The alcohol that you have been drinking at the pub on weekends, or at your friend’s house, be it a beer or a wine, has been through a stringent process to go from where it was, to where it’s now, inside your glass. Many people may have heard about the process of fermentation, but very few know what it entails.
Knowing how your beer got into your glass, may give you some sense of appreciation for it, and who knows, perhaps even attract you to the prospect of trying to make your homemade brew in your garage, just like many have done and become famous for it. So, for all those enthusiasts out there who just love that flavor of beer or wine, you are about to be entertained by some detailed information regarding how the experts do it and what they use.
The Process Of Fermentation
Let’s take a step back for a second and tap into when it all began. The idea behind this process exploded during the 18th and 19th centuries, not just with the manufacturer of beverages, but also with that of food making.
According to popular publication Forbes, it grew to a staggering 149% in 2018 and has continued to grow tremendously over the years. As mentioned in this article, the natural process itself has been around since 10,000 BCE. And with it comes the benefits of probiotics, which in itself is one of the best things you can include in your diet, for your gut health.
In a nutshell, the process uses various additives such as yeast, bacteria and mold, to preserve the food and drinks, but it is not as simple as this. It is a time-consuming and meticulously prepared method that can take up to months to bring fruitful results.
So, during the brewing process of your traditional beer, fermentation uses certain types of ‘sugars’ that are converted into carbon dioxide, alcohol and heat during its making. These sugars are extracted mainly from plant sugars, malted barley and cereals. When combined, they add various flavors, aromas and additives to the liquids.
As an age-old method of manufacturing alcohol, was also used to preserve items such as milk, and yogurt, which is what is known today as essential microflora in the form of fermented yogurt or ‘Kefir’. In itself, this has many health benefits such as a rich source of nutrients: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-health-benefits-of-kefir#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1 and is more powerful than most other probiotics. It also has antibacterial properties and may help to improve our bone health and many health conditions caused by aging such as Osteoporosis.
Three Main Stages of Beer Fermentation and Manufacturing
Back to the beer then, there are three common stages during the art of any beer-making process.
Preparation of wort and waiting: this is a substance that comprises mainly of the sugars, as mentioned above, using cereals rich in starch, with the help of other sources such as sulfur, oxygen, nitrogen and phosphates. Additional ingredients are added to this and may contain trace elements of zinc and copper, magnesium ions, calcium and biotin. The quantities will vary depending on the type of beer to be produced. The result is ‘worts’ which are typically known in the beer industry as ‘yeast nutrients’
The higher the temperature when heating these elements, the higher the activity of the enzymes present in them, which in turn increases the fermentable sugars and increases the oxygen present in them. Too much oxygen may lead to a stronger brew.
Once the oxygenated wort is produced, it builds an environment that is rich in microbes. Once the development begins the yeast cells start to multiply rapidly, and they consume oxygen while doing this. To tell when this starts happening, your beer will start producing a white foam on the top layer When you pour beer into a glass, the white foam you see on the surface is similar to how this looks. It starts with small white circles then progresses into a thick white foam.
This would usually start happening within the first 24 hours and most ales are created this way. If you wait longer, for instance, another 24 hours and nothing is happening then you may have missed something or caused an error with the ingredients. Checking the temperature is one way to tell if you may have made a mistake.
The Thick foam: this is the second stage where the primary fermentation takes place, from small circles, this becomes a thick white foam, as well as bubbles starting to form on the surface. These then begin to pop, so covering the mixture is advisable. At this stage, you can also start to smell the familiar smell of alcohol.
A ring of dark resin should now be present and this is now your yeast, protein, dead cells and hop oils combining. Some breweries remove this dark resin layer, while others tend to leave it. It all depends on preference and the type of ale you want to produce.
The last stage: this is the stage where you can either start bottling it or leave it for another couple of days to further enhance its profile. When making batches, however, many breweries leave theirs for weeks to gain a richer, darker result, which is most known as a lager in most pubs and restaurants.
To work out the percentage of alcohol in the brew you can read here for an elaborated version and also, there is a simple formula which goes:
ABV = (OG – FG) x 131 + 0.5 (from the sugars)
Where ABV is – alcohol by volume
OG – original gravity
FG – final gravity
In the industrial sectors and for commercial purposes, many breweries use not one, but many different types of fermentation vessels or tanks. We look at a few of the different ones below.
Three Main Types of Brewery Tanks
Open Square Fermenters
This is one of the types of vessels that allows for the liquids to be brewed in the open air. They are square and large enough to brew for commercial purposes. The professional brewers can see what’s going on inside without it being covered. Thereby keeping an eye on things in real-time. These are still being used in many countries including the UK, Belgium and Germany.
However, these are becoming less common in many other parts of the world, the reason being the rooms they are placed in isn’t always accommodating and custom-made rooms need to be created to hold these in them. The rooms also need to be quite large to allow for airflow as well as to clean the tanks once everything is completed. If this is not done then there is a risk of carbon-dioxide build up in the room and the beer.
The most common of the lot is the cylindrical tanks. Which are closed and are advantageous in keeping the carbon dioxide from escaping. It is also the easier option for controlling the temperature, and is also known as the ‘unitank’: https://abs-commercial.com/10-bbl-fermenter/ reason for this is because of their shape which looks like a cone at the bottom and a cylinder on top. This is designed specifically to make it easy to remove any excess yeast once the fermentation process is complete.
It is a great option for aging alcohol and there are many high-quality types made using stainless steel available on the market, as the open-air ones are slowly being ruled out.
The third option of the three is the wooden barrels which you would have seen in many wine manufacturers’ warehouses and basements. This is a typical English brewing style and has been around since the Victorian era. This age-old way of fermenting alcohol involves placing the mixture combined with yeast into wooden barrels to let it age, however, this is not similar to the barrel-aged beer which is first aged and then placed inside the barrels.
Similarly, to how wine takes on the taste of the wood, the beer placed in these vessels does the same. It has the added benefit of enhancing its flavors and terpenes through the wood, yielding a more complex result. This is however a very limited format for many manufacturers, so unless you’re a connoisseur in this particular process it’s best to steer clear of it.
There you have it, the next time you choose to DIY the idea of starting your beer factory or brewery, you can choose any of the above ways to do it.