The second day of brewing usually involves racking the beer. Or at least it should.
“Racking” is the process of transferring wort (unfermented beer) from one vessel to another. Most often this is from the primary fermentor, where you initially pitched the yeast, into a second vessel that will become known as the secondary fermentor. A glass carboy is one of the best vessels to use for this, as it will be impermeable to oxygen (therefore ensuring your beer stays fresh). While glass carboys are quite heavy, especially when filled with wort, they are extremely sturdy and still quite easy to clean.
But what is the point of all this?
Many beer kits will recommend that you skip secondary fermentation altogether, opting to bottle your beer straight out of the primary. However, there are a few distinct benefits of racking your beer before you bottle.
The main reason most home brewers choose to rack their beer is to remove the beer from the yeast-cake at the bottom. The longer the beer sits on a bed of dead yeast, the more likely autolysis – self-destruct, loosely translated. Imagine you’re stuck in a big glass jar with all of your friends, a few of whom have already died of starvation and other causes. Once all your food is gone, you too might consider…well, think Marten Hartwell‘s harrowing tale. Other desperate historical figures have done the same. I think that’s enough detail for now. Sleep well, fellow home brewers!
Autolysis produces dead yeast cells and yeast metabolites, which can produce off flavours in your beer. Likewise, racking straight from primary may transfer a lot of sediment into the bottle. While a little sediment is OK, nobody wants a chunky beer. Nor do they need to eat more yeast corpses and poop (or “metabolites”, if you prefer) than are necessary. Many brewers are comfortable leaving a beer on the yeast-cake for 3-6 weeks, but I would prefer to be a bit more cautious and get it off of there after two.
Other benefits of racking include giving beer time to mature and mellow out. Kind of like your party-crazed friends from college. And like most college graduates, some beer styles need more time to mature than others.
What You Need:
- Racking Cane
- Carboy or other secondary fermentation vessel
Step 1. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.
Does this sound familiar? It should.
Sanitize EVERYTHING you use. AGAIN.
Any time you transfer beer from one vessel to another, you increase the risk of contamination from outside sources. If you’re not sure if an item you’re using will touch the beer? Sanitize it anyway, and save yourself the heartbreak of throwing out an entire batch of spoiled beer. You can never be too cautious in this regard.
Step 2. Set-up
After your equipment has dried a bit, set up your equipment with the primary fermentor above the carboy, which will become the secondary fermentor. Always let gravity help, if it can. Towards the end of the racking process, you can also prop the primary up with a large book to tip it sideways to get the maximum amount of wort out of the vessel.
Don’t throw out your phone-book – while obsolete for every other reason, they are especially useful for this task.
Step 3. Siphoning
Make sure the tubing of the siphon is coiled at the bottom underneath the liquid to prevent splashing. The more you splash the beer around, the more oxygen it’s exposed to. The more oxygen the beer is exposed to, the more oxidation will occur. This can cause stale, cardboard-like flavours to form in your carefully crafted beer – not something you want.
After this part is done, you’ll be left with a big, yummy yeast-cake that is REALLY fun to clean out. Just ask my partner-in-crime how much he enjoyed that task.
Step 4. Air-lock
Lock out all the extra oxygen with an airlock. Place the “plug” of the airlock in the top of the carboy, and pour enough water up the side to seal it air-tight.
Step 5. And We Wait
More waiting? Yes, the boring part keeps coming back. After racking, you can leave the beer in the secondary fermentor for a minimum of 14 days before you bottle.
Now, you might be thinking: “is that all this girl has done over the past month? Transfer a bunch of liquid in a jar to another jar? That doesn’t seem too difficult.” And it isn’t, especially when you have an extra set of hands to help.
I did also have a chance to cook a pretty awesome turkey.
Turkey dinner, like pumpkin-flavoured everything, is something that seems to only be consumed at certain holidays. People don’t seem to realize that they can, in fact, eat it at other times throughout the year.
Naturally, I made a poutine out of the leftovers. See below for details.
Turkey Dinner Poutine
with Beer Gravy and Cranberry Witbier sauce
2 tbsp butter or turkey drippings
2 tbsp flour
1 ¼ cups chicken broth
¾ cup beer
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
Cranberry Witbier Sauce
12 ounce bag of cranberries (3 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup wheat beer
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. orange zest (optional)
French fries (I often just use oven fries)
1/2 pound fresh cheese curds
- In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the butter and flour. Whisk to form a roux.
- Cook for 12 to 15 minutes for a dark roux.
- Gradually add beef broth and beer, whisking thoroughly to combine.
- Season with Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, salt and pepper.
- Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove gravy from heat when completely thickened and keep warm.
- Combine the ingredients for the cranberry sauce in a medium sized saucepan. Over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the beer and water, stirring gently until the sauce begins to simmer.
- Remove the cranberry sauce from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool and thicken.
- To assemble the poutine, place a spoonful of stuffing in each bowl or plate. Top the stuffing with a mound of fries and top with cheese curds.
- Spoon gravy over fries, cheese, and stuffing to serve. Garnish with a spoonful of cranberry sauce and stuffing on each side.