Monday, January 25, 2016

After BrewDay

5 gallons of an all grain IPA ready to be bottled. Weights @50 lbs, so I get my hubby to place the bottle on a step stool (you only see the legs) on the counter.

In this post, you'll see pictures with captions describing the fermentation, bottling, and conditioning process.

*The pictures are not meant to describe each step of the process.

FERMENTATION. My brews condition in a glass carboy for 4 weeks, 2 weeks for primary fermentation and 2 weeks for secondary fermentation. Homebrewing allows me to determine what comes in contact with my beer. I chose glass and metal, not plastic (just have a plastic graduated cylinder as glass ones are pretty pricey). I might take a gravity reading during fermentation, to make sure the yeast is doing it's job. But only if I think something is wrong.
To stabilize the brews temperature, I use a crude thermal blanket made out of reflective insulation and packing bubble wrap. I top it off with an aluminum cake saver, it works. It also protects the brew from sunlight.
I monitor the temperature of the brew by using a surface temperature attached to the glass carboy. Some brewers have an elaborate monitoring system. I monitor max and min temperatures on a daily basis and taper off towards bottling day.
BOTTLING. I have been brewing beer since Fall of 2014 and have bottled each batch. Bottling is one of the most complicated processes of brewing beer. Bottling is meant to preserve my homebrew for enjoying at a later date. I have learned that the amount of hops in the recipe determines how long the beer will be stable. IPAs utilize the most hops and Pilsners and Porters the least.

Once primary and secondary fermentation is complete, as monitored by gravity readings. The brew is ready to be bottled. On bottling day, washing and sanitizing the bottles takes up most of my time. The bottles also take a lot of storage. Many homebrewers keg their beer. By doing so, kegging eliminates the bottling and priming procedure. I prefer to make investments in the ingredients, which means more beer.
Bottle drying in my crude drying rack; an old bicycle rack I picked up at an auction. As I mentioned before, more money for ingredients. After the bottles are washed I then sanitize them. Yep, the bottles are processed twice. Once with soapy water and the next with a sanitizing solution.

On bottling day, I prepare a primer to carbonate the beer. A non fermentable sugar boiled in water for 5 minutes, cooled to room temp then added to beer. I have been experimenting with priming with organic sugar, honey, and agave.

Foamy beer maybe the result of such experiments. This 32 ounce beer mug is barely holding 12 ounces of beer & foam. I messed something up in the priming process. The batch was still drinkable out of small mixing bowls and large mugs. I celebrated when I drank that last bottle out of the foamy batch.
Gravity readings are taken throughout all processes. If I remember, I take a gravity reading. One reading before I pitch the yeast and one prior to adding priming sugar. The difference between the two readings will allow me to calculate the beers ABV. If the gravity reading is off, I let the beer sit a week or so in the glass carboy for the yeast to do a little extra work.

All bottled up, the beer resting at holding station on stove.
CONDITIONING. The beer bottles sit for another 2 weeks to condition. The flavors of the beer mature, some flavors minimize and other flavors maximize in the bottle. Before I crack a porter, I let it sit in the bottle for about a month. The best flavor in my porter is 3 months from brew day. IPAs also mature longer in the bottle, but do not take quite as long as a porter.

My palate can easily differentiate types of beers. I still need more practice in identifying subtle flavors in beer.
Beer boxed up to rest a couple of weeks. Keep at about 65-70 degrees in the dark. Sunlight can create off flavors in the beer. Depending on the style of beer, most beer is ready in 2 weeks. Porters & IPAs benefit from extra time in the bottle.

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