Previously, we discussed ways to make better beer by keeping your yeast happy, including fermentation temp control and making yeast starters. Now, we have an overview of why oxygenation is the next step to yeast happiness, along with the equipment and methods you can use to get the job done.

 

Aeration

Oxygen is both good and bad for your beer. Add oxygen to hot wort (above 80F) by splashing too much and you risk oxygen molecules binding with other compounds in your beer that eventually break down. This leaves you with beer that suffers from oxidation—as in, it tastes like sherry and/or wet cardboard. Yum? No. What does it mean for you? Try to eliminate hot side aeration in your brewing process. And to a lesser degree, be cautious on the cold side when you transfer and package your beer because oxidation can still happen. However, the cold side is also where oxygenation is most important because your yeast need it!

 

Fresh wort is sugar water of varying density that had all or most of the oxygen boiled out of it. When you pitch in your healthy yeast starter, those yeast cells NEED that oxygen replaced so they can grow. Without it, you could have a poor fermentation with off flavors and the sweet taste of under-attenuation. Yeast simply cannot grow efficiently without it! So what can you do to aerate your beer?

 

The Splash and Shake Method

This is the easiest first step for beginners. You splash chilled wort when transferring or you add a spray wort aerator to your hose to thin and disperse the wort into your fermenter with more oxygen, then vigorously shake the fermenter for about a minute before your pitch. It works well enough. But be careful not to make a mess! Also, the bigger the beer, the less easy the oxygen mixes.

 

The Stir Method


This method uses a sanitized spoon or a stainless degassing rod attached to a drill to to agitate your wort. Like shaking, this may not always leave enough oxygen dissolved in the wort, but it does work. Just be sure your sanitation practices are solid.

 

The Direct Aeration with Bottled Oxygen Method


The best of the home brewing oxygenation components for your wort. You only need an oxygenation system with a diffuser stone and a small bottle of oxygen from a local home supply. Then it’s simple steps:

Step 1
 
Attach the bottle (usually reverse threading)
 
Step 2
 
Sanitize the wand/tube and stone
 
Step 3
 
Turn it on enough to move the surface
 
Step 4
 
Stir your wort for 60-90 seconds (this dissolves more oxygen into solution)

 

Hint: Don’t touch the stone with your bare fingers. The oils could clog the stone. Boil the stone after use.

 

That’s it! Any of these easy methods, can greatly improve yeast health during fermentation. Which means better beer!