When taking a long swig of your cold, refreshing beer, have you ever wondered: how is beer made? For most beer drinkers, the last thing on their minds while enjoying their beverage is science. The truth is, though, that the creation of beer is a very scientific process.
So how is beer made? The process is quite fascinating, and you'll be sure to think of it next time you're drinking your favorite beer.
How Is Beer Made?
If you enjoy beer, you'd probably find it interesting to hear an answer to the question, how is beer made? All beers have certain ingredients and go through a standard process.
Even if you're not the biggest science buff, you'll probably find this process pretty cool -- especially since it's what produced the delicious beverage that you're holding in your hand.
If you find yourself wondering how beer is made, the first thing you need to know is the list of ingredients. And there are three main ones.
The making of any beer involves the use of some sort of grain (usually barley), water, and yeast. Most of the time, beer makers use hops as well. The process can also involve different spices, as well as other ingredients that will uniquely flavor the beer.
The Step-By-Step Process
Even though there are variations on the steps for different kinds of beers, the process is the same for each beer. Anyone would benefit from learning about the steps after asking the question, how is beer made?
Malting involves heating the grains. Most of the time, these are grains of barley, although wheat and rye are common substitutes.
When the beer makers introduce heat, the grains will dry out and crack. After this process opens them up, the enzymes are in an exposed state. The result of this step is a milled product that people in the industry refer to as grist.
2. Steeping and lautering
Now, it's time to crush the opened grains. Then, it'll be necessary to steep the enzymes in the grains into hot water. That takes place in a container that those in the industry refer to as a mash tun; the resulting mixture is comparable to porridge in its consistency, and people in the industry call it "mash."
This process activates the enzymes. Initially, they are full of starch. However, when they are in contact with the hot water, the enzymes convert the starch to sugar.
Ultimately, the grains release sugars into the water. At this point, they are ready for the fermentation process. It takes about one to two hours for them to be ready for this process.
Once the grains have been through the entire steeping process, it's time to pull them out of the sugar-water mixture. What the beer makers will need to do is pump the mash into a lauter tun. This device will remove the grain husks from the mixture.
When this happens, the term for the liquid that you're leaving behind is wort. This is unfermented beer.
Now, it's time to boil the wort. First, the beer makers will collect the wort in a kettle, which is a type of vessel. Here, they'll bring the liquid to a controlled boil.
That's when they add in the hops and spices. Then, they boil all the ingredients together, which will release the flavor of the hops and spices into the rest of the liquid.
Typically, this process will take about an hour. That's how long it takes to extract all the flavor from the ingredients and make them uniform within the mixture.
After this, it's time to transfer the wort into a whirlpool for wort separation. It involves the removal of any hop or malt particles from the liquid.
Now it's time for fermentation. This is the step that produces the alcohol in the beer.
The beginning of this process involves adding yeast to the mixture. The yeast serves as a catalyst. It reacts with the sugars in the mix and will ultimately create alcohol.
Not only does the yeast create alcohol, but it also has other purposes as well. It also adds flavor to your beer, as well as carbon dioxide. Unlike the previous steps, this will likely take a while. Usually, it involves storing the mixture for several weeks after adding the yeast.
Doing that allows ample time for proper fermentation of the wort so that the beer contains enough alcohol. It also needs time to mature so that the flavors can fully develop and it can have a beautiful finish.
5. Bottling and aging
At this point, you have an alcoholic liquid. However, it's still flat and lacking carbonation.
So, it's time to bottle up the flat beer. In some cases, beer makers will subject it to artificial carbonation. Otherwise, they allow it to naturally carbonate using the carbon dioxide that the yeast is creating.
Then, the practice is to allow the bottled beer to age for a while. It can be anywhere between a few weeks and a few months.
The Science Behind The Beer
We might have gotten into the science a little bit in our answer to the question: How is beer made? But now, we're going to delve into it a little bit more.
Basically, two main processes need to happen for grains to be the precursors for beer. First, you need to convert starch to sugar. Then, you need to turn sugar to alcohol.
Starch to sugar
First, the beer maker needs to soak the fully ripened grains in cold water. This is done until the grains are completely saturated.
Intermittently, the machines will aerate and stir the grains. It causes the grain to germinate and release essential enzymes. These enzymes include malt diastase, which will convert the starches in the grain into sugar.
Once the beer makers no longer need the grain to continue to germinate, they will roast the grain. That brings the germination process to a halt. The exact point when they decide to do the roasting will have a significant effect on the color and flavor of the beer at the end.
The roasting of the grain yields malt. Iron rollers will play a role in crushing the malt. The machines will then mix the malt with warm water to create mash.
The beer makers will then raise the temperature of the mash from 38 to 77 degrees Celsius incrementally. This rise in temperature will cause the enzymes to start breaking down the starch and converting it into simple sugars.
Sugars To alcohol
The central part of the fermentation process is the addition of carefully maintained yeast to the wort. Over many days, the temperature of the mixture will decrease very slowly to somewhere between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius.
This creates an optimal atmosphere for the yeast to grow and convert the sugar in the wort to alcohol and carbon dioxide. At this point, you have beer. Different manufacturers will make different modifications at this point, but the raw material is there.
So, again, how is beer made? There is more science to this process than what we've described, but the conversion of starch to sugar, and then sugar to alcohol, is the main gist.
Different Types Of Beer
As any beer enthusiast knows, there is more than one type of beer. While fermentation is a part of the making of any beer, the process can vary significantly.
Top fermentation is a process that involves yeast that ferments at warmer temperatures. This yeast will then settle at the top of the liquid.
In contrast, bottom fermentation is a longer process that happens using cooler temperatures. The yeast used here will tend to settle at the bottom of the liquid.
And believe it or not, this makes a huge difference in the result. It could be the difference between your favorite beer and the one you loathe. Though there are a few other categories, you could classify most beers as either ales or lagers.
The making of an ale involves top fermentation that takes place at cellar temperature. These are full-bodied beers that vary in flavor.
These beers are somewhat dark, and they tend to have more hops in the wort than the average beer.
Lagers are the result of bottom fermentation. The beer makers will store the liquid for several months in temperatures that are close to freezing.
These are the most popular beers in the world. They have a smooth finish thanks to the longer time they spend aging, and they can range in flavor. Most are a pale to medium color and have a lot of carbonation.
The next time you enjoy a beer, you won't be thinking, how is beer made? Because this time, you'll already know! How cool is that?
Whether you're enjoying a beer by yourself at the end of a long workday or with a group of friends while rooting for your favorite football team, it's not only a great drink. It's a great drink with exciting science behind it.
That science makes it so that you can enjoy a relaxing beverage. It also affects the color and taste. Alterations to the beer making process can make the difference between an ale and a lager.
Now that you know how the pros make beer, you can enjoy it all the more!
Have you ever found yourself asking, "How is beer made?" Got any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments!