08-13-2016, The BeerVibe Crew
With rare exception, today’s beer is made from malted barley. Other cereals may be thrown in. Added cereal malts are called adjuncts.
Why barley? It has something to do with the brewing process, which we will now examine.
The basic steps in brewing are malting, milling, mashing, lautering, boiling, fermenting, conditioning, filtering, and packaging. Other words to know are sparging, liquor, and wort.
While all cereal grains can be sprouted to produce the enzymes that turn the starch into fermentable sugars, barley is especially good for this. The grains are soaked in water, germinated just enough, and dried in the hot air of a kiln. Here the temperature is gradually increased over several hours. This is the malt. Varying the times and temperatures that the sprouted grains roast in the kiln produces different colors; the longer the roasting, the darker the color of the beer.
Milling happens next. The malted grains are broken up exposing the cotyledon; which sounds like a dinosaur, but is actually the part of the grain that contains most of the starch. The milling breaks up the husks; but not too much, because the barley husks will make a good filter bed for the step called lautering. This is one reason why barley is so popular in beer, because of the usefulness of the husk in the brewing process. Other grains just don’t measure up.
Now that the milling is done, hot water is poured over the milled and malted grains in a mash tun. The water used in brewing beer is called liquor. Remember that the sprouting grains produced enzymes. In the mash tun, the enzymes work to turn the released starches into sugars. This process is called saccharification (they had to call it something). When this process is finished, the resulting sweet stuff is called the wort. The wort may be heated up to around 75 to 78⁰ C (167-172⁰ F). This heating of the mash is called mashout, which frees up more starches and makes the mash flow better (reducing viscosity); because it is next going to be strained out in the bottom of the mash tun in a process called lautering. All the barley husk settling on the bottom does a good job in filtering the wort.
Here’s another word for us to know: Sparging.
More water may be sprinkled on the grains to extract even more sugars (why waste them?) in what is called sparging.
Now the wort is boiled in a kettle along with hops and other ingredients. Boiling does quite a number of things, among which are sterilizing the wort and halting the work of the enzymes. Following the boil; the wort is clarified by being poured into a vessel called a whirlpool (or settling tank) to settle out the solid particles.
With the whirlpooling finished; the wort is now cooled rapidly in a heat exchanger, and then piped into a fermentation tank where the yeast is pitched in. The yeast now eats the sugars and makes ethanol and carbon dioxide. When finished, it is packaged for market.
Think of this the next time you have a cold one.
NEXT: WE WILL BEGIN LOOKING AT STYLES OF BEER.
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