At this point, you should have the following ready to go:
- Boiled or pasteurized Must (or warm water and honey if using the no-heat method).
- Additional Ingredients prepared.
- Rehydrated yeast or prepared liquid Yeast.
- Sanitized fermentation vessel.
- Sanitized additional equipment such as a funnel, spoon, bung, airlock etc.
- Yeast Nutrients and/or Energizer (if not already added during the boil)
You are now ready to add everything to the primary fermenter and pitch the yeast. Follow each step, skipping the ones that do not apply depending on whether the boil/pasteurizing/no-heat method was used.
Step 1: Cool the Must (boil/pasteurize method)
It is important to cool the Must as quickly as possible to avoid possible contamination from floating bacteria or yeasts. This can be done by the following methods:
- Place the pot into a bath filled with ice-water.
- Add sanitized bags of frozen water to the Must. Remove the bags of melted water when done. Make sure the water in the bags is clean in case there is a leak in one of them.
- Add ice to the Must. Do not use commercial ice as this is not always made of clean water. If you are going to do this method, freeze pure filtered water in bags and take the plastic off the ice before adding them to the Must.
- Use an immersion cooler (available from Homebrew stores).
Step 2: Mixing the Honey and Water (no-heat method)
Gently heat the honey to make it flow easier out of the container. This is best done by placing the honey container in a pan filled with hot water for a few minutes. Add 2/5th of clean warm water to the fermenter (e.g. 2 gallons of water for a 5 gallon batch) and pour the honey in. Mix the liquid well to help dissolve all of the honey. You want to avoid leaving any undissolved honey sitting on the bottom of the fermenter.
Step 3: Add Additional Ingredients
If you are adding fruit, spices, fruit juice etc., put them into the fermenter now. Add the Nutrients if they have not already been added during the boil.
Step 4: Pouring in the Must
Add 1/5th of the total volume of water to the fermenter (e.g. 1 gallon of cold water if making a 5 gallon batch). This will help prevent thermal shock on the fermenter that could result in cracking of the glass and spilling of the hot Must. This is not a great problem if using a plastic fermenter, but is still a good habit to get into. Using refrigerated water also helps cool the Must down quicker.
If the fermenter is a plastic bucket, pour the Must in letting it splash as much as possible. If using a glass or plastic Carboy, pour it in through a funnel. Letting the Must mix with as much air as possible will help dissolve oxygen into the liquid.
Step 5: Bring up to Volume
Add cold water to bring the total volume up to the desired batch size.
Step 6: Oxygenate the Must
There are a few ways to do this, each dependant on the type of equipment you have (see Chapter 4: Equipment). No matter what method you use, the goal is to provide the yeast with as much oxygen as possible for a healthy ferment, while avoiding contamination. The following are the most popular methods:
- For small containers, such as gallon jugs, cover the mouth of the container with a lid or by holding cling-film over the hole. Pick up the container and shake like crazy for at least 5 minutes. This method is sometimes best done before adding the top up water since the more airspace you have in the fermenter, the more oxygen will be dissolved into the Must.
- For open buckets, use a long handled spoon and stir violently for 10 minutes, or use a lees stirrer connected to a cordless drill for at least 5 minutes.
- For glass Carboys, use a lees stirrer connected to a cordless drill for at least 5 minutes.
- Use a 0.5 micron stainless steel airstone and pure O2 for 2 minutes.
- Take a couple of cups of the Must in a sanitized blender and whip it up for 2 minutes before returning it to the fermenter.
Step 7: Pitch the Yeast
Make sure to check the temperature of the Must with a sanitized thermometer before pitching the yeast. It should be below 90°F to prevent shocking the yeast or killing them outright. Pour the yeast slurry straight into the Must and gently rock the fermenter to ensure it mixes in well. Try to avoid letting any of the yeast run down the side of the fermenter as you pour it in.
Step 8: Cover
If you are planning on using an open-fermentation method for the first 3 days, place a clean cloth of the fermenter. If you plan on sealing the fermenter from the atmosphere to avoid potential contamination, use the sanitized rubber stopper and airlock (the bucket lid should have a hole drilled the correct size for the rubber stopper).
Step 9: Cleanup
When you have finished mixing everything and the Must is in the fermenter, don’t forget to give all of your used equipment a really good washing with some hot water and a brush. By doing this, you reduce the chances of grunge and grime drying out on the inside surfaces where they can be particularly difficult to remove. These nasty remnants of previous brews can harbor those unwanted yeast and bacteria that can turn a promising batch bad very quickly.