What are the Basic Ingredients used to make Beer?
Typically, the first ingredient of any beer will be a grain that has been malted. Most contemporary malt recipes primarily consist of a light malt and have an optional amount of highly colored or flavored types of malt. Barley is one of the most common grains that are used in the malting process. Malting itself is the basic process by which a given grain is brought to the highest possible point of soluble starch content by allowing it to sprout roots. It is then heated to stop the growth process.
Water is a very important ingredient in beer. Ninety percent or more of beer is composed primarily of water. Often, the mineral content of the water can play a large role in the overall taste of a given beer. Mineral content played a larger role historically than it does today. This is because the mineral content of water can be easily modified with the use of chemicals.
Hops are a type of flowering vine. The flowers of hops are used as a preservative for many beers and the essential oils that are found within hops are used to add flavor (through bittering hops) and aroma (through aroma hops). Hops are typically added for flavoring purposes in order to help balance the sweetness that is provided by the malt. Separate varieties of hops will have their own flavor and aroma profiles.
Yeast are, perhaps, the most important ingredient in beer. Without yeast, beer and other alcohols could not be made. Yeast are bacteria that are used to convert the sugars in the malt to alcohol using the process of fermentation. This is a multi-step process. The first stage is known as the lag phase. This is when proteins are broken down into amino acids. The second stage is known as the respiration phase.
In the respiration phase, the yeast will absorb oxygen and reduce the pH of the mixture, causing it to become both acidic and anaerobic. The yeast will then break down the sugars (primarily glucose) into water, carbon dioxide, and pyruvate. Pyruvate will later become alcohol. The exact strain of yeast that is used will help to impart a unique flavor onto the finished beer. There are two types of yeast that are used: ale yeast and lager yeast. Ale yeast ferments at the top of the mixture and works faster and at a higher temperature than lager yeast. This fermentation time typically takes between seven and eight days. Lager yeast work at a lower temperature, ferment slowly, and are bottom fermenting. This process usually takes place for thirty days or more and should be done in a cold and dark location.
While other ingredients can be used to impart specific flavors to the finished beer, these are the primary ingredients. The most important (and least understood) ingredient is the yeast, which is used to ferment the sugars found in the mixture into the alcohol that will be present in the finished product. Small changes to the initial ingredients and the time that fermentation takes place can have a variety of effects on the final product.
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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )