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.
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,
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).
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.
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
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!
Malt is the backbone of your beer. As a rule of thumb, the weight of malt needed accounts for 95 to 98% of the total weight of your dry ingredients. Without malt, there wouldn’t be any beer. Knowing your malt types is essential when brewing all grain. It’s also useful to understand what particular characteristics a given malt extract will impart your finished beer when brewing with an ingredient kit.
In this article, we’ll review
what are the BASIC CHARACTERISTICS of malt, and HOW MALT IS PRODUCED
what TYPES OF CEREAL VARIETIES may be used for malting
BASE MALTS, SPECIALTY MALTS and how to use them
brewing MALT TYPES – why CHOSING ORGANIC?
How is malt produced? – essential characteristics to know
Malt is cereal that is germinated to a certain point – process being controlled by drying and/ or roasting the resulting grain. This process will develop different types of SUGARS, SOLUBLE STARCHES and ENZYMES, necessary for brewing beer.
Malt production is delicate and takes up to 5 days of several steps. The grain, after being tested for viability (ability to germinate) spends 3 intervals of 8 hours in fresh water tanks, drained between each interval. When the moisture content reaches 40 to 45%, the grain goes into germination rooms that are kept at a constant temperature of about 60°F for 5 days or so. At that point, the grain is dried with air and turned to prevent the rootlets to get entangled. We now have what is referred to as “green malt” which will undergo a further kilning (drying) over a period of 2 to 3 days, with progressively raising temperatures to 120°F – for Lager malts to 220°F for more intensely flavored malts. After removing the rootlets from the grain the malt is now ready for brewing.
What happened during the malting process – a NATURAL PROCESS, used by the maltster – is that the starch, the plant’s stored food will be converted into soluble starches and different kinds of sugars under the action of enzymes generated by the plant during germination.
ENZYMES are molecules (typically, a certain type of proteins) that react to create other substances. They are activated by certain conditions. Enzymes are essential to the beer brewing process. They are developed during malting and convert starch to sugar during mashing. See the whole fermentation process in my previous previous post. Enzymes will further break down proteins in beer, improving foam potential and clarity during a mashing stage called the protein rest occurring between for 20 to 30 minutes between 120 and 140°F
A malted barley composition is:
Soluble starches 82-88%
Fermentable sugars 12-18%
Sucrose less than 1%
The starch-to-sugar modification process is controlled and may be more or less complete, depending on the degree of proteins the maltster desires to retain in the malt. A highly modified malt will have more AMINO ACIDS (yeast nutrients) and less complex proteins, and a higher fermentation potential. A under modified malt will have more complex proteins and will require a protein rest during mashing to develop its proportion of amino acids.
Your preferred brewing malt types – varieties and origin
You can brew beer with many kinds of cereals, including wheat, rye, oats, corn and rice. For example, brown rice and white sorghum maybe used to brew GLUTEN-FREE beers. I have even actually tasted a beer in France made from green lentils! Actually made in Sancerre … go figure.
The reason why barley by far has been the most popular grain used for beer brewing is because – it’s easy to grow and easy to be malted, it’s versatile and tastes better.
There are two types of barley for brewing, identified by the number of rows around which the kernels are arranged in the plants’ heads.
The 6-row barley has been predominantly used in North America because of its high yields. Its kernels are thinner and it contains a higher percentage of proteins and enzymes, for that reason it can be mashed with adjuncts like rice and corn without affecting the starch-to-sugar conversion. It also produces a grainier, potentially more tannic beer because of its amount of husk.
The 2-row barley appears as plumper, having less husk. It is preferred in Europe and has a fuller, maltier taste.
There are many varieties of both types. Each single variety possesses particular POTENTIAL GRAVITY (richness in alcohol and sugar), individual FLAVORS, BODY (tannin and texture), they all have a unique character, depending on their place of origin – North American malts may have a grassier and earthier profile although fairly neutral, while British malts are described as more bready, biscuity, and German malts are more herbal and phenolic. These characteristics are attributed to what we may call terroir.
Base malts vs Specialty malts – how to use them
A home brewer will work with two basic types of malts: base – and specialty malt.
A base malt is what is able to provide both the SUGAR needed for fermentation and the FREE AMINO NITROGEN (FAN) needed to feed the yeasts. FAN is a degradation of proteins occurring during the malting process. The base malt also brings carbohydrates, proteins and enzymes, it accounts for 60 to 100% of the brewing malt in a beer recipe. It contributes to a mild flavor as it is lightly kilned.
