Brewing beer requires four major ingredients (barley, hops, water, and yeast) and is widely divided into a seven-step process.
Beer is a staple in many cultures and one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages, worldwide. Recipes for beer or similar fermented drinks have been found in the earliest writings of humans. When you reach for a can of your favorite beer, ever wondered how exactly is beer made and what are its ingredients?
Beer can be made commercially and also at home. A lot of people prefer homemade beer to commercial beers. Places that commercially make beer are known as breweries, because the process of making beer is known as brewing. Small pubs in many countries have become famous for brewing their own beers. Beer is made from four simple ingredients: barley or similar malted grains, hops, water, and yeast.
The process to making beer may initially seem complicated but it is one considered as a simple for a lot of companies. The process can effectively be broken down into 7 stages: Mashing, Lautering, Boiling, Fermenting, Conditioning, Filtering, and Filling.
Step 1: Mashing
In this process, the cereal grain (barley, wheat, etc.) is mixed with water, which is heated up (but not to boiling point). The mixture is made to reach a certain temperature to allow enzymes in the malt to break down the starch in the grains into sugars.
Step 2: Lautering
This process is to separate the solution from the grains that have been mashed and are no longer required. This process is commonly done in a lauter tin (it is a machine with a false bottom and a mash filter that allows the water to be drained from the malt and grain solids). This methods has two stages – one where the solution is separated in an undiluted state from the spent grains and the second one where the extract which remains with the grains is rinsed off with hot water.
Step 3: Boiling
The extracts that are removed in the previous method are then boiled to sterilize it from bacteria. During the boiling, hops (a flower that adds a bitter flavor and is stabilizes the beer) are added to the mixture. The hops contribute taste, flavor and aroma to the beer. The boiling causes the proteins in the wort (the extracts) to coagulate and the pH of the wort to fall. The boiling must be done with an even and intense flame and lasts around an hour to an hour to two hours, depending on the brewers and the ingredients used.
Step 4: Fermenting
After the boiling process is finished, the temperatures of the wort must be reduced before fermentation can be done. Fermentation starts the moment yeast is added to the cooled wart. The yeast stabilizes the sugars from the wort and converts them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Most companies rely on fermentation tanks known as cylindroconical tank – these have a conical bottom and a cylindrical top. The shape allows the yeast to flow towards the top, making the fermentation process better. At the end of the fermentation process, the yeast and other solids which have fallen to the cones apex can be simply flushed out a port at the apex.
Step 5: Conditioning
Following the end of fermentation process, the beer is cooled so that the yeast and other solids that remain in the tanks can settle to the bottom of the tank. The cooling helps the yeast settle and causes proteins to coagulate and settle out with the yeast. It also helps smoothen the flavor of the beer and pressure is added to ensure that the beer doesn’t become flat.
Step 6: Filtering
The cooling process results in leftover solids to settle at the bottom, which is then removed during the filtering process. Filtering is done with tight mesh or pads that allow only liquid to pass through. The filtering process can also be done to remove the color from the beer. Depending on the type of beer needed, the filtration process changes in tightness. Rough filtration results in a cloudy beer, while tight filtration results in a clear beer.
Step 7: Packaging
Packaging means the beer is put into bottles or kegs and then stored for weeks or months to ensure that the bottle gets carbonated. However, sometimes beer can also be artificially carbonated if one wants to reduce the aging process from months to weeks or days. The longer the bottle is aged, the easier the process of natural carbonation.
These steps may seem difficult when brewing alcohol at home. However, there are easier recipes that are available that make the process a bit simpler. These steps are often followed by brewing companies and they have the machinery to match. Now, that you know how beer is made, appreciate the effort that goes into creating that one bottle of beer.
Image Courtesy: blog.beeriety.com