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Secondary Fermentation (Front End)
Some beers are racked off their Primary Fermentation trub and into a Secondary fermenter for cold conditioning/lagering and clarification. When you brew a BIG beer with a high gravity, the Secondary gives the brew a chance to settle out a lot of the yeast and other stuff that you prefer not to bottle.
But many brewers use the Secondary Fermentation for other processes.
There is a growing trend to "Oak" your brew. Now if you have an oak barrel and know how to cask age your brew in oak, WOW! While I could write volumes on the topic, we're going to keep this article an easy and relatively short/informative read.
At Barley and Vine, we carry a wide variety of oak chips for you to try in your next brew. You can select from lightly toasted, medium toasted, and heavy toasted oak. You also have a choice of American, Hungarian, and French oak chips. Many prefer the Hungarian because of the depth of character. Beers that lend well to the addition of oak include Porter, Stout, and of course, English Ale. The process is pretty simple: start your efforts to oak your brew with 4-6 ounces of your preferred oak. You can sanitize the oak by steaming or soaking the oak chips in Vodka or Whiskey overnight. This also helps bring out the oak character into solution before adding the oak to your brew. If you find the brew needs a bit more oak to suit your taste, add an additional 2-3 ounces in your next batch to develop the recipe that gives your brew an oak character, without becoming overwhelming. Remember, you are the judge on the best oak character for your brew.
Cacao Nibs is another popular addition. We have brewed several brews with Cacao Nibs and find that they impart a deliciously smooth chocolaty character. In our first batch of Chocolate Bock, we used 4 ounces. The chocolate character came in good, but not good enough. The next will have 6 ounces. We also added a few Cacao nibs at bottling. Kinda like "Dry Hopping". The fresh chocolate character was delightful. I found that by keeping the brew fairly simple, the addition of the chocolate complimented the warm malt character of the Bock, (or Porter). A brewer recently asked what kind of brew would do well with the addition of Spearmint. The Chocolate brew came to mind, as did a crisp Berliner Weiss, or possibly a good Belgian Saison.
Dry Hopping is the most favored addition during the Secondary Fermentation and has been the most popular Secondary addition throughout the ages! If you’re kegging your beer, the whole hops and the hop plugs work well. Be sure to place a hop shield on the end of your liquid tube to keep the hop flowers in the keg. If you are racking your brew into your Secondary Fermenter, you may wish to add ½ ounce or more or whole hops or hop pellets to your brew. At this stage of the brewing process, there is enough alcohol in your brew to kill off any nasties that may be on your hops. Actually, hops resist mold and are used as an antiseptic in brewing. If you are using hop pellets, they will dissolve in a few days and impart a wonderfully fresh hoppy aroma to your brew. When it comes time to rack from the secondary to the bottling bucket, the tip on the end of your racking cane will filter out much of the hop flowers. .