Beer Testing Supplies: What You Need to Make Beer

Humans and beer share a long, storied relationship that reaches back over millennia. Archeologists have discovered 10,000-year-old evidence of brewing in what's now western Iran, and the Chinese were brewing kui from fruit, rice and honey in 7000 BCE. By around 3500 BCE, cultures across northern Africa, South America and Europe were brewing farso, chica and ale from teff, maize and oats.

In some areas, beer was an elite drink, enjoyed only by those who could afford it. In other parts of the world, beer was an essential part of the daily menu and served as a source of calories for the working class.

Beer has long been a catalyst that brings communities together and has played a key role in trade. Though the drink comes in a range of flavors and styles, the brewing process uses four basic ingredients and follows fundamental steps. However, despite its near-ubiquity, the brewing and beer analysis process remains a mystery to many.

Below, see the beer making and testing process from start to finish:

Malting and Mashing

Today's beer is made from four ingredients:

  • Grain: Usually barley, wheat, oats or rye
  • Hops: The dried flowers of Humulus lupulus, a perennial vine native to Asia, Europe and North America
  • Water
  • Yeast

First, the grain of choice must be malted. Harvested grains are taken to a malt house where they're soaked in water until they germinate or sprout. The malting process utilizes a naturally occurring substance known as amylase — an enzyme that aids in the process of digestion — to break down starches.

Next, the malted grains are dried and roasted in a kiln, a step that helps determine the beer's taste and color. Grains crack as they heat and dry, isolating enzymes. The dried grains are then run through a grist mill, crushing them together and cracking open their hulls to release more enzymes and fermentable sugars. The end product is known as grist or, if more than one type of grain is used, grist bill.

Now, the mashing process begins. The grist is mixed with water and heated to temperatures from 100 to 170 degrees F. The mixture, now known as liquor, is left to steep for an hour or two, during which time enzymes start breaking down starches and converting them into sugars that will eventually become alcohol. Brewers use temperature levels and times to manipulate the release of proteins and fermentable sugars, which affect factors such as taste and foam consistency.

Now, only a sticky liquid remains. Known as wort, it's packed with sugars from the grains.

Lautering and Boiling

The lautering process separates the wort from the spent grains and involves three steps. First, the mashout: The wort is heated to about 170 degrees F, which stops the enzyme reactions without harming the fermentable sugars. Next, the wort is recirculated and filtered. Finally, the spent grain is rinsed with heated water to glean as much sugar as possible from the husks, a process known as sparging.

Now, the filtered wort must be sterilized through a controlled boil in a kettle. During the boil, which takes an hour or two, the brewer adds flavoring, usually in the form of hops. These small flowers act as a natural preservative while adding bitterness, taste and scent to the beer, depending on when they're added to the boil.

As a general rule, hops added at the start of the boil add more bitterness. When added mid-boil, hops add flavor, and when added during late boil, hops impart both flavor and aroma.

When the boil is finished, the wort is whirlpooled, or spun, until the malt and hop particles separate. Some brewers choose to add hops at this stage for even more aroma. The wort is now ready for cooling and fermentation.

Fermentation, Maturation and Beer Testing

After placing the strained wort in a fermentation tank, the brewer pitches (adds) yeast when the liquid reaches an optimal temperature. Yeast converts glucose (sugar) to ethanol alcohol and carbon dioxide, which can be used to produce the carbonated fizz of the finished beer.

Yeast type and temperature determine the type of beer that's produced. Wort treated with ale yeast, which rises to the top of the tank, usually sits for a few weeks at room temperature, or about 60 to 68 degrees F. Wort treated with lager yeast, which sinks to the bottom of the tank, sits for many weeks at cooler temperatures, usually about 50 degrees F.

After fermentation, the beer is filtered, then it must rest. The conditioning or maturation process lasts from one to six weeks.

Now comes an essential step: testing the beer for unwanted microorganisms. Beer analysis identifies a wide range of spoilage microorganisms, all of which can produce undesirable flavors if allowed to grow unchecked. It's key to only allow the desired strain of brewer's yeast to grow in the beer to ensure proper taste.

At this point, the beer is “flat.” Carbonation can be forced by adding CO2, or the beer can be bottled, then allowed to sit until fizz forms naturally.

Learn About Weber Scientific

Humans have been enjoying the flavors and aroma of beer for thousands of years, and though the basic steps in the brewing process remain the same, beer testing has evolved with the times. Weber Scientific offers beer testing supplies and tools to ensure both safety and pleasant taste.

Weber Scientific's beer testing tools ensure that only the right strains of brewer's yeast grow in the wort. Why does this matter? Wort's high sugar content means it is a friendly medium for the yeasts that convert sugars into alcohol, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast for ales and S. pastorianus for lagers. But those high sugar levels mean wort is an ideal home for other, less desirable microorganisms as well.

Certain types of bacteria thrive in wort, imparting unpleasant flavors to the finished beer. These contaminants include Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, which give beer a sour taste, and Acetobacter and Gluconobacter, which produce an acidic flavor. Beer analysis helps ensure that only the desired yeast is present in the wort, resulting in better-tasting beer.

To learn more about beer testing supplies, please visit Weber Scientific online!