To become a real “master” of brewing beer, you have to understand every aspect of what happens during the brewing process. When you get home from the beer brewing supply store with your kit or your little baggies with the supplies to make a fresh batch of beer, it is sometimes hard to imagine that those raw materials will result in a delicious batch of beer that you made yourself. But by understanding each step, you can become quite adept at making beer at home.
The cycles of making beer are each important as you take them order. From sterilizing your equipment, to purchasing the supplies and then on to boiling and brewing and fermentation, each step is important. But that last step, fermentation and aging is unique from the rest because it is the step that calls for you to not be interacting with your beer, adjusting the equipment or preparing the brewing ingredients. It is the step that calls for you to use patience and tender loving care to leave your beer alone as it ferments. But the fermentation process is just as crucial if not more important than any of the preparation steps. That is because it is fermentation that genuinely turns the mixture you have cooked up on the kitchen stove into a wonderful tasting beer you will be proud to serve to friends and family.
There are two phases of fermentation which is the primary stage and the secondary stage. Both are important. During primary fermentation, the yeast and the sugars that are in the wort you so carefully prepared go through a long chemical interaction which releases carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Now during this phase, you want to get that CO2 out of those fermentation bottles because if you leave them in there, the bottles will explode.
The need to get that carbon dioxide out of the fermentation bottle without opening up the fermentation to outside air entirely is one good reason to buy specialized fermentation equipment because they will come with air release devices that will utilize an airlock system to release the CO2 buildup but keep a level of separation between the outside environment and your fermenting beer.
Once you have the bottles prepared and the wort in place, its time to find a cool dark place in the house to place the fermenting bottles. Don’t give in to the urge to put them in the refrigerator because that will just stop the fermentation in its tracks. A room that sustains a constant 65-75 degree temperature is good. Now that the fermentation process is underway, you do what is often the most difficult maneuver for any home beer zealot. You leave the beer alone and let the ingredients make magic in those bottles for about two weeks.
Secondary fermentation is the next and final phase except if you choose to age your beer to enhance the flavor. But the second fermentation is where you add some additional sugar and you strain out the sediments from the primary fermentation and trap the mixture in sealed bottles this time. The CO2 build up is not as extreme so the danger of exploding beer bottles is gone and the carbon dioxide creates that bubbly attribute to your beer that will give it a wonderful head and taste. Both phases are necessary and you will give your beer another couple of weeks in this stage before it will be ready to drink. But after you have a little taste, if you want to let the beer continue to process and age, maybe even in wood containers to add a rich flavor to the brew, this is just you being the Brewmeister that will result in wonderful tasting beer to serve to your friends and family.