Saturday, February 1, 2014

Rack 'em Up

Let's kick off this year's Febrewary with a quick post about a new technique you can add to your brewing process called racking.
The concept is pretty simple.  After fermentation has run for a couple weeks and the yeast has settled, you move the product into another sterilized fermenter for an additional couple of weeks before bottling.  The point is to separate out the lees, the tired yeast, the fruit bits, and whatever other solid waste is left in the primary fermenter.  This improves the clarity a lot so it's a good technique to learn if you make wines and meads. 

You will need

Since you've been brewing for a year you should already have most of the things you will need to take up racking.  If you bought a starter kit like the one I linked to in Gathering Supplies you should only need to buy another fermenter and another threaded stopper and airlock to go with it.  Keep an eye out for "buy this, get an extra fermenter" deals.  They come out every so often from most of the brewer supply houses.

Sanitize... yeah, you know this step

Run up a batch of sanitizing solution and wash and sanitize your new fermenter, threaded stopper, and airlock, along with your auto-siphon and transfer hose.  If you're using a smaller fermenter, you could just sanitize a funnel instead of all the transfer gear and just pick it up and pour from one container to the other.  Use a coffee filter inside the funnel to catch the lees.  

Rack 'em, Stack 'em, Rinse and Repeat

Presumably, since the previous brewing stage was successful enough to add a racking stage, the location you keep your fermenter is good for yeast biology.  After you've got the brewing product into the new fermenter, install the airlock according to its instructions and place the new one where the old one was.  Then let it do its thing.  
Be sure to wash out the old fermenter.  That muck in the bottom is still perfect growth medium for all sorts of microbial mischief.  But hang on to it; lees are great green for your compost.  
You can rack again back into the original fermenter to further improve the clarity of your product.  Wait at least a week for things in the brew to settle down and remember to sanitize all your equipment before you transfer.

Adding this new technique into your brewing stages will give your product better clarity and a smoother texture you and your friends will enjoy.  Slainte! 

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