What’s the difference between organic beer and regular beer? – resources for home brewing in a sustainable way

Thepurebrewer.com is dedicated to provide you, conscious home brewer as much information as possible to help make beer in a more eco-friendly way. What’s the difference between organic beer and regular beer? you ask: first and foremost it is a mindset. When the planet and the people are being threatened by climate change, more pollution, unnecessary destruction of the environment, health crisis … how can we not aware of the need to produce and consume in a more ?

The beer world as a whole is evolving. When you see major brands such as Michelob producing certified organic beer, Ultra Pure Gold, you know people are starting to pay attention to what they are drinking. You hear about major, marketing savvy craft breweries like New Belgium, in Colorado, boasting to be a well-ranked B Corp, and contributing to 1% for the Planet Partnership program. This is great news.

But what are we doing at the home brewery level? If you dig a little online, you will find a few article on the subject, such as this We should be able to see more. The AHA (American Homebrewers Association) gives some useful tips. That’s a start.

The home brewing phenomenon worldwide has been a wonderful expression of self-sufficient, creative, local, environmentally responsible answer to the global corporate beer industry. Now I encourage you as a home brewer to look at every way you can “re-use”, “reduce” and “recycle” without compromising the quality of your production. To the contrary, your inventiveness will allow you to find ways to brew that are more precise, more balanced, more pure, and at the same time more cost-effective.

Coming up soon at thepurebrewer.com:

  • A book section (already growing)
  • Updated posts on where to find used brewing equipment – save money!
  • A guide where to source organic ingredients
  • Product reviews to help you make decisions on how to reduce waste of time, energy, water, sanitation products, ingredients …

Please use the comment box below and tell me what other resources you would like to find, or if you have general questions or comments.

Thanks and cheers,

To our health, and the health of the planet!

Vincent

 

 

Sustainable Homebrewing – An All-Organic Approach to Crafting Great Beer

Sustainable Homebrewing

August 22, 2019

Title: Sustainable Homebrewing – An All-Organic Approach to Crafting Great Beer

Author: Amelia Slayton Loftus

369 pages

Price: $19

Cheapest place to buy: Amazon.com

My rating: 5 out of 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Amelia Slayton lives what she preaches. She has been a fervent (“obsessed”, as she says) home brewer since 1994, and has founded the country’s first and only certified organic brewing supply store, in Santa Cruz, California, Seven Bridges Cooperative in 1997, which she managed until 2011. She grew up in rural Vermont in a family who grew most of the food they would need. Amelia is creative, passionate, militant for the environment and a sustainable lifestyle, she worked for Greenpeace for seven years. Today she continues to express her talent for crafting quality home made beers, as well as cooking from her farm fresh ingredients and roasting artisan coffee. The book’s graphic design is the author’s work.

What I like about this book

  • The graphics are beautiful, simple and natural
  • It promotes a whole more natural and community lifestyle, and serves a global environmental cause
  • The style is enjoyable to read and relaxed
  • The book gives cooking recipes too (OK, I love to cook)

Why you should buy this book

  • Amelia Stayton is the pioneer and most influencial authority on sustainable and organic home brewing
  • It’s ultimately about you making great beer with the best possible ingredients
  • It situates beer making in its rich cultural, culinary and creative lifestyle and context in a unique way
  • You will save money by learning how to save water, energy, ingredients, and to how to recycle and reuse
  • You will find something for you in this book, offering tips and techniques for beginners, intermediate and advanced home brewers
  • As the home brewing movement continues to grow, it becomes essential to give the community an environmental dimension

Please leave your comments below if you have read this book or have any questions,

Cheers and to our health,

Vincent

Why you should use your best water for brewing beer

Water is the main “ingredient” to make beer, about 90 to 95% of its composition, yet it is THE LEAST UNDERSTOOD component.

Water chemistry can be intimidating and science can blind the brewer. Yet, it CAN BE SIMPLE if explained the right way. You definitely don’t need to be a water specialist to craft good beer, and as the saying goes, if it’s good enough to drink, you can brew with it.

John Palmer, passionate author of “Water, a comprehensive guide for brewers”, is THE expert on this subject. He has a way of making complex science simple and practical while taking things to the next level: “it is the final frontier, the one that can take your beer from being good to being great… there’s some chemistry but it’s a big picture kind of thing. Once you understand the ballpark you can take it into account, your brewing and your beers will really improve.”

