No Secondary: Myth or the Future?
Do you have to transfer your ale to a secondary fermentor? Will it impact the flavor or clarity of the beer? The short answer is, “no.” You really don’t have to transfer an ale to a secondary fermentor unless you plan to leave it there for more than 3-4 weeks (otherwise, you risk autolysis. You’re generally good to go up to a month. Experiment and decide what tastes best, but some people have gone a month without bottling and the beer tasted great.
Note the italicized word: ale. You should still transfer lagers (and high OG ales) to a secondary fermentor, because you will usually leave them in a fermentation vessel for 4+ weeks. Additionally, if you are putting anything crazy in after primary fermentation like cold-brewed coffee or fruit, I would still advise transferring to secondary.
What are the benefits of not transferring to secondary? Superficially, it’s less work. More importantly, you are increasing your chances of infection when you rack to secondary. So, as long as you are able to achieve the same clarity and taste using only a primary, there’s really no reason to rack to secondary.
If you are overly concerned about clarity, you can move your fermentor the day before you plan to bottle or keg so any disturbed trub will settle out.
Are the days of the secondary fermentor gone for ale brewers everywhere? Pretty much, yes.