THE BEER PRODUCTION PROCESS


Most beer is made from the four basic ingredients of grains, water, hops, and yeast. The premise is to extract the sugars from the grains so that the yeast can turn it into alcohol by the process of fermentation.

The beer you drink has to go through many different steps and processes before it is bottled, canned, or kegged and enjoyed. This is all accomplished by ingredients selection, malting, mashing, lautering, boiling, wort/hop separation and cooling, fermentation, maturation and conditioning, filtration, carbonation, and bottling.

Most beer is made from the four basic ingredients of grains, water, hops, and yeast. The premise is to extract the sugars from the grains so that the yeast can turn it into alcohol by the process of fermentation.

The beer you drink has to go through many different steps and processes before it is bottled, canned, or kegged and enjoyed. This is all accomplished by ingredients selection, malting, mashing, lautering, boiling, wort/hop separation and cooling, fermentation, maturation and conditioning, filtration, carbonation, and bottling.

Wow that is a lot of work, science, and craftsmanship, but it is so worth it when you want to sit back and enjoy a cold one. So let’s look at the process in a little bit of detail from let’s say a 10,000 feet view.

Ingredients Selection:

The brewing process begins with the selection of ingredients like wheat, rye, barley, water, and hops.

Wait WATER????

Yes Water, H20 or if you’re a chemist “Dihydrogen Monoxide” (DHMO)!

Much thought, selection, testing and processing goes into what type of water (hard, soft, alkaline, etc.) and where did the water come from. The water is purified and checked for the proper calcium and acidic content to maximize and ensure the isolated enzymes in the mashing process can be obtained. If not, the water is brought up to the suitable needs to obtain this.

The selection of high-quality grains such as barley, wheat, or rye is made depending on the type and taste of beer desired.

The selection of hops is also made which helps determine if a beer is bitter and gives it aroma.

Once the selection of ingredients process has taken place, the brewer has to decide if they will be doing their own barley malting. Malting is the milling, or crushing of the grains. Some small brewers purchase malt, while the majority of them make their own.

Malting (milling):

The selection of high-quality grain is sorted according to the particle size, cleaned, then soaked in the bath three days, and finally send to the germination chamber.

In the chamber the grain is allowed to germinate in the cool, damp air for one week. This germination process creates enzymes that will help convert the grain’s starch into sugar in the Mash Conversion step.

Then the now green malt is placed in a kiln and has hot air introduced to roast them and air-dry them for 24 hours. The drying stops the enzymes from breaking down into sugars. The duration of the roasting process affects the color and flavor of the beer. The final malted/milled product is called grist.

Mashing:

The grist (dried malt) is heated, not boiled, with water in a mash tun for about an hour. This activates natural enzymes in the grains that cause it to break down into starches and release its sugars. If the grist were allowed to boil, it would kill the process of the natural enzymes changing the malt’s starch down into sugars. The grist, water, sugar, and grain leftovers are called mash (pulp) while in this process.

The left over mash is pumped into a lauter tun. The mash is separated into three items. The excess water is separated and drained from the mash and saved. The sugary, sticky, dense liquid called wort or maltose produce juice is separated via the lauter tun’s false bottom from the grain husks into a brew kettle. The excess water is sprayed through the grain husks to extract as much wort as possible. The left over grain husks are dried and sold as cattle feed.

The Boiling Process:

The brew kettle containing the wort is carefully allowed to boil one to two hours under strict controlled conditions so it doesn’t burn or caramelize. This process also sterilizes the brew and acts as a natural preservative. During this time hops and other spices are added. This will allow for control of taste, to either balance out the sweetness of the sugar in the wort or provide flavor depending on the timing of the hops being added to the brew. Adding in the hops early releases bitterness into the beer, whereas adding the hops in later affects the flavor and aroma.

Wort/Hop Separation and Cooling:

Once the boiling process has finished and the wort has taken on the desired effect of the hops and spices, the wort is transferred into a whirlpool to separate the wort from the malt and hops. The separated liquid is pumped into a hot wort tun. The hot wort tun is then cooled using a plate cooler. The plate cooler has coolant that flows around the hot wort tun that drops the temperature from the boiling point (212°F) to 41°F/5℃ to 60°F/16℃ in a few seconds.

Fermentation:

Once the wort has cooled, it is strained and filtered. The wort and yeast are pumped into a fermentation tank (fermentor) for about seven to ten days. Yeast converts the sugary wort into beer by producing alcohol and decomposition of carbon dioxide (CO2). The yeast multiplies until a creamy, frothy head appears on top of the brew. Any excess CO2 is captured and placed in a tank for later use.

Fermentation is where the brew master decides whether or not they will be brewing Ale or Lager beer.

If Ale beer is desired the tank temperature is raised between 60°F to 75°F which is where top-fermenting yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) thrive.

If Lager beer is desired the tank temperature is maintained between 35°F to 55°F where bottom-fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces uvarum) thrive.

Maturation and Conditioning:

After fermentation process, the young “green” beer is sulfur tasting at this point and needs to be matured. Maturity happens naturally where the yeast absorbs the sulfur flavors and the beer is allowed time to develop its flavors and a smooth finish.

When the fermentation is over, the yeast settles to the bottom and is removed.

Filtration, Carbonation, Pasteurizing, Bottling

The beer finishes the conditioning process by being stored cold and then filtered once or twice more. The beer then has carbon dioxide injections and goes off to be pasteurized which makes sure any leftover yeast stops its actions and sterilization of the bottle or can happens.

The beer is then placed into bottles, cans or kegs and off to packaging where it goes through inspection, labeling, packaging, and marketing.

Next it makes its way to the distributor who brings it back to their warehouse until it is ordered by the store or bar, at which time it will be delivered so you may drink and enjoy it.

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