dwidmaier (dwidmaier) wrote in geekbeer,

Lets start with some basics

Enough on finished beer for now, lets talk about brewing. I'll write some more on styles later, but it does you very little to know the styles but know nothing about the process of making beer.

At this point, any serious future brewer has hopefully hopped over to the book store and picked up Papazian's book (see earlier post) or some other brewing resource. While this guide gives you an overview, a hand resource at the brewery is indispensable.

Today we'll talk terminology. Beer, at it's most fundamental level, is nothing more than a combination of grain, water, yeast and hops. While this sounds simple, it gets much more complicated when we dive in. Brewing really is a fantastic biochemical process, we look at microbes, enzymes, carbohydrates, water chemistry, the chemistry of hopping, and carmelization just to name a few. However, with all this happening, there's a fair number of terms to keep track of. Lets start with grain.

Grain in brewing is primarily in the form of malt. Malting is the process of taking grain seeds (primarily barley in brewing) and allowing the seed to germinate and grow for a short amount of time. A barley seed consists primarily of the husk, a rough protective covering, and the endosperm. After malting the malt house employs a kilning or roasting process to modify flavor and color. The goal is to allow the seed to begin preparations for making a new barley plant, such as synthesizing proteins and enzymes critical to metabolizing the endosperm. Additionally, the germinating barley seed begins to break down the complex carbohydrates into simple sugars that the barley can use to grow a new plant. This is important because while we don't want a new barley plant, we do want simple sugars for our yeast. For more information on malting, start here, however a broader search may be required for more specific information on the malting process. Whole books are written on malting, so I won't bother with too much more discussion here. From here on out I may use the terms "grain" and "malt" interchangeably. In reality it does us no good to use raw barley in our brew.

So our grain is used as a source of food for the yeast. Although, brewer's yeast can't metabolize any carbohydrate with more than three residues (sugar molecules linked together). We'll solve this problem with something called a mash cycle a bit later.

That's going to be all for today, a bit busy getting stuff done. Tomorrow we'll talk about yeast, hops and water. Wednesday we'll shoot for the basic equipment in our brewery. Thursday will be basic brewery measurements, and finally on Friday we'll walk through an extract brew process.

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