Grain, and how it becomes beer


Image by: Jinx!

How does a cold glass of murky bitter hops water with no alcohol content sound? Refreshing? Without any grains this is what the process of brewing would likely produce and according to The Reinheitsgebot, the product isn’t legally beer.Grain is the main source of fermentable sugars in beer and is the most important aspect of brewing. Fermentable sugars in the grain are broken down in a two-part process which starts with the farmer.

Grain farmers will “malt” the grain by first soaking it in water and then slow drying it in a special kiln designed to make the grain start sprouting and in turn breaks down some of the complex sugars in the grain. This is where the brewing process really starts. Brewers and Homebrewers take the malted grain, crack the grain open to expose the sugars, and then soak the grain in generally 145-155 degrees F. This process activates enzymes that will break down the complex sugars into simple sugars ready for the yeast to make alcohol.

There are four main categories of grain for the all-grain brewer to produce the desired type of beer.

  1. Base Malt: Generally makes up at least 60% of the grains, is light in color and high in enzymes.
  2. Crystal Malts: These grains are roasted wet to varying degrees of darkness to provide light to dark caramel color and flavoring in the beer.
  3. Flaked additions(oaks, barley, wheat): These grains are unmalted and instead are pressed under hot rollers to preserve proteins that affect mouth feel and beer head. These additions are responsible for unique mouth feel such as the creamy and silky mouthfeel common in stouts.
  4. Roasted Grains: These grains are cooked at a much higher temperature than the Crystal Malts and for a much longer time period. These give the dark coffee, cocoa nad other dark flavors common in stouts to the beer.

Proof of concept: Go out and try an Oatmeal Stout, and analyze the mouth feel you get from it. Is it different than a normal beer? If so what are your impressions?


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