the Basics; Part five

Ah yes, so, you have a brew that's been doing its thing for a few weeks, the yeast are all developing hangovers and dropping to the bottom of the carboy, and things are smelling less like honey/juice/whatever in water, and more like rocket fuel. The rocket fuel bit will mellow out with time, that's why you age alcohols, but in some brews the leavings on the bottom should be cleaned off. Mead is probably the most forgiving of sitting on its leavings ('lees'), but wine will grow more bitter as more tannins are leached into the brew. It is best to 'rack' the brews once every two or three weeks at first, then once a month, than once every two months until it is ready to bottle. Here's how you do it.

Take your siphon hose (covered in part two) and sanitize it (covered in part one). Next, sanitize a bucket or carboy big enough to hold all your brew. Then put your carboy of brew on a table or counter, and place your empty vessel on the floor. Drop one end of your siphon into your brew and put it an inch above the level of the lees. You want to get as much of the liquid and as little of the lees as possible. Start the siphon either by sucking on the other end (try not to let your tounge touch the siphon, use the outer part of your lips and be careful and quick), using an autosiphon, or whatever way you know best, and then put the other end of the siphon into the empty vessel. Try to control the splatter inside the vessel, you want the incoming liquid to be smooth and soundless, with as little air as possible getting into the brew. Think more like a calm creek and less like a waterfall. After you've gotten as much of the clear liquid off as you can, remove the siphon and sanitize the old carboy. If you have racked into a new carboy of around the same size, you can just move the airlock and stopper over to the new vessel, otherwise you will need to repeat the siphoning process to get the brew back into its place. If you made note of when you started the brew, also make note of the date of each racking. If you are using a hydrometer or interested in tasting a sample, now is the time to do it- just remember to sanitize everything before and after you use it. Also, if you decide your brew could use a fruity zing, you can add frozen, canned, or sanitized fruit to the brew during racking but after fermentation and the flavors will begen to blend..just take out the fruit after a month or so and make sure that the fruit stay submerged and that the alcohol percentage is 12-14% or higher.

Now, lets say your brew has reached its completion. It's done, there are little or no lees on the bottom, it tastes good and it's ready to drink. maybe you've allready poured yourself a celebratory glass sraight from the carboy. Good for you, you deserve it! But, what now to do about bottling? You could choose to leave it in the carboy, if so, grab a stopper without a hole and seal it well. You can also get 'Growlers' which are like smaller carboys and use them to split up a larger batch.

but what if you want bottles? Homebrew stores carry all kinds of bottles that you can buy, also you can reuse bottles you get from the store. In any case you will need a capper or a corker, and caps or corks. Personally I got my 20 oz brown glass bottles from my locak homebrew shop by asking for used bottles, which needed to be sanitized and soaked but were cheap. My capper cost me about 30$ but it is a one-time investment and it works great. I have more crown caps than I can use. Bottling doesnt really need its own instruction because it's basicly the same as racking, with even more emphasis on sanitation. Leave at least part of the neck of the bottle free for the gasses that will build up unless you want exploding bottles. I suggest using beer or champagne bottles because they hold pressure very well, wine bottles havea tendancy to be fragile that way. Not everything I make is carbonated, but, it's better to have a resistancy to explosions and not need it than, oh, well, you get it :)

So there you go! You know how to brew! From here on out it's all fun and games and exploration! If any of you reading this follow the guide and make something, fill me in with your progress, questions and so on! Untill then, happy brewing!


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