In this post, let’s look at the benefits of USING OUR BEST WATER FOR BREWING BEER. Today water quality management is approachable to anyone. Here are the basics about water treatment. There are three major kinds of water adjustment for brewing, knowing that the last two steps are for brewing all grain only.

Know your city water

Removing the bad flavors and contaminants from the source water.

Adjusting the PH of the mash water.

Adjusting the flavor profile of the mash water

Do you know what’s actually in your tap water?

 

The first reason why you should use your best water for brewing beer is pretty obvious: you want your family to drink clean, fresh, healthy and good tasting water

Know what’s in your drinking water.

I’m giving you two resources to find out some general information:

1. The EWG (Environmental Worling Group) a national non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and environment provides a free tap water database that you can access here.

2. Contact your municipality public works department. They will probably give you access to the most recent water quality report online.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist or what, but personally I wouldn’t drink any unfiltered tap water anywhere nowadays. Industrial corporations and politicians would like you to believe when your local drinking water supplier is in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act or state regulations, you’re getting the best water, the reality is … uh, that the EPA (Federal Environment Protection Agency) has not added a new contaminant to the list of regulated drinking water pollutants in more than 20 years! Hello? We all remember Flint, Michigan. By the way, that scandal is still going on as we speak in August 2019…

If you’re interested in studying more about what the US federal standards are versus what independent environmentalist groups such as the EWG recommend, you may download the full chart here. The discrepancies are huge.

The specific bad stuff you want to remove from water before you brew

Among the long list of water contaminants (microbial, industrial, pesticides/ herbicides, organic chemicals, radioactive …), chlorine or chloramine are responsible for a bad, medicinal taste in your finished beer.
The good news is that carbon filtration is a great, economical solution to get rid of those chlorine contaminants.
I personally have been using an under the sink drinking water carbon filter system for several years and have been very satisfied with it. I find that my drinking water from this system tastes soft, clean, fresh with a pleasant texture. It is an inexpensive solution. Carbon filters last a long time (obviously depending on your consumption).

Water Carbon Filter System

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some suggest Campden Tablets, i.e. potassium metabisulfite – initially an anti-oxidant – to remove Chloramine used by certain cities instead of Chlorine to kill bacteria. Chloramine unlike Chlorine won’t blow off by boiling. Maybe it’s me, but I’m not sure I want to remove a chemical by adding another chemical. A good carbon filtration system removes 99% of odors and bad tastes, as well as dissolved solid substances. Many breweries use this method of water treatment.

Adjusting your PH is like fine-tuning your beer flavors

Of course, one of the main benefits of using your best for brewing beer, is taste, balance and complexity in your finished beer. Adjusting your PH is like getting the right level of Alkalinity to best express your flavor profile.

An ideal PH of 5.2 is needed to optimally convert starches into sugars DURING MASHING and obtain a healthy wort where the yeasts will ferment adequately. For some reason, most source water are slightly too alkaline, so when brewing all grain, PH adjustment is often required.

Post fermentation, an optimal PH will improve clarity and flavor definition.

As a reference, the levels of alkalinity are expressed by the following ranges:

Acidic 3.0 – 5.0

Neutral 6.0 – 7.0

Alkaline 8.0 – 10.0

How to measure your PH and how to correct it

You can use an electronic PH meter, or paper test strips.

PH meter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PH strips

 

 

 

 

 

There are different ways to correct your mash water PH. By including a portion of acidulated malt or using lactic acid seem to be the preferred solutions. Darker malts generally possess a higher acidity than pale malts, so keep that in mind. It’s always recommended to check your mash PH as source water composition varies periodically, and malt PH and contribution to the actual mash is really hard to predict.

Having fun with salts and minerals to really create the style you like

The beautiful thing with water is that it will perfectly integrate any additions of soluble salts and minerals you would like to use.

Everybody talks about the legendary SOFTNESS (purity) OF THE WATER of Pilsen, versus the HARD WATER (mineral rich) water of Burton-on-Trent. And it’s tempting to just trying to duplicate the profile of the town producing the classic beer you would like to replicate. However, brewers have adjusted their water for centuries, and taking the numbers in consideration, but is not certainly not the simple and systematic answer to making better beer.

Again, to quote John Palmer, our water chemist/ beer guru – he says (I paraphrase): “brewing beer is a science, but also an art”. So, translate: at the end of the day, you can measure and read numbers all you want, but the taste and profile of the finished beer is another thing.

