Still on my first brew! Everyone talks about secondary buckets and bottling buckets... what are they? I bought a kit and there's no mention of any other buckets.
W.r.t. secondary buckets, the idea goes that leaving your beer too long on the yeast will start giving off-flavours. So, after your first fermentation has slowed down, you then siphon it into a another bucket, leaving only the yeast in the beer and maybe some siphoned off, but not the inch-thick yeast cake in the fermentation bucket.
Now, it seems that in the last years it has been recognised that this off-flavour process is not so fast, and that moving to secondary is not so acute. I use it for beers that I want extra clear, or beers that really need some time in secondary, like high-gravity brews or bock e.g.
Normally, you should be good leaving your beer for up to two weeks in fermentation. Actually, you should measure your gravity, but two weeks is really a good rule of thumb, and sometimes you will not reach your final gravity (I had that with a porter a couple of weeks ago which had a lot of unfermentable material).
Then you can bottle, and here is the story of the bottling bucket. It is used to mix your fermented beer with priming sugar. This priming sugar is prepared with some water, then boiled, then poured into the (sanitised) bottling bucket, and then the beer is racked over it. After that, you rack the beer into your bottles (have a look at this link).
You could also bottle after two weeks from the fermenter, but you will need a good racking cane and you will need to exercise to reduce the amount of splashing and losses. In that case, you would need to measure the priming sugar for each bottle and add it to each one. Or you could buy priming tablets, but those are not always matched to the size of the bottles, which means that you would need to cut them up. Then after putting the priming sugar into the bottles, you can rack your beer into the bottles. While this is a good exercise, and good to learn part of the process, it will leave you with a large loss of beer above the trub of the fermenter, or some bottles with a lot of extra yeast, which will then lead to off-flavours, either from decomposition of the yeast (long-term), a bitter taste because of the yeast (short term), and a not so easy to pour beer, which then leads again to loss of beer because you can't pour everything.
I use a bottling bucket that I made from a 2-gallon (or 2.5, its actually 11 liter) plastic food grade bucket, with a plastic spigot (like ), to which I hang a silicone rubber hose, and a bottling tube. The spigot's thread is 3/4", and I screw a brass, 90° tube fitting over it to minimise the loss. I don't brew big batches, so for me that bucket is enough. Adjust your volumes to what you brew.
A last word: clean and sanitise, clean and sanitise, clean and sanitise. Everything that will and could contact your beer, your buckets, your material, your counter, wash your hands, clean and brush your bottles before use, and let them drip out.
I know it's a whole lot, but the above is from my current experience. Buy a good book about brewing, there are enough. Do not worry, but do clean!