There are four essential ingredients required for the production of beer. These raw materials primarily influence its taste, but some brewers often add other elements to achieve a unique aroma and overall impression.
Basically, beer production needs to follow an established procedure. However, there is room for experimentation and the addition of specific ingredients to enhance the taste and create a unique flavor profile.
Four Ingredients In Beer
As you may already know, water accounts for the largest percentage, over 90%, of beer composition. Since water contains different mineral components, the taste of beer varies depending on the region where the brewery is located.
Therefore, not every part of the country is suitable for producing every type of beer. Additionally, water can make the difference between a beer with a rich aroma and an unpleasant product.
For example, beer brewed in areas with hard water will differ significantly from those brewed in regions with soft water due to variations in calcium and magnesium levels. Hard water enhances the aroma of hops and gives beer a sharp taste, while soft water makes it lighter and prolongs the perception of the final flavor.
If the water used contains gypsum, the brewery will produce pale ale. Some brewers even add this compound to regular beer during a process known as Burtonisation to achieve a specific taste.
Water can also contain lime or iron, which will affect the final taste of the beer. This is due to their influence on the action of enzymes during the brewing process and their overall reaction with other ingredients.
Nowadays, most brewers filter the water before the brewing process to remove excessive fluoride and chlorine, which can negatively impact the flavor of the beer.
When deciding to brew your own beer, you can use tap water without any hesitation. Once you master the craft, you can experiment with various minerals and even mimic the characteristics of water from famous brewing regions.
Yeast is an essential component of beer and is necessary for fermentation. Without yeast, the mixture of malt and water cannot ferment, resulting in a bitter and tasteless liquid.
These amazing single-celled microorganisms metabolize the sugar from malt and convert it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Within a few days, they will consume most of the sugar content, converting it into wort. They then decompose complex sugars formed during the brewing process.
Once all the sugar is consumed, the yeast will enter a dormant state, indicating that the beer is ready. In other words, it is time to enjoy the distinct flavor profile of the beer. Homebrewers can use either dry or liquid yeast depending on their preferences.
Dry yeast – It is packaged in foil pouches that can be stored for several months in a pantry or a few years in the refrigerator. Once opened, it can be used for several months at temperatures between 40 to 47°F (4.5 – 8°C).
Liquid yeast – It is perishable and needs to be stored in the refrigerator for approximately six months. The advantage is the wide variety of liquid yeast strains available in the market.
There are hundreds of yeast species in nature, but breweries use specific cultivated strains to control the fermentation process. Three primary types of beer yeast belonging to the Saccharomyces family include:
Top Fermented (Ale Yeast)
In the 19th century, brewers mainly used Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but over time, they gradually switched to bottom-fermenting yeast. Nowadays, top-fermented ale beer has become popular again.
This yeast strain thrives and remains active in a wide temperature range, from 65 to 75°F (18 – 24°C). It rises to the top of the wort during the brewing process, making it an ideal solution for homebrewers without specialized equipment.
Due to the high production of esters and phenols during fermentation, this yeast produces a full-bodied and complex beer with spicy or fruity flavors. Since each yeast variety produces distinct esters, brewers often choose unique strains to create their own beer brands.
Bottom Fermented (Lager Yeast)
The optimal temperature for initial fermentation using this yeast is around 50°F (10°C), while the lagering period afterward requires 40°F (4.4°C). During fermentation, the yeast sinks to the bottom of the fermentation tank.
With this yeast, you can produce a clean and crisp beer with a stronger malt and hop presence. Achieving this requires a temperature-controlled refrigerator. Be prepared for a longer fermentation process compared to ales.
Malted grains are essential for beer production. Barley is commonly used by breweries, but you can also make beer using wheat, oats, rye, rice, or corn. Barley, being rich in sugar, is typically used as the base, and other grains can be added for specific flavors and characteristics.
The process involves crushing the grains and heating them in a kiln or oven to prevent excessive germination and release starches. The resulting sugar is necessary as a food source for the yeast. Over time, the malts develop a caramel-like flavor and gradually lose their sugar-producing properties.
Keep in mind that darker malts are needed to produce darker beer. Barley is preferred in such cases due to its fibrous husk and the enzyme amylase, which facilitates the conversion of starch into sugars.
Hops are disease-resistant plants that contribute to the characteristic bitterness and aroma of beer. Brewers began using the flowers of female hop plants in the early 1800s, replacing spices and herbs that were previously used for flavoring.
If you plan to brew your own beer, be cautious with hops, as fresh hops are fragile and can spoil quickly. A practical option is to purchase frozen hops after the fall harvest.
It’s important to note that different varieties of hops contain varying levels of resin and oil, which directly impact the taste of the beer. Hops with higher resin content provide a more bitter flavor profile, while those with more fragrant oils contribute to the beer’s aroma. Dual hops are also available, offering a balanced combination of these two characteristics.
Most beer recipes involve the addition of several different types of hops during the wort boiling process. It’s worth mentioning that hops act as a natural preservative, so there’s no need to add anything else to the beer to extend its shelf life.
Nowadays, it is possible to brew your own beer if you have the necessary equipment and essential ingredients. The best part is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to start small-scale production. A homebrewing kit for beginners and a lot of enthusiasm are enough to get started. Cheers!
100L Home Brewing System