Beers and Whiskeys

Beers are fermented products made from cereal grains. Grains store starch (a long-chain molecule made by stringing together large numbers of sugar molecules) as an energy supply. Starch is not fermentable but, when it is broken down, many of the resulting sugars are. Allowing the grain to sprout (called "malting") creates enzymes that break down the starch into sugars and shorter-chained sugar polymers (dextrins).

When this mixture (called a "mash" while it contains the grains, or a "wort" if the liquid portion is separated from the grains) is fermented, the product is known as a beer. When a beer is distilled, the product is known as whiskey. Beer intended for whiskey making is often fermented as a mash rather than a wort, because the distillation process will separate out the starch, proteins and other contents that are not desirable in a beer intended for drinking.

Extracts of malted grain are highly nutritious, for yeast as well as for people! Malt extract is in fact almost the ideal environment for yeast - lots of sugars, lots of vitamins and minerals, and buffers (mixtures of compounds which keep the pH within a comfortable range during the fermentation). Consequently, beer fermentation may be quite rapid. However, being slightly acidic and well-buffered at pH 4.5 to 5.5, malt extract is also an ideal food for other undesirable microorganisms, and beers can be easily spoiled by insufficient sanitation.

Wort is almost always boiled vigorously as the first step to making a beer, to coagulate the excess proteins that would cloud the beer and to kill all the bacteria present in it. After it is cooled, a large quantity of the desired yeast is added, and fermentation proceeds for a few days to a few weeks, depending upon temperature. For the homebrewer, the most common fermentation vessel is a 20 liter (5 US gallon) glass carboy. This is a convenient size, is easy to clean and sanitize, and can easily be fitted with an airlock to keep oxygen out while allowing carbon dioxide to escape.

Brew Your Own Beer

Brew Your Own Beer

Discover How To Become Your Own Brew Master, With Brew Your Own Beer. It takes more than a recipe to make a great beer. Just using the right ingredients doesn't mean your beer will taste like it was meant to. Most of the time it’s the way a beer is made and served that makes it either an exceptional beer or one that gets dumped into the nearest flower pot.

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