Jiro Ono is an 85 year old itamae (sushi chef), owner of the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a three-star Michelin Guide rating. A sushi master, who despite having an entire life devoted to making sushi, is still working at perfecting his craft…

In other words, he’s still learning…

Mr. X is an advanced beginner brewer, brewed for a couple of years, read a couple of brewing books (one of them twice…)

He feels he knows what he’s talking about…

Actually, more than that… he believes he’s much smarter than others who have brewed before him…

All because he’s read one of his brewing books twice…

He’s going into what I call brewer’s tunnel vision…

Not only is he handicapped by believing he knows almost all there is to know about brewing beer… he’s missing out on one important aspect of learning…

Perspective…

Most of what he knows about brewing is from the brewing books… or the brewing industry…

… and that is a big mistake because ideas are usually found in industries where people are so deeply involved they can’t see the forest through the trees…

See, even though I’ve read over 12+ books (many up to seven times) countless BYO, Zymurgy articles, forum posts, brewing blogs, emails from brewers around the world…

(… and I’m not sure how to count the training programs I’ve created…)

I know, I still have much to learn…

… most of what I’m learning about brewing beer as of late is coming from places outside the brewing industry…

… and today I want to share a different perspective on brewing beer… more specifically, a different perspective on aerating your wort…

See all grain brewers know about pH… measured from zero to fourteen, where seven is neutral… everything above seven is alkaline and everything below seven is acid…

But there’s one thing few brewers know about the pH scale…

There is a correlation between acidity and how much oxygen is able to dissolve into your wort… the higher the acidity (lower pH) the less oxygen is able to dissolve in water (or wort)…

When you start your mash, the pH is somewhere around 5.2 to 5.6…

In order for yeast to start converting sugar into alcohol, there needs to be little to no oxygen… or in other words, the wort needs to have a lower pH… most beer ferments and finishes around a pH of 4 to 4.4 (sour beers are lower)

This started raising a lot of questions and started to challenge the way I thought about fermenting and aerating the wort…

Here’s why…

We know yeast need oxygen to grow, but when it comes to actually fermenting the beer and producing alcohol, oxygen needs to go away…

This week I took note of something very important…

How fast will a beer start fermenting if you DON’T aerate the wort, and start out with as little oxygen as possible, yet find a way to grow yeast in the presence of oxygen?

Well… I’m fermenting a Berliner Weisse and I had to do just that…

I did not aerate the wort and pitched lactobacillus delbruckii, which sours the beer and lowers the pH (which makes oxygen less available)…

Now, while that happened, I had yeast growing in a two liter starter…

When it came time to pitch the yeast I did not aerate the wort… yet fermentation started almost instantly…

Within an hour or two the beer was going strong…

Most common brewing knowledge says that if you don’t aerate your wort, you could get stuck fermentations, off-flavors, underattenuated beer, etc…

… In this case the yeast got the oxygen needed while in the starter… but when it got to the low pH, low oxygen wort, it started fermenting right away…

This is information I will be exploring further, which perhaps could eliminate the need for oxygen pumps and the need to aerate the entire wort…

I won’t be the first one to attempt this, but we’ll see where it goes…

Let’s change the beer world for the better!


    8 replies to "Do You Need To Aerate Your Wort?"

    • Walt Benoit

      Huh!
      Newton was wrong! And all this time I’m thinking it’s a law of physics when
      really gravity just sucks…………:)
      Interesting comment on Oxygenation,I have always oxygenated with an electric drill and a
      paint paddle before I pitch cause I guess that’s the way it’s always been and I always use a proper starter and always do all grain, but hey like you said what do I know!
      It’s like flying you can flap your ACME bat wings like the coyote, or buy a ticket on the Hindenburg
      Who cares as long as it works right, and I’m a firm believer in never looking down cause I always work without a net.
      Cheers

      • Jorge

        Haha… the more I learn the more I realize I know very little…

        You do need to oxygenate the yeast so it produces sterols… what I’m thinking is to perhaps do the aeration with a starter (aided with a stir plate?) and pitch to a non-aerated wort…

        Not sure, maybe someone has already tried this and can chime in… if not, I’ll be doing some trial runs in the future… Cheers!

    • Vnzjunk

      Very interesting info on the aeration of the wort. In my own brewing all my fermenters have rather large openings, 4″ and 5″. So it is an easy task to get in with a sterilized long handle spoon or a whisk and stir things up just before pitching the yeast. It would probably be a more difficult task with a carboy.
      That said I will be interested in hearing how your theory is put to the test and if it debunks any of the long held ideas about aerating the wort.

      Thanks

      • Jorge

        I know New Belgium tried to eliminate wort aeration by adding unsaturated fatty acids into their yeast cultures. They had positive results, but didn’t implement permanently…

        If there is one reason I’m interested in this is less oxygen equals less staling of beer…

        Cheers!

    • Ken

      I had heard that the wort gets enough oxygen just from getting it from the chiller to the carboy. I have always gone by that rule.

      I have heard about the oxygen for starters/not for fermenters rule, but never paid much attention to it as I don’t make use of aerators and such.

      Now I have to worried there is a point where there is too much oxygen in a starter and how it will effect the wort when pitching it!

      Thanks, Jorge, now I have to read all my books all over again!

      LOL!

      • Jorge

        Interesting… never heard of that… I don’t think there would be a problem with too much oxygen in the starter… if anything, that’s where you want the oxygen, but this is just theory for now until I run some tests…

        Regardless, it’s always good to question your knowledge so we’ll see what comes out of this… cheers!

    • John

      I have never airated or added oxygen and repitching harvested yeasts show signs of fermentation within 4 hours. Pitching dry yeast takes about eight. My only question is that some of the big brewers show a sight glass with oxygen infusers on the way to the fermentation vessels. I will take Jorge as gospel because I have learned more from Jorges emails than any other publication I have read. John

      • jorgitoz

        Thanks John!! 🙂

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