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Home Brewing Ingredients

July 25, 2014 by Rick Morris:

What is all the talk about Hops, Barley Malts, and Yeast?  Here you'll learn about the four basic ingredients used to brew beer.

Beer is a fermented hop-flavored, malt-sugared liquid.  And, while there are a number of ingredients that can be tossed into the brew pot, a good bottle of real beer comes down to four basic items...


Around 95 percent of beer is water.  So, this is certainly an important part of beer.  In fact, the world has a plethora of styles of water.  From Dortmand and Munich to Denver and Asheville.  The water can vary in levels of minerals.  It can be hard or soft, alkaline or not. Home brewers in certain parts of the world must use bottled water since their local water supply contains high levels of chlorine, and other chemicals.  On the flip side, many home brewers add carefully measured minerals in an attempt to mimic water from the varying regions of the world as they try to clone beers of the world.


Malts provide the sugars which ferment and create alcohol.  Without sugars, there would be no beer.  In the home brewing scene, malts come in the form of powder (dry malt extract) or syrup (liquid malt extract).  Unless you make your own... which involves steeping malted barley in hot water to extract the sugars, in a process known as "mashing".


One has to wonder how sugars are transformed into alcohol in the beer brewing process.  How does it happen?  What's the driving force behind fermentation?  The answer is yeast.  Yeast are living micro-organisms.  They thrive (at certain temperatures) by eating the sugars from malts.  The result?  Alcohol and CO2.


Several hundred years ago, all beer was generally very smooth.  Then came the idea of adding bitters and other flavors to beer to help balance the sweetness.  Today there are dozens of types of hops available from all over the world.  Their use in the brewing process provides brewers with a major element in crafting unique beers. 


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