If you are interested in finding what the water profiles of famous beer towns are, go to brewer’s friend. brewer’s friend They have two different calculators basic and advanced, that you can use online for free. Enter your source water profile and your target water profile to calculate what adjustments should be made, in function of the style of beer you are making.

Learning how the salts and minerals in water interact with the finished beer will allow you to make a very good beer into an exceptional beer.

Here are the five basic elements used to adjust mashing water, as well as suggested levels, beyond which your beer might be hard to drink or even become harmful to your health. So, less is more when using salts and minerals. Think of it like you’re cooking. Too much spice would ruin your dish.

CALCIUM – can help with clarity, but has a negative effect on fermentation.

Ideal between 50 – 200 ppm.

Add with calcium chloride, gypsum or sulfate

MAGNESIUM – Enough Magnesium will help healthy fermentation, too much will produce astringency. Ideally, 10 ppm is fine.

Add with Magnesium Sulfate or Epsom salts

CHLORIDE AND SULFATES – Both work together to promote flavors in beer.

Sulfate will bring out hops character and bitterness

Chloride will bring out the flavors of the malt

Exemple:

For a hoppy beer something like 300 ppm Sulfate/ 100 ppm Chloride would, and

For a malt forward beer 100 ppm Sulfate/ 150 ppm Chloride.

(100 ppm is a minimum adjustment to show any results)

SODIUM – creates a salty flavor if too much is used but at lower levels, it enhances mouthfeel. Not more than 100 ppm should be added at the most !

You may use regular cooking salt.

What it boils down to – managing water quality and profile

Controlling your water profile is the final touch that will make a difference between a good beer and an excellent beer. The three simple steps to consider:

What is the best water for brewing beer? Think of it like you’re cooking homemade tomato sauce.

Start with ripe, healthy tomatoes, taste them before you use them – that would be like brewing with clean water. Know the composition of your water. Taste it!

As you are cooking your tomatoes, if it tastes too acidic, you may add baking soda (I didn’t know that – the things you learn research on the internet, I have tried, it works by the way). Although you may have to correct the mash water PH the other way, it is the same approach. Get it as close to the 5.2 to 5.5 range as possible.

To finish and flavor your tomato sauce, use spices to give the style and tone you like. That’s what minerals and salts are used for in brewing. Remember, at this stage, less is more! You can always add more, you cannot remove any when you used too much.

I hope you enjoyed reading about what water is best for brewing. I would like to know if how you manage your water profile, please leave a comment below and I will be more than happy to get back to you.

Thanks for your interest, cheers and to our health!

Vincent

Is Kölsch an Ale or a Lager – Why is this style unique?

TPB Sustainable Homebrewing

 

 

 

 

 

As the craft beer world is increasingly dominated by hoppy monsters and crazy fruit fermented styles, I find it refreshing to just enjoy a pure, subtle, perfectly balanced brew. I have to admit I have a soft spot for Kölsch. By the way, Kölsch is pronounced [“culsh”/ kœːɫʃ], not [“colsh”], because of its umlaut, you know the funny “¨” on the o that changes the sound.  This beer is outstanding for several reasons. Is Kölsch an Ale or a Lager?

To the beer drinker, Kölsch has more characteristics in common with a Lager: low level of hoppiness, clean, refreshing profile, smooth body, low ABV, noticeable even if subdued sweetness from the malt, in two words – highly drinkable.

To the brewer, Kölsch is an Ale, the softest, palest, cleanest kind there is, fermented at low temperature for an extended period of time, then lagered at an even lower temperature. Technically you may say it’s a hybrid.

In this article we will also look at the facts and background that make Ko truly a great, unique beer style.

Is Kolsh an Ale or a Lager, the City of Cologne
The City of Cologne, Germany

Is Kölsch an Ale or Lager? Or can it be both?

Virtually the entire beer family falls into two main categories. Ale or Lager. Both categories are determined by the type of yeast and the temperature of fermentation associated with each type of yeast.

ALES are made from yeasts known in the scientific world as Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. These yeasts are very common in any region of the planet, versatile since they may also be used to ferment bread and wine, as they are more resistant to changing environments and to higher proportions of alcohol. They ferment at warmer temperatures, between 60°F and 72°F, quicker (between 4 to 6 days) and work on top of the beer. This type of fermentation is easier to conduct and explains why ales are the most ancient style of beer, having been produced for thousands of years. Typically, an Ale offers a fruity flavor profile, a darker color, an overall more robust body and balance, more intense hop character, and a head with nice retention.

