Making beer is not rocket science, but you do need to know the basics. To brew beer you will need the proper ingredients and some specialized equipment.
The beer-making process can be broken down into three major phases, wort creation, fermenting, and finally bottling and packaging. The most difficult and technical part of brewing is the creation of wort. If you get this part wrong your beer will be ruined and undrinkable.
The wort stage is where you ferment sugars from the malts and blend them into the flavors from the hops. The malts look like little grains similar to rice and the hops look like little flower buds. The combination of these two ingredients, which boiled for some time, creates the wort.
After the wort is made the next step is fermentation. Fermentation is when you take the wort and combine it with yeast that is specifically designed to take the sugars from the wort and convert them into carbon dioxide and ethanol.
There are many different types of yeast. There is yeast to make bread, there is yeast to make wine, and there is yeast to make beer. Oddly enough, some winemakers will not add yeast, and just let the natural yeast that occurs in the air and on the grapes take hold and ferment the wine. But with beer, the process is controlled and special yeasts are used to get particular flavor profiles in the beer.
This process takes place in stainless steel fermentation tanks.
Your local craft brewpub will likely use something small like a 3 bbl brewhouse to brew the beer, whereas larger facilities will have brewing systems that can handle hundreds or even thousands of barrels at once.
During the fermentation stage, there is not much for the brewer to do except to have patience with the process that takes place, and also to monitor things like the temperatures of the tanks to ensure a stable environment that allows for a complete fermentation.
The process that involves converting yeast to glucose in the wort to carbon dioxide and ethyl is called fermentation. This is what gives carbonation to the beer, as well as its alcohol content. The fermentation process starts by transferring the cooled wort into a vessel. The vessel will already have yeast in it.
If ale is being made, then the wort will be kept in the vessel at a temperature of 68F. It’ll remain stored at that temperature for two weeks. If lager is being made, then then it will be stored for around six weeks at a temperature of 48F. The vessels need to be constantly cooled because the fermentation process produces lots of heat.
Generally speaking, there are fermentation tanks that can hold more than 2,000 gallons, which means four batches of wort would be needed to fill a single tank. The minimum length of time the fermentation process can be completed is two weeks. How much a brewery can produce does depend on the number of tanks they have.
When the wort is initially added to the yeast, the mixture’s gravity is measured. It might be measured again further down the line. This is done to determine the beer’s alcohol content and to know when the fermentation process is completed.
A long narrow vent pipe is connected to the fermenter, but other than that it remains sealed from the air. This is to let carbon dioxide escape. The outdoor air doesn’t get into the fermenter because the CO2 that constantly flows through the pipe prevents it from entering.
Towards the end of the fermentation process, the yeast will begin to settle at the bottom of the tank. The fermenter is designed in a way that makes it easy for the yeast to capture and remove. Once removed, the yeast is kept to the side and used in the next batch.
Before the yeast needs to be replaced, it can be used several times. When the yeast is mutated and the taste is altered, then it is replaced. When it comes to commercial brewing, consistency is everything.
The vent tube is also capped during the fermentation process. This is to seal the vessel off from the air. Throughout the process, CO2 will be produced and pressure continues to build. This is what creates beer’s carbonation, for the most part.
Later on in the process, the rest of the carbonation is added. After this is done, the beer remains pressurized. During bottling, it won’t remain under pressure, but this is only for a brief period.
Once fermentation is completed, the beer is cooled. During this time, the rest of the yeast will settle at the bottom of the vessel. Other proteins and residue will gather at the bottom, too.
Once the solids have gathered at the bottom, the beer will be removed from the fermenter. The remaining solids will be filtered out, and then the beer will be transferred to another tank. This is where it will remain until it is bottled up or placed in a keg. If needed, carbon dioxide will be adjusted, as this is done is to add more CO2 to the beer.
One of the most important aspects of successfully brewing beer is also the least interesting and that is sanitation. It is critical to keep everything surgically clean.
All tools and containers that come into contact with all ingredients of the brewing process must not only be clean but they must be sanitized. This is the part of the process where a lot of beginners make mistakes. They don’t realize how hard it is to keep everything clean and sanitized.
Brewmasters often learn the hard way how important sanitation is because they will ruin a few batches of beer due to contamination.
This is just a broad overview of the brewing process. While it can sound intimidating at first brewing is like anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it. With time and experience, you will be more comfortable and make better beer.