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The Fermenting Process

The Fermenting Process


To provide an environment in which the yeast can accomplish a healthy and clean fermentation.

You’ll Need:

Your primary fermenter, blow-off assembly, siphon, sanitizer and secondary fermenter (optional).

*Note: Checking Your Gravity

While your specific gravity will begin to drop during the fermentation period, this is an aspect you should trust and not necessarily test. You want your beer to be exposed to as little possible contamination as possible. Every time you unseal the airlock, this exposure occurs. A good rule of thumb, measure your original gravity prior to pitching your yeast, then at any time you might transfer your beer, either to another container or, finally, during bottling/kegging.


Primary Fermentation

Within a day or two of brew day, fermentation begins. As the yeast convert malt sugars into CO2 and alcohol you will see bubbles come through the airlock. The specific gravity will steadily drop and a cap of thick tannish foam called krauesen forms above the beer.

You may want to store your brew in an area that is easily cleaned, a particularly violent fermentation could cause a bit of a mess. Violent? Yes, violent. As with anything that builds with increasing gas levels, explosions can occur. Explosions are most common if your airlock fills with gunk essentially stopping the flow of gas out of the carboy. If your krauesen starts filling your airlock. You may want to initiate a blowoff set up.

Roughly one to two weeks from brew day, fermentation ends. Bubbles coming through the airlock become very slow or stop entirely, the specific gravity is stable and the cap of foam starts to subside.

Secondary Fermentation

During our fermentation process, we see a layer of krausen form atop our beer, where does it go? That krausen normally dissipates over time and any remaining grain particles, hop particles and dead yeast cells will accumulate instead at the bottom of your fermenter in a mass known as “trub”.

While sitting on this trub for a short while can impart flavors we want to see in a beer, letting our brew sit atop this trub for too long can create flavors we don’t want. To avoid these flavors setting in, we will “rack” (siphon) the brew out of the first fermenter, careful to leave the trub behind and into a new, clear and clean fermenter. Doing so allows the brew to settle out and condition in flavor. It also give the brewer an opportunity to clear out the beer, after racking the beer into a secondary fermenter, still more trub may form, but when racked into bottles during the final stage the beer should be less hazy and more clear than it started off.

Remember, when racking into a new, secondary fermenter, it is equally important that this vessel is clean and sanitary. Be sure to sanitize your auto-siphon, your carboy, your airlock and stopper and any tubing that may come in contact with the brew.

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Induction Brewing

Brewing all grain, in a sub-600 Sq Ft apartment, without the use of a stove?Yes, it is possible, as I found out the other night.

I have a rather small apartment, and as such, I try to do all of my brewing outdoors on a propane burner. That leaves me limited to brewing on nice days, or watching wistfully from inside as my wort boils all alone in the elements.
Being the nerd that I am, I looked into getting an induction cooker. Induction cooking is an electromagnetic process which transfers heat energy directly to a ferromagnetic kettle, like Northern Brewer’s Megapot kettles.
Dropping all the fancy words, it means that it heats the kettle, not the air around it, not the surface underneath it, just the kettle. This means that in my tiny apartment, I don’t need to stand around my burner in my underwear because it is so hot. It also runs quite efficiently.

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Invigorate your boil


As a lazy homebrewer, I take a few shortcuts when brewing at home. One of these shortcuts is brewing on an otherwise entirely unsuitable, flat glass electric stove.
I do not enjoy this stove in general, but it came with the apartment, so it’s what I use. Although I have a propane burner, it is less than ideal for brewing, since I live/ferment in an upper level apartment, and don’t have much interest in hauling all of my gear up and down the stairs. As it stands, I straddle my 8 gallon megapot over two burners on my less than ideal stovetop. I use an anti-foam agent for stovetop batches, mainly because I often start with 7-7.5 gallons in my 8 gallon megapot. It works very well, though it does fool me into thinking that I’m not boiling aggresively enough, as the surface of the wort is quite calm. Read more

The Importance of Being Hydrated: Dry Yeast Handling

There is a dearth of information out there regarding yeast handling, and probably as much misinformation. Some brewers are still under the impression that dry yeast is inferior to liquid yeast. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, the quality of dry yeast now is equal to liquid yeast in almost all cases. Another […]

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My Favorite Brewing Sites: Brewing Calculators

p1000074On-line brewing calculators can help you figure out questions as simple as what you should expect as a final gravity, or as complicated as what color beer you will get with which grains. Here are a few that I use on a weekly – if not daily – basis: Read more