Friday, March 05, 2010

Blessed are the Beermakers pt. 3 - Fermentation and Bottling

So 5 days in the bucket and I measure the Gravity (very simply put, the amount of sugar in a solution) of the beer. By measuring the wort when I pitch yeast and measuring again after a few days I can tell how much sugar is gone therefore how much alcohol is in my beer, and there fore when the Primary Fermentation is finished. I should have taken a picture of my Hydrometer, the tool that measure such things, but I didn't think of it. Any way we measured 1.058 degrees Plato at the start and 1.017 degrees at the end, I was shooting for 1.015 so this was pretty close and gave me about 5.3% ABV. Time to start the secondary fermentation.
See during Primary (read: when most of the alcohol is made) the yeast flocculate and fall out of suspension and make a 1.5 inch thick cake at the bottom of your ferment-er. This is called the "trub," and it can produce some off flavors if you let the beer set atop it too long. So, most brewers run the Secondary Fermentation in a secondary container. In my case a 6 gallon Carboy (one of those bottles you turn upside down on top of a water dispenser.) So I racked it over and it looks like this:

So this is secondary fermentation. During the week or so that the beer is in this container it will be conditioning. That is to say developing flavor while the yeasts clean op some of the waste products that they left behind when they were swimming in sugar water. This part of the process is a tasters game that I don't fully understand yet. The length of time that it takes is not only as varied as the types of beer that you can make, but as numerous as the amount of brewers making those beers. At any rate I left it be for a week and moved on to the bottling phase.
To sanitize I wash my bottles in the dishwasher on hot wash/hot dry, and am ready to bottle the second they come out. So after I get them started I have a few things to do. After the secondary fermentation there isn't much left for the yeast to eat, but I need them to keep working because I want another one of the products they produce. CO2. To get CO2 I have to give them more to eat. I, and most homebrewers, give them Corn Sugar. Why not Table Sugar? Brewers use corn sugar for its non-effect on taste. Table Sugar can leave cider-y tastes in the beer because it is not 100% ferment-able, corn sugar is. So I dump about a cup of corn sugar in the original plastic bucket, which I have cleaned and sanitized, and rack the beer over to it in preparation for bottling. I dump the sugar in first so that the beer mixes while it racks over rather than mixing with a utensil and adding a bunch of oxygen to the mix. Oxygen is bad.

After it's in the bucket it goes into the bottles with a bottling wand. Which is a plastic tube with a spring-loaded stopper at the end, as you push it down on the bottom of the bottle it opens and allows the bottle to fill without adding oxygen. Oxygen is bad. Then after all my bottles are full I start capping. Which looks like this:

Then we get everything cleaned up and put it all back in the tub so we can wait for that wonderful carbonation. Now that the solution is under pressure, as the CO2 produced increases the pressure even more it squeezes itself into the solution. After a about 10 days I'll open one to see how well carbonated it is. If it's good they go into the fridge where the cold temp stops the yeasts from working. I bottled em up a couple of days ago, I should be popping the top on the First Cold Irish Red on St. Patty's day. Poetic, don't you think?


John said...

This whole thing just makes me think of Futurama.

rkw said...

The Bender Brewer!