Basics of Beer Brewing
Posted by AB on Jan 19th 2023
Brewing your own beer can be incredibly satisfying and a fun new hobby! It provides almost endless possibilities of different flavors and types of beers by adding different ingredients or manipulating different variables throughout the process.
Generally, there are 4 key ingredients to start brewing your own beer.
There are 4 general steps to brewing beer as well.
Of course all 8 of these factors can be altered in certain ways to make specific kinds of beers. But in general, lets talk about these ingredients and steps.
Grains are considered the backbone of beer. They give beer much of the flavor and appearance we know beer to have. Grains also provide the simple sugars which will be fermented later on in the process. Barley is the most commonly used grain for beer making. You can also use grains like wheat, corn, oats, rice, etc. Malted grains are also frequently used. A malted grain is a grain that has been germinated and then halted from germinating further by drying it with hot air. A great malt for all beer styles is the 2-Row Brewer's Malt.
A pint of beer is 90-95% water so the water that you use to brew your own beer is very important. The water you choose to brew your beer with affects the outcome of the beer in three ways. The water affects the pH of the beer, which affects how you taste the flavors of the beer. It also provides "seasoning" from the sulfate to chloride ratio - sulfate ions tend to accentuate hop and bitterness flavors while Chloride ions tend to enhance the malty aspects of beer. If your water has off-flavors like chlorine or contaminants, that can also be tasted in your beer.
Hops are the green, cone-shaped flowers of the Humulus Lupulus plant. Hops are the primary bittering, flavoring, and stability agent in beer. There are two main varieties of hops: bittering and aroma. Bittering hops is more effective at providing bitterness in small amounts and aroma hops have more essential oils that provide more "hoppy" aroma. Beers without hops are called Gruit Ales. Instead of hops, they use an herb/botanical mixture.
Yeasts are single-celled organisms that belong to the fungus kingdom. They require no sunlight and they have been used in baking and alcoholic beverage creation for centuries. There are two main types of brewing yeast and they are classified by fermentation location and fermentation temperature. "Ale" yeast prefers warmer temperatures (60-72° F) and works near the top of the fermenter. "Lager" yeast prefers cooler temperatures (42-52° F) and works at the bottom of the fermenter. Ale yeast tends to produce more fruity and aromatic beers while lager yeast tends to produce more clean and delicate beers.
Now that you have your 4 key ingredients to produce your own beer, let's talk about the 4 general steps of beer-brewing.
The most important step in the beer-brewing process doesn't actually have anything to do with the fermentation or brewing at all. Sanitizing ALL of your equipment is imperative to producing a beer that is actually drinkable. It also assures quality between batches. Two great options for sanitizers are Star San Sanitizer or the Saniclean Sanitizer.
The heart and soul of production, the brew. There are actually 3 sub-steps of the brew: mashing, lautering, and boiling. Mashing is the process of immersing the grain in hot water, letting the heat break down the starches and activate the enzymes within the grain. This leads to the starches being converted into fermentable sugars. This step creates the base for the color, body, and overall flavor of the beer. Lautering is separating the wort from the spent grains. The wort is the sugary liquid extracted from the mashing process. Boiling is a lot like the mashing process, but at a higher temperature and longer period of time. The purpose of the boil is to stabilize the wort by lowering pH, destroying any remaining unwanted enzymes, and removing harmful oxygen. Generally, the hops are added during the boil.
After the boil, you must cool off your wort to room temperature (ideally within 20 minutes). Then magic happens when you begin to ferment your beer. First, you have to transfer your wort to the primary fermenting vessel. Then you can activate (if needed) and "pitch" or add your yeast. Dry yeast does not require activation while liquid yeast does require activation. Both yeasts yield better results if they are room temperature before adding to the wort. The main purpose of the fermentation is to allow the yeast to convert the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Healthy fermentation happens around 68-72° F. Fermentation usually takes two weeks, but can vary depending on the type of beer you're brewing.
After fermentation, you must store your brew in an airtight container, like a bottle or growler, to allow it to condition and carbonate. Before you begin bottling, you must make sure that everything that comes in contact with your beer is properly sanitized, just like the beginning. Priming sugar that the yeast will ferment into CO2 is added. Once your beer is sealed, store it in a dark, cool place for at least two weeks for the carbonation to happen as well as the conditioning phase of your beer. After all that time, you can finally crack open a chilled home brew to celebrate your success!
At home ingredient kits and equipment kits make your first time brewing beer at home a breeze by providing all the ingredients and equipment you'll need for your first brew! You can find all kinds of different brews to try and have fun learning the art of beer-brewing!