Homebrewing 101 - Part 3

What You Need for Fermentation

Fermentation is a fairly hands off part of the brewing process. You will need some basic equipment for the fermentation process to happen. The basic equipment you will need are: a fermenter (as simple as a food grade plastic pail), siphon, sanitizer, and an optional secondary fermenter (often a glass or plastic water jug).

Primary Fermentation

Fermentation will typically begin within 6-24 hours after having pitched the yeast. During the fermentation, yeast will convert the sugars derived from the malted barley into Co2 and alcohol. This will cause a fair amount of gas to escape from the airlock. The specific gravity will begin to drop steadily and a thick tannish foam called krausen will form on the surface of the beer. An important thing to note: You may want to store your brew in an easy to clean area as sometimes fermentation can be violent and it is possible for the airlock to overflow with foam. While this is not particularly dangerous, it can be messy. About a week after brew day, the fermentation process will end, bubbling activity in the airlock will dramatically slow and the specific gravity will become stable as the foam begins to subside.

Secondary Fermentation

As the foam from the primary fermentation dissipates you will find a significant amount of sediment at the bottom of the primary fermenter. To avoid this sediment affecting the flavor of the beer, it is best to rack (siphon) the brew out of your first or primary fermenter (leaving the sediment behind) and into your secondary fermenter. Remember to sanitize all equipment that will contact with the beer during this process. Racking the beer to a secondary fermenter will help the beer clarify more quickly and help with the stability of the beer. Sediment will also form in the bottom of the secondary fermenter as well. However, when the beer is racked into bottles, only a very small amount of sediment will form in the bottom of the beer bottles.

What’s Next in Homebrewing?

We’re almost done with the entire homebrewing process. That’s all there is for step 3, and step 4 is the last step in the series. In step 4 you will learn everything you need to know about bottling your homebrew and getting it ready to drink. You can check out step 4 right here.