Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Little Laska Blonde - Fermenting and Bottling

Last time we finished off with our brew back into the bottle the water came in.

Here's a quick snap to refresh your memory,

Now, I thought I'd try out a little experiment and modify a bottle to use, kinda like a conical fermenter. what I was looking into was yeast harvesting and ease of decanting from primary to secondary fermenters.

So here's the modified bottle,

Inverted Carboy
High Krausen

After the peak activity died down, approx. 4 days from pitching to post-krausen, I drafted the trub into a jug and then drained the rest of the fermenting wort into the secondary fermenter - the original water bottle, sanitised.

Yeast Washing
Now, its a pretty common habit by brewers everywhere to "Wash" their yeast for re-pitching and re-use, to cut costs and to develop their own house strain suited to the beer they like to regularly brew.

"Wash the yeast." What on earth does that mean?

For some it means collecting the trub from the primary and sticking it in a bottle in the fridge until next brew day; for others it involves separating the original trub from the suspended yeast, bottling and refrigerating the suspension; still, for others it involves separating the dead yeast (yeast cake, trub, dregs) from the suspended yeast, cold settling the suspension, and then removing the liquid before adding plain water to the remaining cold-settled solids i.e. clean it up of all the old beer and then keep it chill - some even go so far as to plate out the yeast and then collect single cell colonies for regeneration.

So, what to do?

From left to right,
Rehydrated Yeast;
Trub from Primary;
Suspended Yeast, not Trub;
Cold-Settled Yeast in Water

This is a funny (peculiar) topic in it's own right. One of the key point of advocacy for separating the dead yeast from the suspended yeast is also the key point behind using a secondary fermenter, that is keeping your beer over the old dead yeast may lead to the development of,
"off flavours." Yet, the same dead cells are proving to be a lucrative source of income to some, in the form of cleaned, washed and dried "Yeast Hulls" (ghosts) to provide lipids, which are useful in yeast cell division and growth.

So, what to do? Be your own judge. If you tend to brew infrequently (like once every six months or so), take the time to put your yeast into water and then keep it chill, or just ask a friend for some... ;-)

If you tend to brew more frequently, just grab some of the trub and liquor and keep it in the fridge - good at least for a couple of months. If you're a little more finicky then shake the trub well, let it settle and collect the suspension and use that. If you're the kind of brewer that's brewing weekly, you're probably already pitching your fresh wort over the previous primary's trub and re-pitching the same strain if and when it's starting to look tired.

After another 5 days in the secondary fermenter activity was down to almost zero, which means bottling time. I've never had any luck with leaving a ferment for a long time without it going off so I didn't want to take any risks with this one. Time to Bottle!

The decision already made it's academic to check the FG of the beer - Yes! it's beer, green (young) beer, but it's beer baby! Here we can see that the F.G comes in at around 1.005 more or less at around 22 deg C. Although academic, it is useful for determining the potential alcohol concentration, that is, if you took a gravity reading before pitching the yeast.

Removing LabelsSanitising Gear

Filling the BottlesQuality Control
My son, "Luka"

Post- Analysis
Using the inverted primary as a fermenter was great for harvesting yeast and for transferring to the secondary. It went smoothly and without a hitch. However I'm not sure I'll do it again. There was quite a bit of blow off during this trial and my two bubble bubbler got a lot of crud inside it and they're damn hard to clean. Perhaps a blow off tube would be better for this situation, followed by the bubbler in the secondary.

Bottling was a breeze. The bottling cane made it very easy to transfer the green beer to the bottles whilst minimizing spillage. I highly recommend using some trays under your bottles and bottling station so as to control any drips or spills that might occur.

I ended up with 30 and a half, 500 ml bottles which is right on target. Here I've used clear plastic, sparkling water, PET bottles, which should be ok for a session beer that you don't plan to keep around for a long time. If you plan to age your beers for any length of time then brown PET/glass bottles would be the better option to help avoid light strike. I store my beer in a crate, under the stairwell so most of the time it's pretty dark and I'm reasonably comfortable that this will be fine, for a starter ;-)

Now all I have to do is wait until they're ready to open, and brew a few more beers. Until next time,

Its Your shout, Mate!

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