C is for Conditioning

C is for Conditioning

C

No, I’m not talking about your hair. Nor am I talking about a regular exercise regimen.

I’m talking about what happens to fermented beverages between the time you bottle them up and when you finally swill it.

What makes beer, beer is that it’s carbonated. What most people don’t realize is that when beer is finished fermenting, it’s completely flat. Sometimes it still tastes OK, despite being flat, but in some cases it’s a little hard to swallow.

Other fermented beverages, like mead, are downright nasty once fermentation is complete.

The process of making a freshly fermented beverage into something drinkable is called conditioning.

For improving flavor, conditioning usually simply means letting the brew sit in bottle in a dark, cool place for a while. For mead, this could be several months.

The length of time needed for beer to condition is, in part, dependent upon how the brewer chooses to add the carbonation. If you keg your beer, you can force carbonation by pressurizing with carbon dioxide. This results in drinkable beer in a day or so.

Pressurizing with carbon dioxide cylinders was not an option hundreds of years ago. Instead, brews were conditioned by adding some fresh sugar (for home brewers, this is often corn sugar) and then sealing the brew into bottles or casks. The yeast that was still alive in the brew consumes the new sugar releasing carbon dioxide. Since the container is sealed, this carbonates the drink.This process takes about two weeks, depending upon what kind of brew you’ve made and the temperature of the space that you’ve left the brew to condition.

When you see the phrase “bottle conditioned” on beer, this means that carbon dioxide was not forced, but that the activity of yeast was utilized to carbonate the beverage.

It is possible to over-condition a beer (too much carbonation), or under-condition. I’ve succeeded in doing both in my home brewing adventures.

Oops.

Guess I’ll have to drink those mistakes.

I’m participating in the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. The goal is to write a post prompted by a letter of the alphabet on each day of April (except Sunday). My theme this year is brewing. Visit my other A to Z posts by clicking here.

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