People love beer. Beer has been brewed in one way or another for the last 3,900 years and, if the recent explosion in home and craft brewing is any indication, will continue to be brewed for another 3,900 years (at least). Beer brings people together, crossing social boundaries and continents to provide humans with a beverage that can be enjoyed by people from all walk of life. Although literally billions of people around the world enjoy beer, most people only have a brief idea of how beer is made. Considering that we are a home brewing equipment supplier, we think that this needs to change. In today’s post, we are going to give a simple overview of the beer making process and we hope that by the end of it you will have a better idea of what making beer entails.
Beer is Water...Mostly
While recent years have seen a wide variety of ingredients used in the beer making process, there are really only four ingredients that are needed to make beer: water, hops, barley, and yeast. These four ingredients are essential to the beer making process and, if one is missing, the beer being brewed will not turn out as it should. With these ingredients in mind, let’s go over the steps of the brewing process.
Milling: Before anything else happens during the beer making process, a brewer must first prepare their barley. Barley is essential to the beer making process because of the sugars it contains; however, barley needs a little help in order to realize its full potential. During the milling process, barley is passed through a milling machine where the grains are slightly crushed. This process breaks open the grains exposing its starchy center. This step is crucial because it allows the brewer to extract more sugar from the barley to aid in the production of alcohol later in the beer making process.
Mashing: After the barley grains have been milled, they go through the process known as mashing. In this step of the beer making process the freshly cracked barley are steeped in hot, but not boiling, water. The barley is left in the water for about an hour, during which time the barley breaks down and releases sugars. Once the steep time is over, the water is drained away from the barley in a process known as lautering and is transferred to another container. The drained away water is full of the sugars released from the barley and is known as “wort.” Wort is the base of all beer and is sticky and sweet and not yet ready for human consumption.
Boiling: After the wort is transferred to another vessel, it goes through the boiling process, which typically lasts 1 to 2 hours. Commonly referred to as “The Boil” by brewers, it is during this time that hops (and any other flavoring ingredients the brewer wants to add) are added to the wort. Hops are the bitter “fruit” found on certain species of vines found all over the world and provide bitterness to balance out all of the sugar that is contained in the wort. After the boiling process is completed, it is sent to a whirlpool machine to remove any hops and particulates left over from the boiling process and is then immediately cooled.
Fermentation: Once the wort has been cooled and strained, it is put in a fermentation vessel where yeast is also added. At this point, all of the brewing process has been completed, and the only thing left to do is wait for the wort to ferment into beer. Depending on the style of beer (ale vs lager) the beer is fermented for a predetermined amount out of time to allow the yeast to convert the sugar found in the wort into alcohol.
After fermentation is completed, the beer is conditioned to allow the yeast to work through any off flavors that may have cropped up during the fermentation process. After the conditioning process is over, the brewer will once again strain the beer to remove the yeast (well, sometimes. More on that later). Once strained, the beer is placed in bottles, cans, or kegs, carbonated, and, finally, is ready to be consumed.
When you’re ready to tackle your next homebrew project, visit Brau Supply’s website. We have the essential homebrew systems you need to make the best beer possible. Our all-in-one homebrew systems allow you to produce beer at a professional level of quality right in your own home. To learn more about our home brew systems, visit our website today.