Yeast Poop: Delicious and Intoxicating!

Primary fermentation in progress.

Check for Fermentation

Ok, so now you've pitched our yeast and placed our fermenter into a dark place. Within 24 to 72 hours you should begin seeing signs of visible fermentation. The easiest way to detect this is to look for bubbles in your airlock. The yeast will also give off a smell as it ferments, known as “bung.” It should smell like a musky version of your wort.

Also, you should carefully monitor the temperature of your fermenting beer. Ideally, your fermenter should be between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and not vary more than two degrees.

Secondary Fermentation

Most basic beers require only one stage of fermentation. However, for higher-gravity beers (like my imperial stout), two stages are necessary.

NOTE:When deciding if your beer has completed a stage of fermentation, it is ALWAYS better to air on the side of caution. In brewing, patience pays off, and a few extra days in the fermenter can only make your beer better.

Secondary fermentation in a glass carboy, which was wrapped in a blanket to prevent exposure to light.

After about a week, prepare for secondary fermentation by sanitizing the siphon and racking cane, the glass carboy, and the carboy plug. Pull the airlock out of the primary fermenter and sanitize that too.

Once your equipment has properly air-dried, elevate the primary fermenter and place the carboy below it. Start the siphon by gently sucking on the hose, being careful not to spill any liquid treasure. Siphon the beer into the carboy, avoiding the gunk built up at the bottom of the primary bucket. Be careful not to agitate the beer (and hence, the yeast). Simply siphon into the carboy like you were pouring a fine brew. When the siphon sputters, pour the rest of the bucket’s contents into the carboy, leaving the build-up at the bottom behind.

Sediment gathers at the bottom of the carboy toward the end of secondary fermentation.

Now, wait another TWO WEEKS!

During this waiting period you may want to begin gathering bottles. Most home brew supply stores sell cases of bottles, but this is pricey and not exactly environmentally friendly. If there is an import or craft brew pub near you, ask to take some off of their hands. Ideally, you want about 50 large bottles, either half-liter (16.9 oz.) or bomber (22 oz.) capacity.

Is my beer ready???

After two weeks of secondary fermentation, pop the airlock and plug off of the carboy, and carefully siphon the tiniest amount of beer into your hydrometer, enough to make the measuring device float. This is your final gravity check. Check if your beer is within the recipe’s range for final gravity. Once this is reached, you are ready to bottle! But if not, be patient; my first batch took almost four weeks to reach its target gravity!