By John Palmer (Brewing Techniques)
Primary fermentation takes center stage in the drama of transforming wort into fine beer. Unfortunately, when brewers shut down the show before the beer conditions, they miss out on the big finish.
As important as fermentation is to achieving a good batch of beer, it is the one step that is most often taken for granted by beginning brewers. Most brewers put a lot of thought into the recipe — they shop around for just the right malts and sniff, rub, and crush their hops — but often the yeast choice will be whatever was taped to the top of the can.
Even if some consideration is given to the type and brand of yeast to be used, very often the conditions in which the yeast is pitched are neither planned nor controlled. The brewer cools the wort, aerates it a bit, and then pitches the yeast and waits for it to do its thing. After a week or so, the brewer primes and bottles. Often, the brewer impatiently consumes the beer before it can reach peak flavor.
Such an approach to brewing is like going to the theater and leaving halfway through the show — you miss the total experience. This article puts the spotlight on the grand finale; namely, the conditioning process that occurs in the fermentor after the foamy head subsides.
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