How I Brew, Part III
Chilling Your Wort
From this point forward, you need to be concerned with sanitation. Anything that comes in contact with your wort needs to be clean and sanitary. Break this rule, and you are guaranteed to eventually having a ruined batch of beer.
You need to lower the temperature of your boiled wort as soon as possible. There are a 3 main reasons for this. First, if you were to add your yeast directly to the hot wort, it would die immediately. Secondly, you want to be able to add your yeast to your wort as quickly as possible so that it and not a wild yeast will ferment your brew. Lastly, you want to facilitate the "cold break". This is yet another "break" which extracts more proteins from your brew.
I hook the inlet of the Immersion Chiller to a garden hose and turn on the water. The cold water rushing through the chiller draws the heat from the wort. I also stir the wort, with a sanitized spoon, every 5 minutes. This greatly increases the efficiency of the chiller.
I am able to reduce my wort temperature from boiling to about 15 F over the temperature of my house water in 20-30 minutes (depending on how hard I've got the water turned on).
After the wort is cooled to around 80 F, I remove the chiller. With my sanitized spoon, I stir the pot, causing a vortex in the brew. What this does is causes all of the hot and cold break material to pile up in a cone in the center of my brew kettle. This way, when I rack into my fermenters, I can leave a good deal of the break material (now called trub - pronounced "troob" - because it also has hop goo and small pieces of grain) behind in the kettle.
After waiting 15 minutes to allow the break material to collect, I transfer the wort into my primary fermenters. I've hooked up a simple hose barb with a "T" barb and hoses so that I can collect the same "quality" of wort in each fermenter. Before I did this, my first bucket would always have more trub in it, as the first few quarts have more break material than near the middle and end.
At this point, I draw off a little of the wort and do a hydrometer reading. This tells you how much sugar is present in your wort. At the end of fermentation, it will let you know how much sugar is left in the beer, and you can calculate the alcohol content of your masterpiece ([Original Gravity - Final Gravity] x 131 = Alcohol By Volume)!
Now that you've got your cooled wort into the fermenters, you need to add oxygen to the wort. Suffice it to say, the yeast need the oxygen to quickly begin the fermentation of your wort.
There are a ton of ways to do this. The most basic approach is to simply shake your fermenter to get it nice and frothy. This can be messy, and dangerous if you use glass carboys.
To the other extreme, some brewers purchase oxygen systems and pump pure O2 into their cooled wort. My technique is somewhere in between.
I use a paint stirrer - the kind you can find at your home repair stores that are used to stir up 5-gallon buckets of paint.
I take my sanitized paint stirrer and place it in the wort, with the stem protruding out of the airlock hole. I then attach my hand drill and run it for 30 seconds, moving it up-and-down through the wort to help incorporate as much O2 as possible into solution. If you use carboys for your fermenting, you can simply use a Lees Stirrer, which are available at most home brew/wine making outlets. The wings of the stirrer fold up, allowing you to place it into the mouth of the carboy.
After the 30 seconds, a very nice, frothy head is evident on the top of the wort. Be sure you've moved the stirrer throughout the wort to fully oxygenate your brew Pitch your yeast, add your airlocks and start fermentation.
Fermentation is where you turn your sweet wort into beer. The yeast eat the sugars and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide as by-products. There are really only a couple of things to keep in mind here:
Before you can consume your beer, you've got to either bottle it or keg it. Here are some pointers:
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