Brewess

The Blog for Women Who Brew Beer

Posts Tagged ‘Brewing Instructions’

Fermentation

Posted by Maggie on May 2, 2010

Once your cooled wort and yeast are in the carboy, you need to put an air trap on the top to allow air to escape but keep air (and dust and yeast and bacteria) from getting in.  A perfectly good air trap can be purchased for less than two dollars.  It fits into the hole in the center of a rubber plug for the carboy.  If you don’t have a trap, you can use a flexible hose inserted into the rubber plug on one end and then into a jar of water on the other.  Depending on where you are leaving your beer to ferment, you might find the jar of water troublesome.

For the first 12 hours, while the fermentation is getting started, the carboy should be in a spot between 65 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the yeast.  Most brewer’s yeast packages state on them the ideal temperature for getting the process started.  You can buy a simple standing thermometer at a hardware store to place next to your carboy to monitor the temperature.  If it is too cold, it might prolong the period before fermentation happens but it could also prevent fermentation.   Your goal is to have the yeast start to rapidly multiply, eat the sugars and create alcohol, before other organism that happened to fall into your brew have a chance to multiply.  The alcohol will kill any intruders but you need the alcohol to build up first.  It is a microbial battle and you are aiding the yeast side.

I put my carboy up in the middle of my Wedgewood stove where the pilot lights keep the temperature around 70 degrees.   I put a couple of dish towels under the carboy so that the bottom doesn’t get too hot.  The carboy needs to be covered with a towel or something to keep light off the liquid.  Light will ruin the flavor.  I use an old sweater my daughter outgrew.  It fits perfectly.  After a few days, I move the carboy to the top of the refrigerator to have it out of the way.

You should see the brew start to bubble in 12 – 24 hours.  There should also be a nice foam on the top of the brew.  If it doesn’t start to bubble within 24 hours, there is probably something wrong.  It could be that the yeast was bad, or the temperature was off, or your wort got very contaminated – enough to hinder yeast growth.   You can try adding more yeast to see if that starts the fermentation.  If this is unsuccessful, you might need to start again.

I have to say that this has never happened to me.  If you are careful with sterilizing, are nice to your yeast (keep it in the refrigerator until a few hours before you are ready to use it) and buy good quality brewer’s yeast, you should have no problems.

I remember that when I started brewing beer, I was concerned that I would buy the equipment and the ingredients, spend time on the wort, and then the beer wouldn’t work out.  It would be like working hard sewing a bathrobe only to have it look terrible.  However, I have yet to have a beer fail.  If you do everything as you should, the chance of failure is small indeed.  The chance of making a delicious beer is quite high.

The beer might bubble away for a week or might just bubble like crazy for 36 hours and then be done.  Even if you see no more visible fermentation taking place, you should still leave the beer in the carboy for two weeks total.  This is both so that the flavor can develop and so that the yeast and other material, such as hops, can settle out and you can have a lovely, clear, refreshing beer.

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Bottling

Posted by Maggie on May 1, 2010

Ah…..bottling.  This is when you get to taste your fermented brew and get a sense of what it will taste like when it is carbonated and gets to mellow.   Beer tends to reach its best flavor six to eight weeks after bottling.  It shouldn’t be drunk less than 2 weeks after bottling because it won’t be carbonated yet.   I like a glass of the uncarbonated brew after I finish bottling.  Usually there is some left that is not enough for a final bottle so I pour it in a glass and enjoy.  It tastes very earthy.  I feel a part of history.  There have been times and places where beer was the primary beverage.  The alcohol killed contamination and hard labor made people thirsty.  I think that that first glass of a new brew that hadn’t been bottled or carbonated yet must have been an appreciated drink back in time.

Hopefully you have a dishwasher.  This will make your job much easier.   Put your rinsed out bottles in the dishwasher with no soap and with the ‘heated dry’ setting.  Let them be washed and hot dried.  Time your bottling so that after they are done but before they have cooled you can bottle your beer.  For three gallons, you will need 30 bottles.  For five gallons, 50 bottles.

