It is often said that the process of making beer is both an art and a science.
While the process of making beer is largely meticulous and accurate, there is still room for personal interpretation and the creation of a unique brew, thanks to the obscure rules governing it. And, while it might sound like a challenging process, it is anything but.
A simple process that dates back around 12,000 years is more or less used to brew beer to this date. It’s straightforward, you start by subjecting a grain – and/or grain extract – and water mixture to heat, add hops and bring the resulting mixture to a boil, leave the mixture to cool down, and add yeast to ferment the mixture before carbonating it.
Read on for a detailed description of each of the steps in the beer-making process:
Step 1: Cleaning And Sanitizing
The first step does not involve any actual brewing, once you have collected all of the required equipment.
You will need to start with the cleaning and sanitization of all the equipment you intend to use. Make sure that you execute this step to perfection, as it is crucial.
You should use a mild unscented detergent to thoroughly clean anything that will come into contact with your beer during the beer-making process. Afterward, use a sanitation-approved solution (such as Five Star Star-San) to sanitize the equipment that has been cleaned. To make your work simple, while still guaranteeing the same effectiveness, I recommend using no-rinse variants.
You can start brewing once all your equipment has been cleaned and sanitized properly.
Step 2: Preparing The Brew
You will need to be very attentive, for a long time, when preparing the brew. The main reason for this is that you need to keep a close eye on the brewing process as it continues while sticking to a strict timeline. There are several similarly important mini-processes, such as boiling, lautering, and mashing, involved in this step.
The overall quality of your beer at the end of it all depends on you getting everything right at this critical point of the beer-making process. The foundation of your finished product is made up of these important brewing steps. Any mistakes that you make at this point will have an impact on the latter stages of the process.
NOTE: You will not get everything right the first few times, as you learn how to make beer at home. However, this should put you down. Everyone is bound to make mistakes here and there as this is part of the learning process. You should see these as important learning opportunities, taking notes along the way.
Step 3: Choosing A Brewing Method
All grain, partial mash, and extract are the three different methods of brewing beer. The preparation of the beer base is the main distinguishing factor between these methods – as suggested by the names.
Method 1: Extract Brewing
To create the base of the beer, referred to as wort, the extract brewing method uses grain extracts in liquid, dry, or a mixture of both. A great option for intermediate, novice, and those new to home brewing, extract brewing requires less time, space, and equipment. The process can also use a small amount of grain to enhance the depth of the resulting beer. The convenience of this brewing method also means that even with added brewing knowledge and experience some brewers choose to continue using it.
Method 2: Partial Mash
Grain and malt extract is used in the partial mash brewing method, which is also referred to as the mini-mash method. When it comes to enhancing the overall quality, flavor, appearance, and body of your beer, combining these two ingredients creates unlimited possibilities. For those that have been using extract-only methods, and are now looking to take things to another level having mastered that process, the partial mash can be a great step forward. To make the transition to this method much smoother, partial mash requires a similar amount of space, time, and even equipment as extract-only brewing methods.
Method 3: All-Grain Brewing
Considered to be the best beer-making method, all-grain brewing requires detailed knowledge of the beer brewing process, more time, space, and equipment; thus, translating into a larger costlier process. You have complete freedom when creating your brew as this method does not call for the use of any malt extracts, and all sugars are solely drawn from grains.
However, this also means that their likelihood of making mistakes is elevated. It is important to note that this beer-making method is best suited to seasoned brewers who understand the home brewing process in detail. You can learn more about all grain brewing here: https://brucrafter.com/what-is-all-grain-brewing/
Step 3: Beer Brewing Stages
Let us take a deeper look at the main stages of the beer-making process:
Stage 1: Mashing
Mashing, or the creation of the mash, is the first stage in the brewing process.
Aimed at providing food for the yeast to consume, the mash can be defined as the process of activating enzymes within the grain to convert starch into sugar. The base for the overall flavor, body, and color of your beer also originates from the mash.
The process of mashing can be compared to steeping tea. To break down the starches and activate essential enzymes within the grain, you will immerse your grain bill in hot water. This process eventually leads to the conversion of starch into fermented sugars. Stirring, temperature, and water quality are among the few things you should pay attention to during mashing.
Stage 2: Lautering
The process of separating the grain from the wort is referred to as lautering – and is the next step in the brewing process.
Any sugars that may be trapped in the grain after the mashing process are removed in this step. This way, you can get the highest value for your money – or in other words, increase yield. Sugar acts as food for the yeast, as previously mentioned above. This results in the creation of alcohol and the production of beer. The potential for fermentation increases with an increase in the food for yeast!
Depending on the type of brewing being practiced, lautering can be conducted through various methods. However, a step referred to as sparging is always included in the process, regardless of the brewing method used. Designed to rinse the grain of any remaining sugars, sparging involves heating water in a separate vessel like a 90 bbl fermenter tank – hotter than the mash – and pouring it over the grain. While the same basic principle still applies, this process normally involves the use of additional equipment when employed in the advanced brewing process.
Stage 3: Boiling
While they are two distinct processes, boiling can sometimes be confused with mashing.
The conversion of starch into sugar during the mashing stage does not occur at boiling temperature. On the other hand, boiling occurs at a higher temperature. Boiling not only occurs at a higher temperature – depending on altitude, around 212 degrees Fahrenheit – than mashing but is also carried on for much longer. You can learn more about the boiling temperatures of beer here.
The boil is meant to create the perfect conditions for the introduction of hops into the mixture. In essence, boiling stabilizes the wort through the lowering of pH, removes harmful oxygen, and also destroys unwanted enzymes that might still be present.
In addition to being an important ingredient in the making of beer, hops can also be used in a variety of ways to create a wide selection of desired outcomes. Regardless of the intended effect, hops create a balancing effect in the beer by countering the grain sweetness through the introduction of a bitter element. To enhance the aroma and flavor of the beer, hops can also be added incrementally later on in the boiling stage.
You can protect the beer from potential infections and bacteria with the help of hops as well. All in all, the boil is meant to create the best possible environment for successful fermentation.