Yesterday, Sunday, I transferred my latest India Pale Ale (IPA) from primary fermenter to secondary. While secondary is technically a misnomer (no further fermentation takes place), it clarifies the beer and lets the last bunch of dead yeast cells and hop detritus fall to the bottom of the carboy.
One of the joys of homebrewing is taking a gravity reading, which tells you the density of your beer, where 1.00 is plain water, and everything above it is, in this context, beer. Homebrewers check the starting gravity, then the gravity when transferring to either a secondary fermenter, bottles/kegs, and/or both. A hydrometer checks the gravity by taking a sample of the beer and placing it in a beaker. You then read the hydrometer as it floats in your oh-so-precious liquid. My final gravity (FG) was only two points off what the recipe said it should be (the recipe noted FG at 1.014; mine was 1.016). This just results in a bit less alcohol in the beer, but I’m not sure how accurate everything is, anyway.
To avoid contamination, the sample is never returned to the rest of the beer. However, it is completely drinkable, and I always drink it to see how my beer’s coming out.
And holy cow, was that sample good. It was almost exactly the taste I want from an IPA. It was bitter, without being too much so for a hop-head like me. I do think it’s a bit thin in the malt department; next time (and there will be a next time) I’ll be sure to add another pound of malt extract to counteract the bitterness.
I also added a half-ounce of Amarillo and half-ounce of Simcoe, the two hops used in the beer, to the secondary fermenter. This is known as dry-hopping. It doesn’t contribute to the bitterness of the beer, but adds to the delicious aroma.