How Long To Ferment When Learning How To Make Beer?

How Long To Ferment When Learning How To Make Beer?How Long To Ferment When Learning How To Make Beer?

America loves beer. It is difficult to picture a summer barbecue, a day at the beach, or a ball game without a cold one in hand. Summer season is approaching fast, and perhaps you have decided to give home brewing a try. Making your own beer looks easy, and it is. I’m from the South, and we have been brewing our own for years. I have had home brew, nicely aged, in a bottle. I have had home brew of lesser quality, straight out of an old gallon milk jug, fermented in a crawl space under someone’s house. Big difference in taste and quality, and if it is not done right, it can make you sick.

The recent popularity of home brewing has brought the process out of the crawl-spaces and cellars and into home kitchens all across America. Beer-brewing kits and specialty equipment are now widely available from brewing shops and online, and are relatively inexpensive. The connoisseur can make anything from a dark lager to a light, fruit-flavored brew.

The keys to quality, taste, and safety lie in the ingredients you use, the thoroughness of sanitation, and in the fermentation and bottling process. Once you have your ingredients, and have thoroughly sanitized all of the equipment, time and patience are essential to making the best home brew.

While ingredients can vary according to personal taste, and the need for proper sanitation and sterilization cannot be argued, there is a difference of opinion in the fermentation process. What is the ideal length of fermentation? When is it best to bottle? Is one fermentation enough, or do you ferment a second time.

Fermentation Time
The period of time for the fermentation process to begin after mixing in the yeast is known as lag time, and it is dependent on the type and quality of the yeast that is used. A fresh yeast that is very active will cause the process to begin within a few hours. A more aged yeast can mean a wait of several days for fermentation to start. The total time for your brew to complete the fermentation process can be any where from 1 to 3 weeks.

Bottling time
Once the beer has completed the process of fermentation, it is time to bottle it. After fermentation, the beer will undergo the process of carbonation with either sugar or dried malt extract. This is a very short process of mixing the fermented brew with the priming mixture, and then filling your bottles. You should be careful about exposing the mixture to too much movement or air. That will cause your beer to be flat and increase the amount of sediment that goes into the bottle.

The beer should be left in the bottles for at least a week, unrefrigerated. Technically, the beer can be consumed at that point, but the quality will suffer. As with wine, the longer the beer is allowed to age, the better it will be. Some experts say to store it in bottles for a month before refrigerating and drinking it.

One Fermentation Period, or Two?
Real connoisseurs recommend a second phase of fermentation. This takes place before the beer is bottled, and the reason is to provide the final product with better body and greater clarity. It is especially useful for light beers. This is a personal choice, but I say if you are going to go to the trouble to brew your own beer, do it right.

Though there are guidelines and general rules, the best teacher is experience. Feel free to experiment with different fermentation and bottling lengths, and you will learn what works best and tastes great to you. All good things take time, and good beer is no exception. But, with patience, you will soon be able to impress your taste buds and your friends with a quality, good-tasting home brew of your own.