LAGERS, on the other hand are made from different yeast strains, referred to as Saccharomyces Pastorianus that can ferment at colder temperatures, between 50°F and 55°F, meaning for a longer period of time (several weeks). These yeasts, unlike ale yeasts, are active at the bottom of the fermentor. The resulting beer possesses a longer stability, is clear, lighter in color, with a crisp, yet sweeter balance due to a more pronounced malty quality, and a lower alcohol contents. Its head doesn’t normally stick around for too long. Lagers have become so incredibly popular and commercial viable that they account today for over 90% of the world’s beer production.

What makes Kölsch unique and unusual is the fact that the primary fermentation is done with an ale yeast, and the secondary stage is done as a Lager. In other words, this is kind of HYBRID beer, combining the character of an Ale where some fruitiness is noticeable, with the purity and dry, refreshing style of a Lager.

The history of Kölsch – fun politics and creativity

Kölsch is a protected appellation, very much like Champagne. It has to be made within a 50 kilometer radius from the city of Cologne. It has to be made in the respect both the method and the ingredients that define this style of beer, subject like all German beers to the Reinheitsgebot (law of purity). It is the only pale barley ale in Germany. Its production and distribution are regulated by the “Kölsch Konvention”.  You may get an overview of the “Konvention” here.

Cologne has been a beer city for over a thousand years. Centrally located in the northern Rhine Valley, it has been an important economic and cultural entity since it was founded in the Roman era.

The production of lager, compared to ale is relatively recent and originated in the late 15th century, when Saccharomyces Pastorianus yeast stains appeared in cold Bavarian cellars. It is thought that a cold resistant yeast might have been brought from South America through the early trans-Atlantic trade and would have transformed Ale yeasts into Lager yeasts.

Instantly the lager style become popular but quality lager was harder to make in relatively warmer locations outside of mountainous European regions, such as Cologne. Because the local guild operated to guarantee beer’s integrity, it passed in 1603 a law prohibiting Lager brewing in their area.

However, since the mid-1840s, a technological breakthrough benefited the brewers of Plzen (Pilsen). Malt could be kilned with indirect low heat, making it possible to produce the first crystal clear, light colored Pilsner that would become rapidly the beer of choice all across the continent and beyond. The brewers of Cologne did not want to be forgotten with their deeper colored, less limpid Ale. Thanks to another industrial advance, the invention of refrigeration systems, they suddenly came up with a fantastic idea: “why not still brew our Ale following our Cologne quality law AND cellar it like a Lager to achieve the sought after clear, clean appearance the market is looking for?”

Kölsh was born. A mixture of tradition and creativity.

Flavor Profile/ Characteristics

I like Kölsch because to me it expresses at the same time purity and delicate complexity. It is very easy to drink, like a session beer because of its lower ABV, yet it is just rich enough to be enjoyed with a variety of dishes such as roasted or grilled bratwursts, coleslaw (no mayo, please!), salads, white fish or chicken grilled or poached with light sauce if any, Asian cuisine should also be a good pairing to the delicate spiciness and grassiness.

ABV Range: 3.5 – 5
IBU Range: 18 – 30
Color: 3.5 – 5 SRM
Appearance: Light gold, perfectly clear
Aromas: Elegant fruit esters, with light notes of mild Pilsner malts and noble German hops
Flavors: Balanced sweet, bread-like (biscuit) delicate pale malt, with only a hint of spice and bitterness
Mouthfeel: Soft, smooth, medium-body, finishing dry and clean.
Carbonation: Lively carbonation with fluffy white head, low retention
Is Kolsh an Ale or a Lager, German Brands
Several German Kölsch are exported to the USA

The more recognized German Kölsch producers include:

Reissdorf – Very pale color, some malty notes, quite soft on the palate, finishes clean and dry.

Gaffel –  Pale, faintly fruity with a crisp, refreshing and delicate hop finish.

Sünner – Light, soft, low alcohol, very enjoyable complexity and finesse, white fruit and elegant spiciness. Smaller production.

Zunft – Fresh, refined, a leaner style with pleasant notes of hop.

