Brewing can be referred as the process making beer, which is a fermented alcoholic beverage mainly made out of grain.
The main type of grain used in brewing is barley however there are other types of grains such as Wheat, Sorghum, Rye and Oats. Brewing as a whole is a process similar to that of making wine where fermented alcoholic beverages are made out of fruits, such as grapes.
Beer is a beverage made out of four different ingredients using a four step process. The basic ingredients in beer is malt, yeast, hops, and water which are taken through four basic processes which are malting, mashing, boiling, and fermenting .
The main ingredients in Beer Brewing
This is a grain that is used for brewing through a process referred to as malting, in fact malted barley is one of the most common grain in beer brewing however, and malted wheat is also a very common ingredient. Unmalted ingredients may include rice and corn. Malt is known to provide the sugar that the yeast consume to determine the strength of the beer. Most professional brewers and home brewers do not malt their own grain but instead malt from maltsters.
Hops is a type of spice that is responsible for the bitterness and ability to balance the sweetness in a beer as it adds some aroma and flavor in to your beer. It’s however added in small quantities into the beer. Many home brewers prefer to use pelletized hops as they can be conveniently stored.
Yeast is used to convert wort (unfermented beer) in to beer through a process known as fermentation. During this process the sugars from the malt are consumed by the yeast and used to convert malt into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is definitely what gives the beer its fizz, while the alcohol give the beer its kick.
90% of the ingredients used to make a beer is usually water. One basic rule among home brewers is that if the water taste good is definitely good for brewing. In most cases tap water doesn’t taste that good and many people prefer bottled spring water which taste much better. It’s also advisable to avoid water that has gone through a water softener.
Four Basic Steps of Beer Brewing
Malting is the first process when brewing beer as it involves converting raw materials such as grains into beer. The first step is usually germinating the grains by allowing the natural occurring enzymes within the grain to activate and be available for the next step in the brewing process. However, many brewers prefer to skip this step by acquiring everything from maltsters as it can be very tiring despite it being critical in the beer creating process.
This step involved mashing malted grains in hot water. Where starch molecules within the grains are dissolved in hot liquid, where the enzymes chop the large molecule pieces into smaller sugar molecules. The sugar is produced using the mashing process is referred to as maltose. During fermentation yeast cells are fueled by the malt sugars in the mash. A malt extract is made out of malted grains which have been mashed, the resulting liquid is dried into powder or condensed into syrup.
- Boiling and Cooling
A solution of malt sugars, water, and other substances from malt is referred to as wort or unfermented beer. And before the wort is fermented it is boiled, which sanitizes the wort and converts it into finished beer which is much more stable. During the boiling process the hops are mixed with the wort to extract the bitter compounds, the wort is then cooled so that the yeast can be added.
Fermentation begins right after yeast acclimates to the wort only after yeast is added to the cooled wort. For many home brewers creating an average strength ale require fermentation for an average period of just a few days to almost a week. Brewers have come to realize that in order to make stronger beers or lagers the fermentation process should last even longer.
Home Brewing Equipment and Ingredients
To be able to brew beer straight from your home you will need specialized equipment’s. A large number of homebrew shops that sell starter kits sell bucket fermenter as part of the basic equipment’s. For you to be able to home brew alcohol you will need small specialized equipment’s such as bucket fermenter and other basic equipment’s. However the more complex the brewing method the more advanced brewing equipment you will need. Most of which can be found in your local homebrew shop.
Here are some of the brewing equipment you will need to homebrew alcohol:
- Brew Kettle/Brew pot
Usually made out of stainless steel or aluminum but porcelain enamel works equally well. Anything less than 4 gallons is likely to be more frustrating due to scorching or boilovers an in-built thermometer is also a great feature if you intend to cool the wort when it’s inside a brew pot.
- Bottling Bucket and Fermenters
A five to six gallon carboy or food grade plastic buckets that are generally 6.5 gallons that can be used as a fermenter. However if you choose a carboy you will need a 7 inch driller rubber stopper, if you choose two buckets you will have to get a lid for one of them which must have a hole drilled in to it to prevent airlock.
- An airlock
An airlock allows carbon dioxide that is produced during fermentation to be released from the fermenter and also prevent oxygen and any airborne contaminant from entering.
- A racking cane
This is a long piece of hardened plastic that has a curve on its end, with a six feet food grade vinyl siphon hose that fits perfectly over at the end of the cane so as to transfer beer or wort from one vessel to another. A bottling wand, a package of crown caps, and a bottle capper are also necessary if you intend to bottle your home brew.
- Malted grains
You can either use Liquid malt extract, dried malt extract, or crushed grains all depending on your recipe and brewing method.
You can choose a leaf (whole flower) or pellets hops
- Brewing Yeast
Dry yeast is mainly preferred by beginner brewers. However you can also use liquid yeast as long as the yeast is fresh, refrigerated and also follow manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Cleaning chemicals and sanitizing
Ensure you get some homebrew-friendly cleaning and sanitizing chemicals that you can find at your local homebrew product retailer.
There are also other items that you can easily find in your kitchen that will make the whole process more fun and easier, such as the measuring cup, a large funnel, or a large spoon for stirring.
Clean and Sanitize Your Equipment
All brewing equipment must be properly cleaned and free from biological growth. Since the only organism you will want growing in your fermenter is the yeast unless you are making sour beer. Contaminated beer usually turn out sour or start to develop some off flavors, or even smell like a baby’s diapers the beer bottle also gush when opened or the bottle may explode when opened.
When cleaning your equipment always make sure that you use special solutions made to clean brewing equipment such as (PBW) powder Brewer wash or the (TSP) tri-sodium phosphate. Mix them with some warm water and then use a scrub brush to clean all the surfaces within reach. After cleaning rinse all your equipment with hot water once done visually inspect all your equipment. In case you notice any dirt or residue repeat the entire cleaning process until everything is spotlessly clean since you need all your equipment as clean as possible for the sanitizer to be effective.
To sanitize all your equipment soak everything into the sanitizing solution especially everything that will come into contact with the wort. There are various homebrew-friendly sanitizers that you can choose from such as lodophor and star san. The final step is usually prevention, first thin to note is that you might be the biggest threat to your beer and with that in mind you should wash your hands more often when brewing and also all the surfaces that you may use such as kitchen counters, and stove tops.
How to know whether your beer is contaminated
In case your first batch is not the best beer that you have ever made there is always one general reason in mind
Contamination If your beer was contaminated by another microorganism apart from your brewer’s yeast you will definitely know it.
Compost pile odors, locker room or dirty socks smell, are some good signs that your beer is contaminated. These contaminants are not likely to keel you but will definitely make you feel discouraged for having dumped all your efforts. If you get to figure out the course of the contamination fix it immediately and give it another try.