There’s one question I seem to get all the time: what chemistry is involved in brewing beer?
Surprisingly, it’s not all that complicated, and you certainly don’t need a college diploma to be able to brew beer. As you get into brewing though, this will help you sort of understand what is happening as you mix the ingredients together.
First on the list of core chemicals is a common one known as water.
Typically purified water is used to make a high quality beer, although demineralized water is not necessarily desired as certain minerals in the water will help boost the flavor of the beer. This is caused by having the right amount of calcium or the right amount of acidity (low pH value).
Malt is next, which is made from barley by letting the grains germinate.
After germination, it is dried or roasted. Various treatments to the grains, including the severity of the roasting, will affect the darkness of the beer. Enzymes are created during the germination stage, and those enzymes will later convert the starch in the grains into sugar for the yeast to digest.
During the grain steep, the water and heat combine with the malt which causes the enzymes to break down the barley grain starches into sugars. There are proteins in the malt as well, and these break down into nitrogen compounds.
Both these nitrogen compounds and amino acids have a major influence on the color, texture, flavor, and quality of the beer.
The boiling and addition of hops contribute resins to the mixture, adding lots of flavors and aromas to the beer. Syrups and other sugars can be added at this stage to flavor the beer and increase the sugar content.
Fermentability is key when adding other sugars at this point.
Cooling the boiled hops and wort allows the yeast to be added without dying on contact with a high temperature mixture. The yeast digests the sugars which produces CO2 and ethanol alcohol. Flavor is also produced based upon what yeast is used. Yeast is actually just a fungus that is very good at breaking down the sugars. The creamy and frothy head of a beer is entirely due to yeast.
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