Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Fermentation Process

I figured since I have so many pictures and posts about the fermentation process, I would put up some information regarding the actual process and what is going on inside the carboy.

1.) Adaptive or Lagtime Phase
At the beginning of the adaptation phase, the yeast start adjusting to the wort conditions and undergo a period of high growth. The yeast use any available oxygen in the wort to facilitate their growth processes. They can use other methods to adapt and grow in the absence of oxygen, but they can do it much more efficiently with oxygen. Under normal conditions, the yeast should proceed through the adaptation phase and begin primary fermentation within 12 hours. If 24 hours pass without apparent activity, then a new batch of yeast should probably be pitched.

2.) Primary or Attenuative Phase
The primary or attenuative phase is marked by a time of vigorous fermentation when the gravity of the beer drops by 2/3-3/4 of the original gravity (OG). The majority of the attenuation occurs during the primary phase, and can last anywhere from 2-6 days for ales, or 4-10 days for lagers, depending on conditions. A head of foamy krausen will form on top of the beer. The foam consists of yeast and wort proteins and is a light creamy color, with islands of green-brown gunk that collect and tend to adhere to the sides of the fermentor. The gunk is composed of extraneous wort protein, hop resins, and dead yeast. These compounds are very bitter and if stirred back into the wort, would result in harsh aftertastes. Fortunately these compounds are relatively insoluble and are typically removed by adhering to the sides of the fermentor as the krausen subsides. As the primary phase winds down, a majority of the yeast start settling out and the krausen starts to subside.

3.) Conditioning Phase
The reactions that take place during the conditioning phase are primarily a function of the yeast. The vigorous primary stage is over, the majority of the wort sugars have been converted to alcohol, and a lot of the yeast cells are going dormant - but some are still active. The Conditioning Phase allows for the slow reduction of the remaining fermentables. The yeast have eaten most all of the easily fermentable sugars and now start to turn their attention elsewhere. The yeast start to work on the heavier sugars like maltotriose. Towards the end of conditioning phase, the suspended yeast flocculates (settles out) and the beer clears. High molecular weight proteins also settle out during this stage. Tannin/phenol compounds will bind with the proteins and also settle out, greatly smoothing the taste of the beer.

No comments:

Post a Comment