Früh – Definitely a light style, with mild malt and hops notes as expected.

Reissdorf, Gaffel and Früh are among the top 5 producers in terms of volume. A special mention should be given to Sünner, the original Kölsch brewer – the first one to use the name “Kölsch”. This producer has been established since 1830 and is still totally family run. My personal tasting notes on this beer that I discovered 3 days ago:

Subtle aromas of honeydew melon, pear, honey, fresh bread-like, pale malt sweetness with accent of very delicate pepperiness and grassiness. This beer strikes with its sense of purity, softness and balance. The flavors are precise and delicious, consistent with the aromatic profile. There’is a elegant and natural feel about this Kölsch that I really like and find interesting. The carbonation is full and festive on the palate, even though the airy white head dissipates rapidly in the glass. The finish is dry, with pleasant, mild hoppy character bringing just enough bitterness to make the beer refreshing and expressive. The finish is fairly long and focused.

Is Kolsch an Ale or a Lager Stange
Kölsch served in a traditional “Stange” glass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are also some of my favorite Kölsch from LOCAL BREWERIES AVAILABLE IN THE CHICAGO LAND AREA :

Metropolitan “Krankshaft”, Chicago, IL – soft and oldworld style.

Schlafly “Kölsch”, St Louis, MO – simple, direct, a fruitier version.

Half Acre “Den”, Chicago, IL – seasonal release, crisp and clean, with Saaz hops for an herbed earth glaze.

Revolution “Ghost Ride Kölsch Ale”, Chicago, IL – crisp, refreshing with some nice complexity and a wine-like quality.

John Palmer describes it as the “California beer of Germany”. I guess, I understand he means by that there is a direct, generous, fruity character along with brightness and more discernible hoppy character that is not the norm in the world of German beers. Rather, it could be considered as a style somewhat bridging classic old world to new world beers.

Is Kolsch an Ale or a Lager Kolschocal Midwest
Three Excellent Midwest Kölsch

Brewing Kölsch at home – the 5 mistakes to avoid

Kölsch is one of favorite beers, period. I love the genuine purity, simplicity about it. It’s definitely one of the most popular beers among home brewers, but making it right can be tricky and requires a certain practice.

Since a true Kölsch is a very simple beer in essence, meaning based on the most basic composition of ingredients, water, one or two styles of malted barley, noble German hops only (remember that Reinheitsgebot?), it’s all about balance and purity/ clarity.

1. Mashing without reaching enough attenuation. Knowing your malt or malt extract. You want to be around 80% apparent attenuation. Know your malt and follow the proper starch conversion schedule. A Beta-amylase conversion around 150°F, in infusion for 60 minutes will work to produce a drier beer. A higher temperature will perform a less fermentable wort, resulting in too much sweetness.

Beginners: extract brewing is advised. Chose a Pilsner Malt extract.

2. Boiling for 60 minutes with all-grain. A 90 minutes boil should be performed to help reduce DMS (the sulfur compound produced during fermentation) off flavors.

3. Hopping with varieties that are too aggressive, such as American hops, too bittering, citrus and spicy. Stick to noble German-like types. Saaz, Hallertau, Tettnang or Spalt are classic examples. Acceptable alternatives include Fuggles, Liberty, Mt. Hood, Willamette hops.

4. Not fermenting at the correct temperature. You want to ferment as cool as possible between 60-65°F with the proper yeast. White Lab WLP029 German Ale/ Kölsch and Wyeast 2565 Kölsch are recommended. This will produce a well attenuated beer with little estery character.

5. Bottling too early. Remember, after the primary fermentation has occurred,you are now lagering your Kölsch. This requires patience. 4 weeks around 45°F is the minimum if you want to obtain nice balance and flavors.

Suggested sustainable brewing practices

  1. Consider using organic malts, perhaps yeasts and hops too. BENEFITS: Better for your health, better for the earth, better for the farmer
  2. Recirculate your wort cooling water in an ice tub. BENEFIT: Saving water

What’s your experience of Kölsch?

I hope your enjoyed reading this post. I welcome any comments or questions you may have as I invite you to use the space below to share, in particular I would be interested in learning from you –

In your opinion, is Kölsch an Ale or a Lager? Why?

What’s your favorite Kölsch?

Also, do you have any Kölsch recipe you really like and any tips you would like to share about brewing this style of beer?

 

To our health, cheers!

