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I'm new to beer making, could you walk me step by step through the beer making process?
Posted by Ron Goodhew, January 16th, 2011 | 6 Comments
Our mission at The Home Vintner is to teach you how to make the best micro brewery style beer at home. The Barons beer instructions included with your kit will walk you through the beer making process. I will provide you with a few tips to make you successful your first time. Always take your time, if you try to shorten the process you will end with a poorer tasting beer along with lower alcohol levels. Who would want that? Longer at every stage is better! Most of our beer makers have at least 6 carboys on the go at any given time. Note: even when you achieve the correct Specific Gravity (SG) there is more to learn, read more below!
Beer likes to be warm, use a heat belt to speed up the process (you will notice the belts in these pictures, both on the primaries and carboys). At 23 C / 73 F the beer will be ready to rack out of the primary usually on the 3rd day. At 20 C / 68 F it will take almost a week before the specific gravity (SG) is low enough. At cooler temperatures it can take up to 6 or 7 weeks for the SG to reach its lowest level. At cooler temperatures the yeast can stall at 3 weeks and then kick in again at 4 weeks. When people call saying that the SG won't drop we suspect right away that the beer isn't warm enough. The answer is an electric heat belt which goes on the primary and then on an Italian carboy (if you have a Mexican or North American carboy, do not use the heat belt on them). The heat belt maintains the temperature at exactly 23 C. Heat belts are sold in all our stores for $27.95.
Always go by Specific Gravity rather than days..
These pictures will show you what you should be seeing:
In the primary a Brown Ale at 23 degrees C at 10 hours SG 1.04
If you are fermenting at a lower temperature it will take longer to get action like this. If you are at 19 or lower your beer may enter a second fermentation stage at day 30, causing your beer to continue fermenting for another month.
In the primary a Mexican Cerveza at 23 degrees C at 10 hours SG 1.04
A Cerveza has no hops, hence the difference in the surface activity.
In the primary a Pilsner at 23 degrees C at 2 days SG has dropped to 1.015
As fermentaion continues the yeast is fermenting the natural sugars in the malt producing alcohol and CO2, hence the bubbles coming trough the air lock. As this continues the SG will continue to drop. You will notice that the intense foam created on day one is lessening to hundreds of small bubbles on the surface.
In the primary a Brown at 23 degrees C at day 6 SG is below 1.02, time to rack
At this point using your sanitized syphon, rack the beer into a sanitized carboy leaving the sediment behind. You will notice that I started with exactly 23 litres. When I rack the beer into the carboy it will not be full. I do not top up the carboy with water thus I avoid getting beer into the air lock.
In the carboy the Mexican Cerveza at 23 degrees C day 5 is now at SG of 1.15
Good surface activity - small bubbles over the entire surface indicating good progress.
In the carboy the Brown at 23 degrees C at day 13 has reached a SG of 1.12
The instructions read that the Final SG should be 1.013 - 1.019. We are now below this however there is still a lot of surface activity. To get the maximum out of the fermentation I allowed this to continue fermenting until there was no surface activity, this took another 7 days. We then moved onto clearing and bottling.
In the carboy the Canadian Draught at 23 degrees C at 14 days has reached a SG of 1.14
The instructions read that the Final SG should be 1.009 - 1.016. We are in that range however the surface activity is indicating that a lot more fermentation is happening. When you see bubbles like this just wait. It took another 10 days before there was no surface activity. We then moved onto clearing and bottling.
In the carboy the Canadian Lager at 23 degrees at 14 days has reached a SG of 1.12
The instructions read that the Final SG should be 1.009 - 1.016. We are in that range however there is still surface activity. We waited another 8 days before the activity ended and then moved onto clearing and bottling.
In the carboy another Canadian Lager at 23 degrees at 14 days looks totally different, it has reached a SG of 1.14
You have to treat each kit individually; even the same kit reacts at its own rate. This Canadian Lager, even though it is at the same temperature as the above example, it is moving ahead slower. It has more obvious air bubble clusters so it took well over another week before finishing. You will notice that the instructions say that the Final SG should be between 1.009-1.0116 don't move on until the surface has no activity.
In the carboy an Amber Ale at 23 degrees at 14 days has reached a SG of 1.08
The Final Gravity for an Amber Ale is 1.011 - 1.018 so we are actually below that, however there is a lot of bubble activity observed around the edge plus the hops are still floating with a lot of bubbles arising in the middle. Until this has completely subsided we just wait. It took another 10 days before all surface activity subsided. The end of the story is this, even though you have reached the SG wait until all surface activity has stopped. You will produce superior beer compared to someone who shut down the process only according to SG.
Last minute tips: If you have continued reading to this point you are really a beer enthusiast. Here is a secret: if you get a surface scum on your beer after 2 to 3 weeks, this is simply a top fermenting yeast byproduct -rock your carboy back and forth and the scum will dissipate. Repeat the next day if necessary.
To produce clear beer, once your have achieved the Final Gravity and have no surface activity then move to the last stage - 3 days before I bottle I rack my beer into a sanitized carboy leaving all sediment behind. Even after 3 days there is a new collection of sediment on the bottom of the new carboy.
When you are ready to bottle rack the beer into a sanitized primary and then stir in the dissolved sugar -make sure that your dextrose is completely dissolved in a cup of hot water before adding it to the primary. During the entire bottling process frequently stir the beer making sure the sugar has completely dissolved.
It will take a minimum of 2 weeks for the second fermentation to start to produce sufficient CO2 to have a nice beer. The second fermentation happened when you introduced new sugar to the live yeast still in the beer. In the bottle the live yeast fermentates the newly introduced sugar and produces alcohol and CO2. In this situation the CO2 is captured in the bottle and will give you the natural desired carbonation. The downside is the natural yeast bed caused in the bottle. When pouring from the bottle do a continuous pour into a glass and leave the last 1/2 inch of sediment behind.
Our Barons beer improves with age; I like my beer to be at least 6 months old before serving. Yes I am a glass bottle person since I like to age my beer. Had an amazing stout last week that Paul had aged for 4 years!
We are always available to assist you in your hobby, phone any time / Ronnie NW Calgary Store
Post filed under: Ask The Vintner
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