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Equipment & Ingredients

Basic Beer Ingredients:

Beer has four basic ingredients: malted barley, water, hops, and yeast. The combination of these primary ingredients determines the flavor, aroma, color and alcohol content of the beer.

During the beermaking process, the barley and hops are boiled in water. This resulting mixture is called the wort. Later, once the wort has cooled, yeast is added to cause fermentation.

1. Malted Barley

Malted barley is the heart and soul of craft beers and home beers. Roasted in a range of flavors and colors, malted barley can be found in light pilsners, full-bodied amber ales and dark stouts.

Generally, there are 3 kinds of malt: Pale malt, plain malt and roasted malt. Only pale malt contains the malt sugar which is fermentable. Plain malt is used for flavoring. Roasted malt adds color characteristics to stouts and porters.

Some beginning homebrewers start by using malt extract, where the process of mashing the grain and converting the carbohydrates to sugars is already done for you. Malt extract can be dry or liquid. Some malt extracts have also been hopped for you, so you don't have to go through the step of adding bittering hops.

Use of malt extract is not limited to novices however. Brewmaster and author Charlie Papazian, who has brewed over 500 batches of beer, says he still uses malt extract about 80 percent of the time.

Malt Extract

2. Water

Water quality is an important aspect of beer brewing. Homebrewers will have to determine the suitability of their water. The general rule governing water flavor is that if you can not smell the water, it is fine for making beer.

Common tap water can be fine for making beer but a purifier may be needed to remove chlorine in the water.

Other ingredients may help water quality. Gypsum, for example, helps in the clearing of a beer.


3. Hops

Hops are cone-shaped flowers that grow on vines. They are an essential ingredient in beer brewing that adds flavor and aroma, bitterness and a quenching effect.

Hops are rated on a scale of bitterness. The higher the rating, the more bitter the beer will taste.

Different hops are used to influence beers, giving the beers varied taste profiles. Mid-range hops such as Hollertau and Saaz are the most popular.

Varieties of Hops


4. Yeast

Yeast is a key ingredient that causes alcohol formation in beer as well as natural carbonation.

Yeast comes in hundreds of varieties, but beer is most commonly made with ale yeast or lager yeast. Ale yeast is used in beer that is fermented at higher temperatures, whereas lager yeast ferments in colder temperatures.

Yeast can be bought in packets or in liquid form at a homebrew supply store.


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