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Why do we….?

Oompa loompa brewingHave you ever asked yourself or been asked questions like “why do you mash your grains?” or “why do you aerate your wort?”. Me too. So I put together a short article that answers a few of these basic questions. This is not meant to be a chemistry tutorial. Just a few simple reasons for doing the things we do.

So, why do we….

Use malted barley?
Malted grains are seeds that have partially germinated. The malting process creates new enzymes and exposes starches needed for sugar conversion during the brewing process.

Mill our grain?
Milling the grain cracks the husks and exposes the starches so they can be converted to sugars during the mash process.

Heat water to strike temperature?
The strike temperature is based on the ultimate mash temperature and takes into account the mash-tun temperature transfer and existing grain temperature. The strike temperature is higher than the mash temp to account for the heat loss to the grains and the mash-tun.

Mash our grains?
Mashing is the process of soaking your grains at a specific temperature that allows the enzymes to convert the starches into fermentable sugars.
Why do we control the mash temperature?The mash temperature is set first and foremost to create an ideal environment to convert the starches to fermentable sugars. However, varying the temperature by only a few degrees will also affect the mouth feel/body of the finished product.

Sparging is simply the process of rinsing your grains to extract the highest yield of wort. This process takes place once your mash is complete and drained to the brew kettle. There are a couple different methods of sparging. 1) Batch sparging and 2) fly sparging. Batch sparging is probably the most commonly used method because of its simplicity. Simply mix your entire sparge volume into your grains and then allow the grains to come to a rest again. Then drain off the resulting wort. Fly sparging is the process of draining the initial wort from the mash-tun and simultaneously replacing it with your sparge water. It is said that fly sparging will result in a better yield.

Measure pre boil gravity?
The preboil gravity is used in your calculation of mash efficiency.

Determine mash efficiency?
Mash efficiency is simply measuring how efficient your process is in converting your grains into wort. For most brewers, a target of 75% is the goal. Most will calculate (or have it calculated) their mash efficiency simply to gauge how their process is working and if changes need to be made. Meaning, if you have a low efficiency then you are not getting a high conversion rate on your wort and your final product will not turn out as desired. It should be noted that you can compensate for low efficiency rates by adjusting your grain bill higher. The most common reason for low efficiency is an improper milling of the grains.

Boil the wort?
Boiling the wort serves several pruposes. 1) it concentrates the wort raising the gravity 2)sanitizes the wort, and 3) it isomerizes the alpha acids in you bittering hops.

Add hops?
Bittering – added to beginning of boil. Flavor and aroma characteristics are evaporated away leaving only bittering character.
Flavor – added to the boil about midway through the process. Less bittering and more flavor and aroma.
Aroma – Added at the end of the boil and solely for the purpose of adding to the aroma. Very little bittering or flavor is imparted in the wort.
Dry – Adding hops during the end fermentation process to elevate the aroma.

Chill the wort quickly?
Chilling the wort quickly does several things. 1) stops the production of DMS, 2) prevents chill haze, and 3) minimizes the possibility of contamination and oxidation.

Aerate the wort?
In order for yeast to grow and work its magic it needs oxygen. The boiling process removes the oxygen from the wort. So, in order to get a healthy fermentation you need to find a way to get it back into the wort. This can be done by using one of several methods. You can shake the daylights out of it, you can introduce it by using an aquarium pump and aeration stone, or you can use bottled oxygen and an aeration stone. The bottled oxygen is by far the easiest, fastest and most affective method.

Make a yeast starter?
For most beers, the yeast cell count found in the vial or smack pack just isn’t enough. Therefore, a yeast starter is used to jump start the yeast growth and increase the ultimate cell count.

Ferment the wort?
If you asked this question find another hobby….

Control the fermentation temperature?
Certain yeast strains behave differently at different temperatures. Therefore, making sure you are able to maintain that constant optimal temperature is crucial in ensuring that the yeast behaves as it’s supposed to and produces the desired characteristics.

Condition the beer?
When you condition the beer you are allowing the remaining active yeast cells to “clean up” and carbonate the beer. Those remaining active yeast cells are continuing to munch on the byproducts created by the initial primary fermentation. This process starts immediately following the primary fermentation and finishes up in either a keg or a bottle.



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