How To Make Beer

Whether you're making beer for the masses or brewing at home, all beer recipes follow the same basic steps.

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    The Basic Process

    If you ever wondered about making beer at home, or just want to know more about the beer you buy at the store, understanding the basic process is the first step! All brewing follows the same basic steps:

    1. Mash/Sparge

    2. Boil

    3. Fermentation

    4. Bottling

    5. Drinking!

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    Yeast - Beer's little helpers

    Alcohol, the part of beer that gets you drunk, is made when yeast convert sugar to alcohol. The brewing process is therefore centered around the best way to make sugar and to keep yeast in an optimal environment so they will convert the sugar to alcohol. There are many different yeast strains and certain beer recipes call for certain types of yeast. For example, the slight banana flavor in Hefeweizen is actually a result of the yeast strain that is used.

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    The Mash

    As he explains in the first half of the video, mashing is a little like making tea. By heating grains in water you create the sugar which will later be turned into alcohol. The grains also give beer flavor and color. Darker grains will result in a darker beer, lighter grains in a lighter beer. After the mash is done the liquid (now called wort) is transferred to another container. In the process the now spent grains are filtered out so that you are left with only the sugar-rich wort. To make sure as much sugar and flavor as possible is going with the wort, the grains are sparged. Sparging is simply running extra hot water through the grains to rinse out as much of the good stuff as possible.

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    The Boil

    The boil is where you add hops. Adding hops at different points results in either more flavor (that bitter hop taste) or aroma. At the end of the boil the wort needs to be cooled down before adding the yeast. If it's too hot it will kill the yeast, if it's too cold the yeast won't be active. Adding the yeast is called "pitching the yeast".

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    During primary fermentation the yeast do most of their work. In a sealed, sterilized vessel they convert sugar into alcohol. After a week or so, the beer is transferred to secondary fermentation. This transfer gets rid of sediment that has collected at the bottom during the primary fermentation and can re-activate yeast that have settled at the bottom of the fermenter. Additional flavor can be added to the beer at this time. For example, coffee beans can be added during secondary fermentation to impart a coffee flavor to a coffee stout.

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    After fermentation is complete, the beer is transferred to a bottling bucket so that it can be bottled. Extra sugar is also added to carbonate it. When yeast convert sugar to alcohol they also release carbon dioxide. During fermentation that carbon dioxide was allowed to escape. Once they are bottled that carbon dioxide will be trapped in the bottle giving you a fizzy beer! After the beer has been bottled it needs to sit and condition for up to 2 weeks. This gives time for the yeast to generate the carbon dioxide.

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    Once the beer is conditioned it's ready to drink! While you enjoy your beer you can reflect on the following:

    A lot of home brewers skip the first step, Mash, by using malt extract. Malt extract is basically concentrated wort. It is a thick syrup that can get added to water before the boil. 

    The videos used here highlighted the home brewing process, but the same basic steps and procedures are used at big breweries. They just have much larger brew kettles and tanks...

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