Beer is the most ancient recipe ever recorded. Drinking a beer, along with the process of brewing it, has been a part of the human experience since the beginning of time. The first pioneers of beer making and the process of how it is done is still unknown and uncertain. But, the discovery of the first fermentation process began with some grain or bread that accidentally got wet around 10,000 years ago.
The first documentation of the brewing process was found in ancient Egypt and was written on papyrus scrolls. The brewing process made use of dates, meadowsweet, pomegranates, olive oil, and some other wild herbs. The resulting beer would probably be quite strong by today’s standards.
But beer brewing has improved over the years and in this article, the modern process of beer brewing will be discussed.
Beer Brewing Ingredients
Before we go on with the brewing process, let us first tackle the brewing ingredients.
The process of beer brewing has four fundamental ingredients: yeast, barley, hops, and water. Basically, the aim is to remove the sugar from the grains (generally barley). This allows the yeast to transform them into alcohol and carbon dioxide to create beer.
Purified water is very crucial in the production of a good quality beer. Beer brewers give a diligent consideration to the source and purification of the water they use for brewing. Moreover, there is a required standard for the purified water used in beer breweries. So the brewers need to meet that standard. Especially if the needed chemical contents of the water is not met for the mashing process.
Now, let’s go on to the step by step process of beer brewing.
#1 Malting / Milling the Grain
The first step in the brewing process is to harvest and process the grains. The grains are commonly barley but wheat and rye are also sometimes used.
Various kinds of malt are mashed together to break down the grain kernels. This process extracts sugars that are fermentable. Thus, producing a grist (milled grain).
To be able to produce malt, the grains are first given time to sprout. In this germination stage, enzymes that transform the starch in the grain into sugar are produced. Then the grains are dried or roasted in a furnace. The longer the roasting process is, the darker the malt becomes. Thus, the roasting process determines the flavor and strength of the beer.
Now, the grist is ready for the next process called mash conversion. The grist is moved to a mash mixer or a mash tun. Then it is steeped in a heated, but not boiling, purified water for a controlled amount of time and temperature.
This conversion process activates the enzymes in the grist which breaks down the grains’ starch into sugars. The type of beer produced can be controlled by supplementing the malt with starch from corn, rice or wheat.
After which the water is drained from the sugary mash called wort.
Next, the wort is transferred and pumped into a cylindrical lauter tun or vessel. This cylindrical lauter tun is designed with a false bottom elevated at about 5 centimeters above its true bottom. It strains or separates the wort from the grain husks. Then it passes through the false bottom of the lauter tun and directed to the brew kettle. Moreover, water is sprinkled onto the grains to obtain most of the extract as much as possible.
However, the extract obtained from the process is not yet called beer.
#4 Boiling & Hopping
The boiling process is done using a large brew kettle that can hold up to a thousand hectolitres. The wort collected from the lautering process is transferred into the brew kettle and heated at a controlled temperature. It is boiled for one to two hours while adding hops and other spices during the boiling process.
Hops are resins that provide flavor and bitterness to the brewed beer. They balance the sugar in the wort and act as a natural preservative. Once the desired flavor is achieved, they are removed from the brew as discussed in the next step.
You can check this article for the types of hops used in beer brewing.
#5 Malt and Hop Separation & Cooling
After the boiling process, the wort is transferred into a hot wort tank for hop separation. This is where most problems in the brewing process occur because hops can be trapped in the ball valves during the separation process. Especially if the ball valve you used is not a reliable one. With this considered, you must only choose the best ball valve manufacturers in the USA and China for your brewery.
After the separation process, a liquid which is ready for the next stage is left. The liquid is then cooled mostly in a plate cooler. Then the wort temperature lowers in just a few seconds as it passes opposite the coolant flow in a stainless steel plate.
During this brewing stage, the brewing is finished and the fermentation process begins.
In the fermentation process, the filtered and cooled wort is transferred into a fermenting vessel where yeast is added during the filling. The yeast is intended to transform the wort into beer by converting the sugar in the wort to carbon dioxide and alcohol. This adds vital flavor and sparkle to the beer.
The fermentation can last for weeks where the yeast is allowed to multiply. This produces a creamy substance on top of the brew. The length of the fermentation process depends on the type of beer you are producing. For ale beers, the fermentation takes a couple of weeks and is done under room temperature. While for lagers, it may take many weeks as the fermentation process takes place at a cold temperature.
To know more about the difference between ales and lagers, check this article.
Then the yeast is removed from the brew after the fermentation process. Now we have a beer!
#7 Filtration, carbonation, and cellaring
After the desired beer has reached its full potential, it then undergoes the filtration and carbonation processes. Then the beer is transferred to another tank and undergoes the cellaring process for up to four weeks. Once the cellaring process is completed, the beer is now ready for packaging.
There you go! Now you know how much the beer brewing process has improved since the Egyptian times. In today’s beer brewing processes, brewers have learned the right tactics in the selection of good quality grains for the brewing process. Aside from that, certain measures and processes have been added and given into consideration to assure the quality of the beer produced.