About Beermaking

Basic Beermaking

The following will give you a quick overview of the beermaking process. It is not intended to replace a book or the detailed instructions that come with a commercial kit, but rather to give the new brewer some idea of what’s involved.

Beer is made primarily from four basic ingredients: malt, hops, yeast and water. Most commercial brewers and some advanced homebrewers use malt directly. Malt is basically barley (or some other grain) that has been germinated. The germination process causes enzymes to be created in addition to the starches already present in the seed. In a process called mashing, the cracked malt is put in hot water, which allows the enzymes to attack the starches and turn them into fermentable sugars. It is these sugars the yeast “eats” to make alcohol and carbon dioxide.

maltBut most homebrewers and virtually all beginning brewers don’t do their own mashing. Instead they let a commercial firm do the mashing. Most of the water is then removed to create a thick syrup called liquid malt extract. When all of the water is removed, it is called dry malt extract. Some grains have already had their starches converted into sugars right in the husk or have been roasted at such high temperatures that no sugars or starches remain. The former are called crystal (or caramel) malts and the latter are called dark or roasted grains. These two types of specialty malt are used to add color and body to the beer, and do not need to be mashed. Instead they can be simply steeped in hot water to release their goodness into the beer.

maltinTo start the brewing process, water is added to a stainless steel or enamel stock pot. If any specialty grains are being used, they are put into a large nylon mesh bag (called a steeping bag) and put into the bagwater as it is brought up towards boiling. When the water temperature reaches 180oF, the grains are removed.

When the water reaches boiling, malt extract is stirred in (after first turning off the heat). You can get Malt Extract in easy-to-use buckets like the one shown here.

hopsThe water is brought back to boiling and hops are added to give the beer bitterness. What we know have in the kettle is called wort (pronounced wert). We boil the wort for about an hour. Near the end of the boil, we may add more hops to give the beer some hop character and aroma.

After the boil, the kettle is covered and the wort is cooled as fast as possible to around 70oF. This can becool done in a sink full of ice or by using a wort chiller. The hops and trub (pronounced troob – which is protein from the malt) are removed by straining (for whole hops) or by settling.

The wort is then transferred into the fermenter. Yeast is added and airlock is attached. The yeast then begins to turn the malt sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Fermentation can take as little as one day and as long as several weeks. Regardless, it is wise to let the beer sit for two weeks so the yeast can have a chance to settle to the bottom.

The beer is then transferred to the bottling bucket. Here we add a bit more sugar (called priming sugar).

bottleThe beer is then bottled and caps are applied to the bottles.  (For some reason, people who have nevercap brewed are deathly afraid of capping!  Capping is very easy – when you use a good capper, and there is nothing to be afraid of.

The bottles are left at room temperature for a week or so, during which time the yeast finds the priming sugar and makes a little more carbon dioxide.
Since the beer is now capped, the beer becomes carbonated.

All that remains is to chill the beer and enjoy