Here are the most popular base malt
PILSNER MALT – light color, delicate, traditionally used in German and Czech Pilsners
PALE MALT – the most common base malt. Light color and versatile to any style of beer.
PALE ALE MALT – the malt of choice for any kind of ale, from pale ale/ IPA to stout and porter. it is by itself slightly deeper colored and more malty.
VIENNA MALT – slight more kilned than other base malts, therefore it is darker and maltier, but still have rich enzyme components on its own. It is used in Oktoberfest or Vienna Lagers.
MÜNICH MALT – the darkest of the base malts, the more the malt is kilned, the less enzymatic qualities it has retained and may need to be complemented by lighter base malts. This is a good malt to make Münich Dunkel, Bock, Dark Larger.
A specialty malt will add color, sweetness and toastiness to your beer, and having little enzymatic activity, it will need to be used as a part of the mash bill. Some popular specialty malts include:
CARAMEL & CRYSTAL MALTS – caramel malt is the generic term referring to the concentration of the sugars contained in the malt produced either by kilning or roasting. Crystal malts are obtained only by roasting, and are a type of caramel malts. Cara-pils is a very light caramel malt contributing primarily to head retention and sweetness.
BISCUIT MALT – dark malt with a cracker or biscuit flavor
BLACK MALT – to be used as an adjunct for making stouts and dark beers. It will also lower your beer PH
Selecting your organic malt
Ultimately, this is what I am interested in. One of the important reason to brew all grain besides creating your own recipes is to source QUALITY MALTS, with transparent origins and methods of production.
These are GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH, because chemical free.
They are better for the ENVIRONMENT, because they are the products of natural, sustainable farming.
Yes, it is a little extra effort to research and purchase from organic producers, but well worth it. SUPPORT A LOCAL FARMERS.
As I am on the beginning of this organic home brew journey myself, I am continuously learning about better supply sources and opportunities. I am working on a list that I cannot wait to SHARE WITH YOU.
Almost infinite beer brewing possibilities
I hope you found this article helpful for you to understand the differences between the many brewing malt types. I hope you find the amazing all the possibilities available to you for creating the beer styles you like to drink.
More to come soon on where to buy directly and easily organic malts.
If you have any requests as far as type and origin of malts you are looking for, please let me know. And as always, your comments and questions are welcome.
The modern organic beer movement started in Germany in 1979, when Pinkus-Müller Brauerei produced the first all-organic beer in recent times, in response to the declining quality of industrial malt. Today the worldwide organic beer market is on the rise, even though it is not mainstream yet, it counts hundreds of breweries and is estimated to grow by close to 7% every year on average by 2025 – according the World Research Future. In this post we’ll look at WHAT TO LOOK FOR when sourcing organic beer ingredients, WHAT BENEFITS are associated to those, TIPS ON FINDING them – without listing producers and suppliers (this will be the subject of a separate post), lastly we’ll speak about USING SPENT INGREDIENTS, as they are great to contribute to your kitchen or garden.
What are organic beer ingredients?
Organic brewing means that you are using only the 4 pure natural basic ingredients needed to make beer, according to the traditional German beer “law of purity” known as “Reinheitsgebot” … a Bavarian law dating back to 1516:
Water, Malt, Hop, and Yeast.
Excluding the use of any additives found in commercial beers such as artificial coloring (blue #1, red#40, yellow #5, caramel ammonia, insect based dyes), high fructose corn syrup, GMO sugar, MSG, many types of sulfites, animal based clarifiers, foam control chemicals (glyceryl monostearate), carrageenan, propylene glycol … just to name a few of allowed but clearly harmful chemicals. As shocking as it may sound, in the USA, the FDA does not require any ingredient labeling for beer!
WATER – its environmental quality cannot be certified. It depends on your local supply. I encourage you to know how clean your local water is. The EWG (Environment Working Group) in America has published records on water testing in your area, you may find them here. Always use filtered water with a good system. Reverse osmosis being the best water treatment available at home, carbon filtration is a solid second option. It is most breweries preferred filtration system.
MALT – This is the main ingredient used in brewing. The plants should be certified NON-GMO, free of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and non-irradiated. The most common organic certification in America is approved by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture). The nationwide organic agency Oregon Tilth goes further by educating and organizing the market place while offering certification.
