Top 10 Steps Towards Brewing Better Beer

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The first five of which I’ll post today.

When I started brewing, information of how to make the best quality beers was just starting to emerge. These days, there is an abundance of information on homebrewing, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Sorting important information from minutiae or the latest fad can be hard. As such, I’m going to present what I think are the top 10 most important aspects in brewing. This top ten list is presented as both an informed opinion on what the most important aspects of brewing are, and an argument for their ranking.

The list will cover things that are important to brewing quality beer. I’ll ignore economics, among other things, and just focus on what is most important to making outstanding beer. I will assume that the brewer can already manage to produce a drinkable beer. Incredible foul-ups or intentionally ruining items farther down the list could ruin a beer, and argue for a different ranking of items, but I’m trying to help brewers who are actually attempting to brew good beer and can reasonably hit the temperatures, volumes, and durations required on an average brewday.

I’ll start this list at the top, rather than doing the usual countdown, because I want this list to be an argument. (And by argument I mean a set of statements meant to support a central thesis, not a shouting match.) And, it is easier to understand my logic if start at the top. 

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Russian Imperial Stout (VIII: Fermentation: Aeration, Nutrients, and Temperature)

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This is the eighth article in my series on Russian imperial stouts

If your wort has been chilled, and your yeast starter is ready, it’s time to get the fermentation started. The first thing you need to do is aerate the wort. Aeration helps build stronger yeast cell walls and allows the yeast to multiply faster. As with any big beer, the yeast have a tough job ahead of them. Be sure to give them all the help they need with regards to aeration. (See also my article, “Aeration Tips.”) 

Most of the time, you will want to give the wort one shot of oxygen prior to pitching, as with most beers. For the biggest examples of this style (in the 11–12% ABV range), however, you may want to give the wort a second shot of oxygen just prior to high kräusen.

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Russian Imperial Stout (VII: Fermentation: Yeast Strain and Pitching Rates)

RISphotoIn most cases, the thing that separates a good Russian imperial stout from a bad one is a well-run fermentation. In order to conduct a good fermentation, you need to select the right yeast strain, pitch an adequate amount of it, and create a healthy environment for the cells.

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Barleywine (VII: Fermentation II)

This article is part of a series on barleywine, the second in a section on fermentation. 

 

IMG_2391Yesterday, I discussed getting a barleywine fermentation started — aerating the wort and pitching the yeast. Today, after explaining one additional step you can take, I’ll discuss guiding the fermentation to it’s conclusion and conditioning the beer.

 

Forced Fermentation Test

A forced fermentation test is a way to predict the final gravity of your beer. To perform this test, take a small sample of wort, pitch an excess of yeast and ferment it warm. For a 5-gallon (19-L) batch of barleywine, take a sample just large enough to float your hydrometer (about 8.5 fl. oz./250 mL). Place the wort in a sanitized jar with a lid and aerate it thoroughly. Pitch about 2 tsp. of thick yeast slurry and hold the jar (with the lid loosened) at around 80 °F (27 °C), or as warm as you can manage. The sample should ferment quickly due to the high pitching rate and warm temperature. The final gravity (FG) it reaches will tell you what to expect your main batch to ferment down to. This can help you distinguish between a stuck fermentation, and one that is simply complete.

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