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Beer Basics of How to Make Beer at Home

March 29, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 134

Let's look at the basics. All beer has 4 basic ingredients: Malted Barley, Hops, Yeast, and Water. For your first brew you will most likely be using Malt Extract in place of fresh malted barley or other malted grain, and this extract may come "hopped" meaning that it has the hop flavors already infused into the malt extract. If you do have separate hops in your first brew ingredients, they will most likely be hop pellets. Other ingredients may make their way into a brew, but these are the basic requirements. So, let's take a quick look at each of these basic 4 ingredients.

Malt Extract made from Malted Barley (and other grains): In the beginning, you will probably not need to be concerned with fresh malted grain stuff beyond knowing the basic types of Malt Extracts that are available. This is because nearly all beginners and all beginner homebrew kits use malt extracts in place of fresh malted barley or other malted grain such as wheat. A malt extract is basically concentrated syrup of sugars (Liquid Malt Extract - LME) or powder (Dry Malt Extract - DME) that is diluted/dissolved in hot water and forms the basis of the fuel that yeast will later feed on. This allows beginners to make consistent good tasting beer, minimizes up-front costs for equipment, and makes the brewing process a little quicker and easier.

Actual malted barley is simply barley grains that have been allowed to germinate in the presence of moisture, and then these are dried at an elevated temperature to varying levels of "toastiness". There are natural enzymes involved that start to convert the carbohydrate in the barley or other grains to sugars that yeast can then "eat" to create CO2 and alcohol (yeast can also play a role in creating unique flavor profiles). For now, the important thing to know is that malt extracts range from very light in color to very dark, depending on how much the original grains were allowed to roast. Different levels of roasting create different flavors and different amounts of available sugars for the yeast.

Hops and Hop Pellets: You will definitely gain an appreciation for hops as you continue to brew your beer at home and start to experiment with different kits and different ingredients. Hops are the flowers of the hop plant that have a seed cone shape. These flower cones are dried and can then be broken apart and pressed into Hop Pellets. The pellets take up less room and expand greatly when introduced to liquid. There are different types of hop plants that each produce hop flower cones with different flavors and levels of bitterness mostly due to different levels of "Alpha Acids". It is these Alpha Acids that add varying levels of bitterness to beer, but these also serve a very important role as a preservative. Alpha Acids tend to have some antimicrobial properties, meaning they can act as a very mild "antibiotic" to prevent or limit the growth of naughty bacteria, but without affecting the yeast in beer. The type and amount of hops added to beer affect its International Bitterness Unit rating (IBU).

Yeast: For most beginner kits, these come in a dry packet form and may look similar to the dry packets of yeast found in grocery stores and used for breads. However, the various yeast strains used for brewing beer have different abilities in that some produce more alcohol than others. Also, yeast can alter the flavor of beers, meaning that taking the exact same amount and type of malt, water, and hops but using different yeast can produce a different tasting beer. This is an example of how a person can start experimenting with beer recipes.

As you get more familiar with brewing you may want to consider liquid yeast products. Some people believe that the liquid versions of brewing yeast are superior, but this is not always the case and there are many high quality dry yeast options available. How the yeast are stored and handled can play a huge role in the quality of the yeast by the time you use it. It is generally recommended to keep your dry yeast packets in a fridge until you're ready to use them. It should also be pointed-out that one of the characteristics of yeast that differ between various types of yeast strains is their tolerance of alcohol. Some yeast can continue to function and produce CO2 and alcohol in concentrations of 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) or higher while others become inactive. If you are going to try to make a beer with an ABV of over 5%, you must make sure you have yeast designated for higher alcohol production. This type of yeast is sometimes referred to as "high gravity".

Water: OK, let's face it, water is water...right? Not exactly. Some water sources have more minerals (hard water) than other water sources. Some waters have a different taste to them than others, which may be due to the level of fluoridation or chlorination of the municipal water in a particular area. And of course, the safety of the water in regard to microbial contamination must be considered.

Since water is the key ingredient in beer, and is essential in allowing yeast to do their jobs as well as allowing various flavors to blend, it definitely deserves attention. While you could buy fancy bottled spring waters, it really isn't necessary. Almost any municipal water source will work fine, and well water that is safe to drink should work fine too. Your water will be brought to a boil well before you add yeast, so any potential impact of chlorinated water on yeast is a non-issue since chlorine will evaporate in gas form from the water.

That's the basics of beer and should help you start to understand how to homebrew. You'll be brewing your own home beer before you know it! Happy Brewing!

Joe Walker, M.S., R.D. I am a Registered Dietitian and I brew my own beer. I have been doing so for 4 years now. My new site, Start Home Brew.com, focuses on getting absolute beginners of the homebrew realm the basic information to get them started in this refreshing hobby.

Source: EzineArticles
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