HOP – So far, organic hop has rarely been used at the corporate brewery level since “ORGANIC BEER” may be produced with only 95% organic ingredients as opposed to “100% ORGANIC BEER”. Today, hop producers have organized with an Association called American Organic Hop Grower Association (AOHGA) to promote organic farms and breweries. Associate members include Sierra Nevada, Wolaver, Peak …
YEAST – Organic yeast is free of synthetic chemicals, GMO sugars, petroleum-based chemicals, and other unnatural ingredients. Yeasts are cells that belong to the fungi family which includes mold. They can be found everywhere in nature, but they are especially present on fruits and other plants. There are many species of yeasts. The most commonly known is called Saccharomyces Cervisiae and is the widely used the beer industry under many different yeast strains. Besides their chemical function of producing alcohol and CO2 by “eating” sugars, yeasts may also produce in the end product secondary (by-products of the fermentation) aromas and flavors, classified as ESTERS or PHENOLS. Esters are generally desirable and fruit-related, whereas phenols are generally undesirable off flavors and aromas with medicinal or smokey character. Industrial beers rely may rely on artificial yeasts to produce a certain flavor profile, recognizable by its aggressive character.
The benefits of using all organic ingredients
SELECTING CERTIFIED ORGANIC INGREDIENTS above all, gives you a guarantee of QUALITY, and INFORMATION about the products you will ultimately consume. The producer is committed and passionate about his job. To be certified means to follow precise and strict regulations. Because organic producers are often independent farmers, they are more directly accessible. The organic community wants to be by definition responsible and transparent in the long term.
GENUINE TASTE. Assessing taste is a complex and subjective task. However, because organic crops are grown using composts and manure, they have different nutrient than conventional crops relying on synthetic fertilizers, therefore affecting the concentration and complexity of sugars and compounds, affecting the flavors. Working with fresh, local ingredients will definitely allow you to have access to ingredients that are intense, pure and have character. These ingredients should inspire you and give you a sense of appreciation for concepts of season and place.
BETTER FOR YOUR HEALTH. Yes, good beer is nutritious: it is a source of protein and vitamin B, with anti-oxidants comparable to those found in wine, and contains minerals essential to a healthy diet – riboflavin, niacin, zinc, potassium, calcium and phosphorus. Beer also has amazing health benefits such as anti-cancer properties, reducing the risk of cardio-vascular diseases, increasing bone density, helping prevention of dementia and coronary diseases, aiding the digestive system, delaying aging, treating diabetes, kidney stones, hypertension, reducing stress and being a diuretic. Should I say more? Beer is good for you.
BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT. Farming organically improves soil fertility, increases biodiversity, reduces the impact of harmful chemicals, reduces the carbon footprint with fewer ingredients being imported or transported over long distances.
HELPING LOCAL GROWERS. Organic producers are not exposed to harmful chemicals. The idea of working in a sustainable way also promotes fair trade practices.
Finding organic ingredients easily
Sourcing organic beer ingredients is getting easier! Thanks to the growing movement of environmentally conscious producers and consumers worldwide.
The purpose of this post is not to provide you with links to source ingredients. This will be the object of a future article. Stay tuned!
Spent ingredients management
As an environment conscious community we aim to reduce waste.
One of the benefits of sourcing organic ingredients is that you will be able to use them beyond the brewing process. A few ideas include:
MAKING BREAD with the used mash. It still contains lots of fibers and nutrients, such as proteins, and even some minerals. You will need to dry the grain in your oven at low temperature (170°) for several hours. Grind it obtain flour and bake according to your recipe, and … serve it with the beer you produced with it.
VINEGAR may be made from a batch gone bad. Add 16 oz of raw apple cider vinegar with the mother to 48 oz of beer in a glass jar in a dark place at room temperature. Vinegar needs air, so make sure you have enough air in your container and simply cover it with a towel. It takes about 4 to 6 weeks.
COMPOSTING. Spent grain contains lots of Nitrogen and should be mixed with carbon-rich materials like wood chips, grass clippings, leaves to avoid a smelly decomposition. Also make sure you turn your compost over to bring oxygen.
MAKING DOGS’ TREATS. You can find different recipes online with spent barley. Important: Just do not feed your dog hop, or grain that has been in contact with hop, as it is highly toxic to its system.
Well worth the effort – where to go from there?
I believe quality beer is produced with ingredients that are best when sourced locally and farmed organically. The market for organic ingredients is still a minority, but is emerging steadily and significantly as people are becoming more HEALTH CONSCIOUS and recognize the benefits of SUPPORTING A LOCAL SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY. I believe sourcing organic ingredients will allow to produce beer with INTEGRITY, CHARACTER AND TASTE.
Of one the goals of this website is to help you to source your own ingredients, so please contact me, and I will be more than happy to direct you to vendors you can trust.