 

Vincent

All grain brewing for beginners – what to know before getting started

For a beginner, complicated brewing techniques can be intimidating, and when it comes to all grain brewing, the whole process can seem a bit mysterious and scientific. This is why it is actually recommended getting STARTED WITH BREWING USING EXTRACTS. This way you will learn the basics of making beer in 6 easy steps – sanitation, boiling, chilling the wort, transferring the wort into the fermentation vessel, pitching the yeast, priming for conditioning and bottling. If you follow the instructions, use common sense and care, you will end up with good beer.

So, why going through the trouble and extra work of brewing all grain? There are in my opinion 4 main benefits of doing it.

  • COST
  • CREATIVITY
  • CONTROL THE SOURCING OF YOUR INGREDIENTS (ESPECIALLY ORGANIC)
  • BREW IN A BAG SOLUTION

In this article I will try to sum up the information I researched on all grain brewing for beginners, before you make the decision to get into it. If you are serious about making your own beer, this is ultimately the experience you are looking for.

The cost of all grain brewing versus extract brewing

You should consider two types of costs: EQUIPMENT and INGREDIENTS. Because when you go all grain brewing, YOU WILL HAVE TO DO THE MASHING YOURSELF – that first step during which the starch (80 to 90% of the malt) is converted into fermentable sugars, along with the already present maltose and other types of sugars – you will normally need additional gear, on the other hand, you will start from scratch with most likely malted grain.

THE START UP COST (EQUIPMENT) At this point you have two options to choose from for brewing all grain.

The traditional method is to mash by performing SPARGING, in which case you will need 3 vessels: the HLT (Hot Liquor Tank, in fact a jargon name for hot water tank), the MASH TUN and the BOIL KETTLE, or at least 2 vessels: one for boiling, one for mashing. This is when is become significantly more expensive.

Unless you want to make a high gravity beer, requiring extracting lots of malt from your grain to start with, you may use NO-SPARGE MASHING method. The most commonly used in the BREW IN A BAG (BIAB), an insignificant expense. The bag is also reusable.

Either or, you will also need a MALT MILL for all grain brewing.

All grain brewing for beginners startup costs

THE INGREDIENTS COST

Wether you use LIQUID or DRY EXTRACT, this will be twice as expensive as using MALTED GRAIN. This is when all grain brewing become really economically advantageous.

All grain brewing for beginners Ingredients cost

IN TERMS OF TIME, YOU MAY SAVE AN HOUR BREWING WITH EXTRACT

The ultimate satisfaction of brewing at home: creativity

One of the great benefits of all grain brewing is that you may select your own ingredients, to enjoy FREELY CREATING YOUR OWN BEER RECIPES, because you like VARIETY, and QUALITY.

Personally I love to cook, and this is perhaps why I’ve been drawn to trying to brew my own beer. If you are reading this, you are certainly passionate about trying different styles and ultimately you want to get the satisfaction of creating your own style. Once you master the basics – I am in the process of learning – you become more confident, because you understand the chemistry and you have enough technique to achieve producing quality. That’s where the joy of home brewing comes! (to somewhat quote home brewing guru Charlie Papazian).

You will find lots of recipe charts and calculators to help you plan your brew day, here is a good site I found with all the CALCULATORS to build a recipe.

The benefits of sourcing of your ingredients

Being environmentally conscious, one of the benefits of brewing all grain is to SOURCE ORGANIC MALTED GRAIN easier. The organic beer market itself is still very marginal, less than 5% – therefore finding organic beer ingredients can be challenging. However it is getting easier to source organic producers.

  • BRIESS Malt & Ingredients Co. based in Chilton, WI produces 11 different kinds of Certified Organic Malts and is committed to reduce its energy and consumption, to conserve water, uses only recyclable packaging, and works with local farmers and animal nutritionists to reuse wastes. This company works with many distributors in the USA and online vendors.
  • A new company, ORGANICBREWSUPPLIES is an online supplier based in Canada shipping to the Canada and the USA, offering all organic brewing ingredient kits, as well as organic malts, hops and yeasts.
  • BREWORGANIC.COM apparently is going to (re)open soon. The people behind this internet venture come from SEVEN BRIDGES ORGANIC BREWING SUPPLY, Santa Cruz, California that had to close recently. That company had been well-known in the brewers’ community. Stay tuned.

