How To Make Home Brew BeerHow to Make Home Brew Beer - Home Brewing for Beginners
History of Beer Brewing
Home Brew Ingredients
Home Brew Equipment
Microbrewery or Fermenter
Sanitising and Sterilising
Crown Seals and Capping
Other Tools and Utensils
How to Home Brew Beer
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Home Brew Fermenter or MicrobreweryThe fermenter or microbrewery as it is sometimes called is one of the most important pieces of homebrew equipment that you will need to make your own homebrew beer. They are not complicated in design by any means and certainly not difficult to use, being really just a sealed vessel with an airlock that provides a place for your beer to ferment without it being infected by wild yeasts or bacteria. When I started home brewing I thought that a fermenter would be a far more complicated affair than it is with mysterious pipes and plumbing going everywhere.
The reality is that you could ferment your home brew beer in an open bucket if you wanted to, how the resulting beer would taste however is open to speculation and I would say the chances are high that it would be completely undrinkable due to infection from wild yeasts or bacteria. I might add that if the plastic that the bucket is made from is not suitable for use with alcohol it could be very toxic beer indeed.
A store bought fermenter is not a bad investment and they are very affordable, as of the time of writing a fermenter can be purchased complete for around AU$35. If you take good care of it you will get many batches of beer out of it during its usable lifetime. Thats not to say you cant make a fermenter either but be very careful of the materials you use are suitable for use with alcoholic beverages, a normal plastic bucket for example will be degraded by the ethanol and potentially make your beer quite toxic. Glass is an excellent material on the other hand that cleans easily but most metals oxidize and once again there is risk of contamination of the beer.
Lets have a look at the store bought fermenter pictured on this page. Its a food grade 25 litre plastic bucket with a snap on lid with a few extras that make it a pretty good fermenter. The grade of plastic it is made from is suitable for use with foods, it is inert, cleans up easily and will not taint your home brew beer or degrade when exposed to alcohol. The lid is made of the same grade of plastic and when fitted creates an air tight seal. Some fermenters have snap on lids like this one and others have lids that screw on and have a rubber O-ring to assist in sealing. My personal preference is for the snap on lid as they are easier to clean. This particular fermenter, like most bought from a homebrew supplier, has a tap on the bottom which makes bottling your beer so much easier than siphoning it into the bottles. Most taps can be fitted with a bottler, which is a straight plastic tube with a one way valve in the end that opens when the tube hits the bottom of a bottle, allowing you to fill your bottles with a minimum of waste and little risk of contamination. This particular fermenter also has a thermometer on the side that looks much like one you would find on an aquarium, very handy indeed for seeing what temperature your wort is.
Last but not least is the airlock, which is one of the fermenters most important components due to the role it plays in allowing excess carbon dioxide gas to escape wihout permitting the entry of outside air and the wild yeasts and nasties that it carries. During fermentation there will be a lot of carbon dioxide gas generated and this must be allowed to escape, otherwise the pressure inside the fermenter will build up to the point where it will escape from the weakest point, usually the lid will blow off but I can imagine that it would be interesting if the tap blew off instead.
The airlock is really quite a simple device, it can be as simple as a tube connected to the lid of the fermenter that goes into a jar, bottle or glass of water. When the pressure builds up in the fermenter the CO2 gas simply bubbles through the water. A store bought airlock works on the same principle, if you examine the picture to the left of this paragraph you can see a close up of the airlock in action. This particular brand of airlock has two chambers and when you first add water to it both chambers will be about half full. As fermentation commences the pressure in the fermenter forces the water into the second chamber and the excess CO2 simply bubbles through it. In this image you can see a bubble rising through the second chamber. The water prevents the entry of the outside air and effectively stops any potential infection.
The airlock can be a useful guide to the fermentation process, while the airlock is bubbling you know that fermentation is still taking place as carbon dioxide gas is being created. Under the right conditions the average beer kit will take 5-8 days to ferment after which time the bubbling will slow down and stop as the fermentable sugars are consumed and fermentation ceases.
Using your fermenter to make your home brew beer is easy and requires very little input from the home brewer. Simply mix your home brew kit wort in the sterilized fermenter, seal the lid, add boiling water to the airlock and place the fermenter in a dark cupboard to allow it to ferment. After 6-12 hours you should see the airlock start to bubble and it will continue to do so until fermentation ceases. After fermentation is complete allow the sediments to settle for a few days and then bottle and prime your beer. Too easy!
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