with a wine thief to do gravity (and taste!) tests mid-fermentation. One good reason to use a carboy vs. an ale pail is that plastic buckets are oxygen-permeable.

That said, the best secondary may be no secondary at all.

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