Another benefit of sourcing your own ingredients is DIVERSITY. Beyond the characteristics and classification of the different types of malts – base malt, specialty grains, non-barley malts … ultimately you want to know variety of grain you want to brew with to achieve the CHARACTER you like.

6 ROW MALTS were in the past higher yielding Barley varieties, consisting of less starch and more husk bringing more potential tannin, while 2 ROW MALTS have more starch and are potentially more mellow.

Grains are also classified according to their region of origin. Typically, European malts such as VIENNA or MUNICH have a clean, elegant character, while AMERICAN MALTS tend to have a milder, more neutral profile.

All grain brewing made easy – the Brew In A Bag solution

As mentioned earlier, getting started with all grain brewing is now easier and more affordable than ever. Here are five benefits of use a BIAB to prepare your wort from scratch.

  1. ONLY ONE KETTLE is needed equating to SMALLER INVESTMENT. The bag is reusable.
  2. SAVES YOU SOME STORAGE SPACE
  3. MAKES CLEAN UP EASIER. Just wash the bag.
  4. SAVES YOU TIME DURING MASHING. No sparging needed.
  5. ADAPTABLE. You may still decide to do sparging extracting more gravity. Exists in different sizes. 1 Gallon, 5 Gallon, or custom …

Be aware that brewing with a BIAB will require 25% to 30% more grain than with the traditional sparging method. Pressing the bag to drain it faster might extract more tannin, although, it’s an ongoing debate in the home brewing community, judging by the posts on different blogs I have read for this research.

Are you ready to go all grain?

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and I hope you now have more information to help you make the decision to brew all grain at home.

Flexibility, cost and quality of the ingredients (organic or not) are significant criteria, but above all creativity and independence are the main reasons why you want to do it.

Please leave a question or comments on this.

Cheers and to our health,

Vincent

Understanding the beer fermentation process

Before you get started with the exciting experience of crafting your own brew, you wonder what the basics of the beer fermentation process are and perhaps you are curious to learn what happens during the different steps of the production. This post is meant to sum up the basic mechanics of the process, described as it may be conducted at home. Please contribute to this article by sharing your experiences, comments and/ or questions.

The beer fermentation process 101

beer fermentation 101 flow chart

What is beer?

In very simple terms, beer is an “alcoholic beverage made from malted grain, flavored with hops and brewed by slow fermentation”

It is produced from 3 basic, pure ingredients:

  • Malted grain
  • Hops
  • Yeast

… and of, course water.

The beer fermentation process includes 4 basic operations:

  1. MASHING
  2. BOILING
  3. FERMENTING
  4. CONDITIONING

An important note on SANITIZING: After the wort has been boiled, it is critical to make sure all the equipment and containers are properly sanitized all along the whole process to avoid contamination, which would impair the action of the yeast and/ or affect the finished beer with undesirable flavors and aromas.

Mashing – the preparation of the wort

Brewing Beer Process Mashing

To occur, a fermentation needs sugars, yeasts and air. In beer making, sugars (mainly Maltose, with some Glucose and other types of sugar) come from the MALT (germinated cereal that is dried or roasted to different degrees). The sweet fermentation ready liquid is called WORT. It is extracted by the MASHING process.

It is recommended to start your first couple of brewing attempts from ingredient kits. By providing you directly with malt extract – dry or liquid, you won’t have to go through all the steps of making WORT. When you are more experienced, you will hopefully want to create your own beer recipes, using the ingredients of your choice.

To make WORT from scratch – here are the steps you’ll have to follow:

First, your MALT has to be crushed through the process of MILLING – resulting in what we call GRIST.

Then comes the MASHING itself, which is done by mixing the GRIST with warm water, releasing the sugars from the MALT.

To complete the preparation of the WORT, LAUTERING is performed. This consists in separating the grain from the MASH using water, a process referred to as SPARGING – and filtering the liquid. In home brewing a bag made of cloth, similar to cheese cloth may be used when the GRIST is soaked or steeped in the warm water, in this case no filtration is required.

Boiling – adding hops

Initially, the brewer would boil his WORT in order to kill any undesirable bacteria.

BOILING will reduce the amount of liquid to the target volume to be fermented.

