Archive for the Brewing Category


Posted in Ales, Brewing with tags , , , on October 18, 2011 by calgarybeerdrinkers

During the secondary fermentation stage of the brewing experience the beer is siphoned into another carboy for a second fermentation period.  During which, the Irish moss(Chondrus Crispus – a red algae) works it’s magic and begins to clarify the beer.  Hopefully taking it from an opaque cloudy mess to a clearer fresh looking beer, fingers crossed.  It’s hard to tell at the moment how clear it’s getting because the beer is so dang dark.

Primary fermentation is complete and it’s time to siphon the beer over to the secondary fermentation vessel, for us a glass carboy.  You can tell when it’s time when the kraken(that’s the huge bubbly foam that is created from the fermenting yeast) falls back in on itself, leaving only a dark ring around the top of the fermenter.

As with every previous step, it is absolutely crucial that all equipment be thoroughly sanitized and cleaned.  Any dirt, mould or other grossness can easily find its way into the beer.  At this stage the beer sits for a couple weeks at room temperature to clarify, well inside the bacteria-growth danger zone of 4-60 degrees celsius.

Unlike the other stages there are only a few pieces of equipment that’ll need sanitizing.  The carboy, auto-sipon and siphoning hose as well as the airlock.  Be sure to double check the airlock, they are not universal!  My airlock for the plastic primary fermenter was way too large for the opening on the secondary glass carboy, a second smaller airlock was needed.

The auto-siphon is placed on the bottom of the primary fermenter, be sure not to disturb the sediment as much as possible, there will be quite a large mass of it.  This is all the dead yeast as well as any hop sediment that may have found its way through during the first siphoning stage.  It’s okay if a little gets through, the beer will be siphoned a third time during bottling.  Also, be sure the primary fermenter is above the secondary during siphoning, it’ll work easier and more smoothly.

 It’s important the siphoning hose is resting gently at the bottom of the secondary fermenter and is not disturbed while the beer pours smoothly, air should not be incorporated during this stage, it can cause off flavours and an undeveloped product.  It also, if there is any present, will aid in bacterial growth.  Once the beer is all transferred it needs to be topped of with more brewing water, luckily there was tons left over, the glass carboys are generally a few litres larger than the plastic.  Cap on the sanitized sealing stopper and place the airlock inside that has been filled with either sanitizer solution or boiled water.  Cover the beer with something that will not let light in!  Very important.

The beer is all ready for it’s two week crash course in secondary fermentation!



Posted in Articles, Brewing with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2011 by calgarybeerdrinkers

Now we’re on to the fun part, the cooking. I’ve got all my equipment thoroughly sanitized and ready to go, cleared my work station and sanitized it as well, and I’ve washed my hands well.

The first step is to bring some of the water we’re working with to a boil. This recipe calls for 21 Litres of water, but boiling all that is just not feasible. I have an 18l stock pot, so I boiled 11 litres of the brewing spring water and will add the rest in the fermenter. Add the malt extract to the water and stir vigorously to dissolve, the malt is what gives the beer colour and sweetness.

Be sure to stir the malt constantly, it is very dense and can settle at the bottom of your pot and scorch, which would make a very unpleasant beer indeed! The 10+ Litres of water may take some time to boil, so responsibly enjoy a beer now while you wait. Once at a boil, ensure the foam build up doesn’t cover the liquid and seal it off from oxygen. I added our wonderfully smelling hops to the mix and let that boil for 45 min, this mixture of malt, water and hops is known as the wort.

It was at this point that I realized one pot, despite its large size, would just not be enough. I had to take out another pot and split the wort.

After the 45 min, in which time another beer was responsibly enjoyed, of rapid, controlled boiling, it’s time to add the final ingredients. The wort is taken off the heat and the Irish moss(an ingredient used to clarify the beer), yeast nutrient(exactly what it sounds like) and the molasses(provides flavour, colour and food for the yeast) are all added and stirred in.

Again be sure to stir constantly, the molasses can scorch on the bottom of the pot. Unfortunately this last stage of the brewing and fermenting is where I missed out on some picture opportunities,as I found out by brewing beer alone it proved quite difficult to pour, stir and take pictures at the same time, as well as racking the beer and holding the strainer. Next time, and for you at home, be sure to add assistant to your equipment or ingredient list.

Once it comes back up to a boil, the second dose of hops is added and left to boil for 15min. This second dose develops the characteristic bitterness of the beer. At this point you’ll definitely be noticing the wonderful colour of the beer, a rich deep amber colour, and the wonderful aroma of the malt and hops.

After the 15 min rolling boil, and maybe another beer was responsibly shotgunned – probably not though, it’s time to cool off the beer. There exists a certain beer brewing piece of equipment known as a wort chiller, a coiling piece of copper tubbing that’s wrapped around the container of the wort and has cold water pumped through it, it’s probably the best way to do this. But not having the finances to afford such a device the bath tub was my best bet.

The wort is strained and siphoned into the plastic tub then into the bathtub it goes, with plenty of cold water and ice and some comforting bath time toys. I had bought 4 bags of ice and had one already at home, as well as dumped two full ice cube trays into the water, this wasn’t nearly enough and I had to head out to the convenience store down the street for four more bags!

When the beer reaches the optimal temperature for the yeast(this beer was 75F it varies depending on the strain) it was time to get it in the primary fermenter. I siphoned it again with the auto-siphon and hose, right into my 23L plastic carboy. The yeast was pitched directly into the carboy and stirred in. The airlock and rubber stopper were put in place and moved the whole thing into a coolish dark place to allow to ferment for one week. Be sure you keep your beer in a dark place! Or cover it, light will oxidize the beer and give it off flavours.

Stage one done, check back again soon for part 3, secondary fermentation.