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Beer - Top 8 Keys to Improving Quality - 5 & 6

Updated on October 28, 2009

5. Behold The Power Of Liquid Yeast

Yeast contributes significantly to the flavor profile of beer. Those packets of dry yeast that come with extract kits can turn wort into beer, provided they are not too old. However, liquid yeast cultures can take your beer to another dimension. Although the quality of dry yeast is better today than it was 10 years ago, it may still contain contaminants in the form of wild yeast and bacteria. Beer made from liquid yeast cultures generally has a cleaner and overall better flavor. Liquid cultures also offer more variety. Dry yeast is typically only available in two types, lager and ale. There has also been some question whether dry lager yeasts are true lager strains.

Liquid yeast cultures are available in many different strains. From the complex, malt accentuated flavor of some English ale strains to the dry, crisp characteristics of certain American lager strains, liquid cultures are available for just about any beer style. Thus, liquid yeast cultures make it much easier for home brewers to achieve the desired flavor profile for a particular style of beer.

Although the use of liquid cultures is somewhat more involved than dry, it is not as difficult as some brewers believe. They do require special handling and cost more, but the increase in the quality and variety you get in your beer is worth the added effort and expense. If you use the new, larger packages, which are designed to contain a sufficient quantity to ferment a full five gallon batch, you need only follow the directions provided with the yeast. Smaller packages don't have enough yeast to ferment that much wort. Thus, they require the use of a starter culture to avoid problems associated with underpitching, such as long lag times, under attenuation, and stuck fermentations. Starter cultures increase the number of healthy yeast cells for pitching. Preparation involves adding the liquid culture to a larger quantity of sterile wort and allowing it to ferment before pitching into five gallons of wort.

6. Keep It Clean

Many of the quality related problems experienced by beginning brewers are the direct result of contamination. Wild yeasts and bacteria can affect the flavor, aroma, clarity, body, and stability of beer. Thus, they are just bad news and their presence in your beer should be kept to a minimum. The best way to prevent contamination is through cleaning, sanitation, and good aseptic technique.

If you've ever visited a brewery, you have undoubtedly noticed that they are very clean places. From the floors and walls to the smallest pieces of equipment, commercial breweries pay strict attention to cleanliness. If you want to consistently produce good quality beer, you should do the same for your brewery. Keep your overall brewing environment and all of your equipment clean. Watch for deposits in bottles and kegs. Your equipment and brewing supplies must be thoroughly cleaned before they can be sanitized. Dust, dirt, and other residues provide hiding places as well as food for microorganisms.

To prevent contamination, anything that touches your cooled wort or beer should be sanitized. Among small-scale brewers, the most popular sanitizing methods are heat and chemical. An example of heat sanitization is immersing a wort chiller in boiling wort before using it to cool the wort. Popular chemical sanitizers include chlorine and iodophor. These chemicals are diluted with water and allowed to remain in contact with the surface of equipment for a sufficient time to destroy wild yeast and bacteria.

Aseptic technique is employed to prevent contamination of wort, beer, and yeast cultures by the brewer, contaminated objects, and the environment. Good aseptic technique comes with practice and knowledge of the ways in which beer can become contaminated. Contamination can come from you, from the air, and from objects that contact your beer or yeast culture. Be careful not to touch your cooled wort, beer or yeast cultures with your hands or objects which have not been sanitized. Sanitize the outside of yeast packages before opening them. Don't allow vessels containing wort, beer, or yeast to sit uncovered. Be extra careful when transferring beer or yeast from one container to another. Do everything you can to keep contamination to a minimum and you should notice an improvement in your beer.

Continued In: Beer - Top 8 Keys to Improving Quality - 7 & 8

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