A controlled temperature is necessary for the whole duration of the BOIL to extract the qualities and characteristics of the hop. Adding hop is referred to as HOPPING. Hop may be added at an early stage of the BOIL, to give more bitterness, or toward during the BOIL to give more flavors, or toward the end to give more aromas. DRY HOPPING refers to adding hop to the cooled WORT. Other flavorings such as spices, or sugar may be added too during the BOIL.

This step is particularly crucial during the beer making and requires special attention, as the temperature is key – a regular rolling boil is what you want, as you add ingredients to the WORT in home brewing, this is when you run the risk to boil over. To prevent this from happening, stirring the kettle as you start will help reduce the foaming. It will also prevent the MALT extract to caramelize at the bottom of the kettle.

The boil usually lasts for 60 minutes.

Fermenting – wort turning into beer, the yeasts doing the work

Beer Fermentation Process Krausen

Generally speaking – not only about beer – there are two different types of fermentation. The PRIMARY FERMENTATION (or ALCOHOLIC FERMENTATION) occurring by the action of the yeast cells, and the lactic acid fermentation occurring by the action of bacteria. Scientists a century ago discovered that enzymes (proteins promoting chemical reactions in cells) were actually responsible for fermentation, a transformation happening inside the yeast cells.

The PRIMARY FERMENTATION is the process that really transforms your WORT into BEER, now containing alcohol. This fermentation takes place in two different stages. In the first stage the glucose will be converted through glycolysis into pyruvic acid – an intermediate compound in the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins. In the second stage, in an environment with no oxygen, the pyruvic acid will be converted into ETHANOL (alcohol) and CO2.

To start its ALCOHOLIC FERMENTATION, the WORT needs to be chilled down to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The yeast is then PITCHED (or added). The type of yeast will determine at what temperature the FERMENTATION should occur. Typically an Ale is fermented between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and a Lager around 50 degrees.

The Alcoholic Fermentation may take between 4 days to sometimes up to 2 weeks, depending on the beer. A visual indicator of what stage of the fermentation you are at is the foamy, coarse head forming and bubbling on top of the beer, called KRAUSEN. It is caused by the growth of the yeast cells. At the end of fermentation the KRAUSEN falls.

A SECOND FERMENTATION is sometimes recommended to produce a clear beer, free of sediment, making a better beer, refining and polishing the taste.

The SECOND FERMENTATION is started when the PRIMARY is almost finished. It is important to make sure most of the yeast have been consumed but CO2 is still being, normally more slowly generated. Normally this is the case around day 4 or 5 of the beer alcoholic fermentation process. CO2 will protect your beer from oxidation and from obtaining off-flavors. At this point, the beer should be RACKED (transferred) into a container with smaller head space and stay there another week or two, before bottling. Lagers need more time to finish their fermentation, because it is performed at colder temperatures. Also beers with more sugar will take longer to ferment completely, because the remaining yeasts will struggle to eat all the sugar, being less active at a higher level of alcohol. The second fermentation may take 2 weeks or more. A Lager will need 6 to 8 weeks.

Conditioning – bottling or kegging

Beer Fermentation Process Bottling

This is the last step in beer making.

In home brewing, the most simple method is to BOTTLE your beer. At this point you have hopefully a clear, delicious beer. However, since most of the CO2 has escaped during the fermentation, it is quite flat. This is the reason why it should be CONDITIONED.

Right before BOTTLING, your beer will be primed with a mixture of sugar and water that will naturally re-ferment in the bottle. The CO2 produced will carbonate the beer and remain in the tightly capped bottle. It will take another 2 weeks at 70 to 75 degrees F. After that, the bottle can be chilled at 60 degrees F. or under to stabilize the beer.

A quicker alternative is to KEG your beer, a method in which you force the desired amount of CO2 into the keg filled with beer. For this you will need tap lines, a regulator (to control the carbonation), a CO2 cylinder, and a keg. Carbonation will typically take 2 to 3 days.

Both a craft and a natural process – further your understanding of fermentation

It’s easy to understand why brewing and fermenting is so exciting. The process combines the intervention of human work, tastes and skills – basically an art – with the work of natural elements interacting in a specific environment.

If you serious about drinking fresh, pure, healthy, and haven’t tried to brew your own yet, I strongly encourage you to start the journey.  This is so much FUN and SATISFYING.

A absolute must reading for beginners and more advanced brewers is the book by Charlie Papazian, Joy of Home Brewing. Go to my personal review of this “home brewer’s bible” for more information.

Cheers, and to our health!

 

Vincent