The first step is to disinfect your bottling bucket, tubes, and bottle caps.  I use iodine drops in water.  Other methods are also available.  If using iodine, soak everything for at least 10 minutes and then rinse.  Before siphoning the beer into the bottling bucket, make your bottling sugar mixture.  Usually one oz. per gallon is recommended.  I put the sugar in a cup of water and microwave it until it is hot and the sugar melts.  I pour this into the bottling bucket.

Next I siphon the beer into the bottling bucket.  See “Siphoning” for instructions on this.

With the bottling bucket up on a high surface, such at the kitchen counter, attach the flexible hose to the spigot and then the bottle wand to the flexible hose.  The bottle wand is a stiff, clear hose with a valve at the end that opens the wand end when you push down on the end of it.  The wand is blocked until you push the end down in a beer bottle which makes the job much easier and less messy.  Between bottles, you can just lift the wand without beer spilling out.

Line up your bottles on a surface lower than the bottling bucket (I use the floor of the kitchen), turn on the spigot, and press the wand down into the first bottle.  When the beer reaches the top, pull out the wand.  The space left by removing the wand from the bottle is the perfect air space needed at the top of the bottle.

One by one, fill up the beer bottles.  When all the beer is in the bottles, you can start capping.  Take a sterilized, rinsed cap and use a beer capper to cap each bottle.  If the last bottle is not filled all the way, don’t cap it.  Drink it or throw it away.

It is a good idea to store the bottles in a box.  It has never happened to me but bottles can explode.  It is better to have the happen in a confined place.  Leave the box somewhere cool and dark.

Light can ruin the flavor of beer.  Best to use dark brown bottles.  If you don’t have any, keep the beer away from the light.

After a couple of weeks, you can start to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

If, when you open the bottles,  they foam over and half the beer foams out onto the counter, then your beer was contaminated with wild yeast.  It is fine to drink.  It won’t make you sick and may not change the flavor.  However, it doesn’t look that great and it wastes a lot of beer.  It can also make a mess.  To help avoid this, fill your bottles directly out of the dishwasher, close all your windows while bottling, and keep everything clean, including your hands.

Have fun!

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Siphoning

Posted by Maggie on April 30, 2010

The most challenging aspect of the beer making process is siphoning the beer out of the carboy (large glass bottle) and into the bottling bucket once fermentation is complete.  The beer needs to be siphoned for two reasons:  1) You don’t want to pick up the sludge at the bottom of the carboy so you want to siphon off the liquid without mixing it up; 2) You don’t want the beer to mix with too much air since this will hurt the flavor.

Some people get the siphon started by sucking on the flexible tubing that will be used to siphon.  Hmmm…This is a fine way to contaminate your beer with the germs that are in your saliva.   A better way is to fill the flexible sterilized tube completely with water and then attach the flexible hose to the stiff L-shaped hose that is in the carboy sitting in the beer, without letting the water run out of the hose.  This will take some coordination and practice.

After the water-filled flexible hose is attached to the stiff tube in the carboy, drop the end of the hose into a pan or pot to catch the water running out of the hose, pulling the beer behind it.  The weight of the water and gravity got the siphon started.  The Carboy should be up on a high surface, such at the kitchen counter, while the pan and bottling bucket are on the floor.

Once the beer starts running, put the other end of the hose down in the bottling bucket and let the beer flow into the bucket by force of gravity.  As the carboy empties, allow the bottom of the stiff L-shaped tube to move to the bottom of the beer but keep it above the sludge.  You won’t be able to get all the beer out while avoiding the sludge but your beer will be clearer and milder.

Be sure that before you get started to sterilize your clear tubes and your bottling bucket and then rinse them well.  Wash your hands and keep the windows closed so that no wild yeast falls into the bottling bucket.

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