I've had my beer (Belgium witbier) in primary fermentation for about a week. I'd like to rack to secondary, then keep it in secondary for 3 weeks. Advisable? I could keep it in primary for another week or so, but I'm worried that sediment (there was a ton with the two types of hops, orange peel and coriander I used) might start to cause off flavors if I let it go too long in the primary (p.s. primarary is a bucket, secondary is glass carboy). Based some upcoming vacation plans, it will be in secondary for at least three weeks.
The need to rack to secondary is a somewhat controversial topic, but here's my opinion: leaving the beer on the lees, in the primary, for another three weeks will have no adverse effects on flavor. In fact, transferring to secondary introduces a small risk of infection, and offers little or no benefit and so should be discouraged.
Wheat beers in general don't require secondary regardless of where you sit with the secondary debate. If you have time to rack it, maybe it would be better to bottle it and then you can be drinking it when you get home from vacation.
Other than that sitting on the primary is probably a better place for it than secondary, IMO.
Good answer, but a word of caution, Wit yeast can be very finicky and can drop out prematurely. Bottling it now to try to have it ready by his return could lead to bottle bombs.– GrahamJan 9, 2012 at 20:28
1I can't say that I have ever experienced wit yeasts settling out early. By nature wit yeasts are poor flocculators which contributes to their cloudy character. Jan 10, 2012 at 2:17
Having done so too early in the past, I won't be bottling before the vacation. About a year ago, I returned home from a trip to a basement full of exploded beer bottles. I had kept the beer in primary about a week, racked to secondary for two, then bottled. Way too soon! I've under-carbonated my last two beers as a result of this experience. Now I just give it plenty of time in fermentation and use carb drops.– caraJan 10, 2012 at 13:20
1Agreed. I've made a couple of bottle bombs and generally wrecked a couple of batches by bottling too early in the past. I virtually never bottle before ~2 weeks anymore. If you DO bottle too early, however, you can recap all the bottles (something I wish I knew a few years ago when I made such mistakes). Jan 10, 2012 at 15:26
I typically do a secondary rack just the clarify the beer.
1If you leave it in primary 3-4 weeks, it should clarify without the need for secondary. Jan 9, 2012 at 18:19
1Try your next few beers in secondary for 3-4 weeks like Denny says. Its much easier, and it will give you the same results. In fact, I think the taste is often cleaner that way. Jan 10, 2012 at 2:18
1Thanks for the comments. I'm going to skip the secondary (easier anyway!).– caraJan 10, 2012 at 13:16
I agree with the above in most cases. If you're okay with doing so, I might rack to secondary in this case if you have a lot of adjuncts sitting there (more than a couple tbsp each of bitter orange peel/coriander), but I highly doubt it will be a problem.
I leave most of my brews in primary for 3-4 weeks and only ever rack to secondary if it's going to sit around for more than about 6 weeks (I just tried leaving a Belgian Brown in primary for nearly 5 months and bottled it last week--it tasted excellent. I was surprised).
What are the adjuncts? Jan 8, 2012 at 20:01
Bitter Orange Peel and Coriander. He mentioned that he had a "ton" in there alongside hops. I'd personally probably leave it for 4 weeks without a second thought unless that "ton" is actually significant (more than a couple tablespoons of each). Jan 10, 2012 at 15:23
If you plan on getting true "witbier" bottle conditioned taste, and carbonation,I suggest bottling as soon as fermentation ends.An important aspect ive found of brewing this style,and more importantly of getting the flavors you crave from a true White,is as much yeast as possible into the bottle.This yeast will carbonate and further flavor this style in the bottle as its last act before going dormant.If you wait too long,and the more of the yeast that goes dormant in the fermenter,the more chance of "duds"at drinking time(not carbed,or soft carbonation)and at its worse,being completely off the mark flavor wise.
If for some reason bottling did not happen in the small "golden time" window,adding yeast at bottling time is highly recommended.