1. The Meaning of Wort Concentration:
The original wort concentration, also known as the original gravity, is a measure of the alcohol content in general alcoholic beverages. In the context of beer, it refers to the concentration of sugars in the wort before fermentation. To understand this, let’s first learn about the beer-making process.
The original wort concentration indicates the amount of fermentable sugars present in the raw material before fermentation begins. It serves as an indicator of the potential strength of the beer. For example, a raw wort concentration of 1.040 is equivalent to a beer with approximately 4% alcohol by volume.
2. The Meaning of Alcohol Concentration:
Alcohol concentration refers to the percentage of alcohol in the liquid. In the case of beer, this is because yeast ferments the sugars in the wort, converting them into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and other compounds. The alcohol content is typically represented as a mass volume percentage (M/V%). The higher the malt concentration, the higher the alcohol content in the beer.
Beer’s alcohol content is usually calculated based on the original wort concentration. For example, if a beer is labeled as “12 degrees,” it means it has an original wort concentration of 12°, which roughly corresponds to an alcohol content of 4°. In general, the alcohol content of beer ranges from 2% to 5%. Light-colored beers typically have an alcohol content of 3.3% to 3.8%, while stronger beers can range from 4% to 5%. German beers tend to have higher alcohol concentrations, around 5% to 9%, with a more pronounced wheat aroma, bitterness, and overall robustness.
There is a direct relationship between wort concentration and alcohol concentration. A higher wort concentration leads to a higher alcohol content in the beer, which can be an indication of better quality. Craft beers often have higher wort concentrations (12°-20°) compared to industrial beers, with nearly twice the concentration. As a result, those accustomed to industrial beers may find craft beers to be much stronger and more flavorful.
3. The Principle of Brewing Beer:
In the brewing process, yeast converts sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol. The higher the proportion of sugar in the wort, the higher the alcohol content of the final beer. However, in practice, it is difficult for yeast to convert 100% of the sugar, leaving behind non-fermentable sugars that contribute to the sweetness of the beer.
So, is a higher wort concentration always better? How can we adjust the wort concentration and alcohol content? The quality of barley malt plays a crucial role in achieving a higher sugar yield and consequently a higher wort concentration. This leads to a stronger-tasting beer with a more prominent malt flavor and higher alcohol content.
If the majority of customers prefer stronger, higher-alcohol beers, adding more malt during brewing can achieve this. On the other hand, if customers are accustomed to lower-alcohol industrial beers, reducing the amount of malt or increasing the brewing water can dilute the wort concentration and lower the alcohol content. This is similar to how large-scale breweries dilute their beers. Ultimately, beer brewing should be guided by local market demand and adjusted to cater to the taste preferences of most customers.
By understanding the relationship between original wort concentration and alcohol content, brewers can create craft beers with desired flavors, malt profiles, and alcohol content based on the local market demand and consumer preferences. Cheers to brewing craft beers that satisfy both brewers and consumers!