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The Thrill Of Beer

Beer is produced by the saccharification of starch and fermentation of the resulting sugar. Saccharification and starch enzymes are derived from malted cereal grains, especially malted wheat and barley. Beer is among the world’s oldest prepared fermented beverages and is widely consumed all over the world. The concentrations of beer vary from 4-6%, with some beers having concentrations of 40% and above. The brewing process takes between four to eight weeks; this time is determined by the final beer product intended.

Ingredients In Beer Making

Water: This is a major component of beer. Different regions make different types of beer depending on the type of water available. Hard water is suited to make stout such as Guinness, while soft water is best used to make Pilsner.

A starch source: This is a key determinant of the beer’s strength and flavor. The most common starch source is malted grain. Grains are drenched in water, allowed to sprout, then partially dried to produce malt. Different brewing temperatures produce different colors of malt. The grains used in beer production include rice, oats, rye, barley, and wheat.

the thrill of beer photo

Brewer’s yeast: The yeast metabolises sugars extracted from the grains producing alcohol and carbon and turn wort into alcohol. These can be either ale yeasts such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae or lager yeasts such as Saccharomyces uvarum depending on the final intended beer.

Hops: These are plants of the hop vine used to flavor and preserve beer. Hops contribute bitterness that balances the malt sweetness. Hops have antibiotic effects that favor the brewer’s yeast activity. Hops also provide the beer with stability and shelf life by starving off bacterial contamination. Essential oils in hops give beer a piquant aroma.

the thrill of beer photo

Brewing Process

This is a stepwise process which includes malting, mashing, lautering, boiling, fermenting, conditioning, filtering, and packaging.

Malting

Barley has to be prepared for brewing. This process helps in releasing starches in the barley. First, steeping is accomplished by soaking barley in a vat with water for 40 hours. The grains are then spread out on the floor to allow germination for five days. Finally, the grains are kilned. Once this process is complete the grains are referred to as malt. Kilning process takes several hours to be complete. The malt is then milled or crushed in order to expose the cotyledons that contain majority of the starch and sugars.

the thrill of beer photo

Mashing

Starches released are converted to sugars that can be fermented. Milled grain is mixed with hot water in a mash tun to create a malty liquid known as wort. Mashing can either be infusion mashing or decoction mashing.

Infusion mashing is the process of achieving mash temperatures by adding measured amounts of water heated to precisely  calculated temperatures to the mash.

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Decoction mashing is a way to conduct multi-step mashes without adding additional water or applying heat to the mash tun.

Temperatures reached during the mashing process are 45-62-730C. The end product of this process is a mash. The process takes place in 1-2 hours. The pH and the duration taken at this time affect the sugar composition of the final wort.

the thrill of beer photo

Lautering

The wort is separated from the grains. This is done in a mash tun with a false bottom, in a lauter tun or in a mash filter. Lautering process is done in two steps, first wort run-off and then sparging.

Boiling

Beer wort is boiled with hops in a brew kettle. During this process chemical and technical reactions take place such as sterilization of the wort, ending of enzymatic methods, precipitation of proteins, and absorption of the wort. Boiling takes 45-90 minutes where the solid particles are separated out in a settling tank. The wort is then refrigerated to fermentation temperature before adding the brewer’s yeast.

Fermenting

Takes place in fermentation vessels that are of different forms. Once the wort is cool and aerated, the yeast is added and the fermentation process begins. Sugars are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The final product of fermentation is beer. Fermentation can either be warm, cool or spontaneous.

the thrill of beer photo

In warm fermentation, yeasts are fermented at warm temperatures of about 15-200C. This causes foaming on the surface of the fermenting beer. The warm, fermented beer is ready to drink in three weeks after fermentation begins.

Cool fermentation takes place at 100C and the beer is then stored for 30 days at temperatures near freezing point. Lager is an example of a cool fermented beer. Spontaneous fermentation the beer is brewed in oak barrels where the naturally occurring microbiota helps in the fermentation process.

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After the fermented beer is conditioned to the intended use of the beer by the brewer. Filtering  stabilizes the beer’s flavor and gives it a polished shine. However, not all beers are filtered. The final process is packaging of the beer and further fermentation which may occur in the bottle producing natural carbonation.

the thrill of beer photo

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One comment

  1. Great article. I love beer and it was very interesting to learn how it is made.

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