So...finally have these things going...hopefully I'm using them correctly
Homebrew 101: Get some air in there…..
September 23, 2014
We all can probably agree that air is pretty swell. It is the reason the sky is blue, the source of a cool summer breeze, and it helps most of us living breathing types on the planet well….live. All of these things are important, but it’s also key to the success of most beers as well (which kind of trumps the other reasons air is our buddy….seriously, tell me I’m wrong). And while letting a pint “breath” as one would a glass of wine can certainly change the flavor profile of the beer, today we are going to focus on why it’s important for the actual brewing process for all you home brewers and beer nerds out there.
What’s the big deal?
As you may remember from chemistry class, boiling water results in a loss of oxygen (and hydrogen) in the conversion from liquid to gas. This of course applies to wort being boiled, and the outcome is a liquid that is lower in oxygen than desired. This is important in particular for yeast because just like most aerobic critters out there they kind of need oxygen to survive and replicate. If yeast has enough oxygen during the stage of fermentation called the “Lag Stage” they reproduce like crazy and get your beer properly fermented. The important thing to take away from this is that you need to aerate your wort prior to pitching your yeast; doing so after you pitch or when the Lag Stage has completed results in oxidation which will make your beer taste stale.
While the reasons behind the need for proper wort aeration are complex and get to the biochemical reactions taking place during fermentation (I promise the use of the word “biochemical” is as science nerdy as this post will get) the methods of actually aerating wort are pretty simple.
Splashing – Yep, you read that correctly. Getting enough oxygen in your wort can be as simple as sloshing it around in your primary fermenting vessel for a few minutes. As I mentioned before, this needs to be done prior to pitching your yeast, and the light amount of jostling the vessel takes moving it to your fermenting environment should be enough to get your yeast situated.
Whipping/Stirring - If you’re feeling the urge to use large utensils, stirring and whipping (referred to as agitation) is an effective method of aeriation as well. If your arms can handle several minutes of exercise this method is preferred over splashing as it generally results in a higher level of oxygen being introduced into the wort.
Injection/infusion- For those of you looking for more technology in your brewing, injecting air and/or oxygen into your wort is another (albeit more expensive) option for aeration. This method is highly effective but it should go without saying that it involves more prep work. If you do decide to go with an air pump or oxygen tank, it’s important to make sure that the tubing and dispersal apparatus has been santized and an air filter is in place to prevent contamination from the pump/tank.
One VERY important thing to keep in mind is that regardless of your aeration method, it needs to be done AFTER your wort has been cooled. Attempting to aerate when your wort is still hot will result in oxidation, and as we already established this will have some undesirable consequences for your brew.
That about covers why all you homebrewers need to make sure that your brew is getting a fresh breath of air before fermenting. For those of you who aren’t brewers, I hope this tid bit of beer nerd knowledge was at least interesting and gives you a new piece of random knowledge to drop at Geeks who Drink. Remember, if you have a brewing/beer topic you’d like to see covered in Homebrew 101, all you have to do is let me know on Twitter or with the form on the “About page! Ok, enough sciencing at y’all, I’m off to have a pint. Cheers everyone!
Contest Riddle: Dictators, demons and the holy three, my bomber shelf has all of these