What does brow mean

THE BREWING PROCESS: How does it actually work?

Please summarize in an understandable way: How does brewing actually work? Sure, there is something about mash and hops and tank - but how does the brewing process work exactly, step by step? We explain it.

The brewing process usually takes almost exactly one day. One working day. If everything goes as it should. That is why one speaks of the bridal day. However, weeks pass before you can drink the finished beer.

The photographer Alex Mahfoudh accompanied Thorsten Schoppe in the Pfefferbräu in Berlin for a day of brewing and documented every single brewing step. The main steps of the brewing process, which also bring the individual beer ingredients together, are:

  • Mashing (malt and water)
  • Cooking (hops)
  • Fermentation (yeast)

From the malt store into the grist mill into the kettle

In the beginning is the grain. The germinated grain, that is, the malt. The brewer usually stores this in sacks somewhere in his brewery. On the morning of the brewing day, maybe even the evening before, he grinds the malt, in other words, he breaks open the shells of the malt grains with a mill, the grist mill. Everything, the inner starch of the malt grains and their shells, the husks, then go into the mash tun. Sometimes brewers haul sacks from the grist mill to the brewing plant for this purpose, usually there are conveyor belts that transport the crushed malt into the kettle.

In the mash tun

In the mash tun, malt and water come together. Often at the same time, water makes the start and it is important that the agitator runs in the bottom of the vat, otherwise the mash will stick.
Mashing removes starch from the malt. When the mash pulp is heated, enzymes are activated that break it down into fermentable and non-fermentable sugars. So if you quickly think one step ahead: the yeast later turns the fermentable sugars into alcohol, the non-fermentable ones remain as sweetness in the beer. It is therefore clear that the mashing process sets the course for how the finished beer tastes.
The brewer mainly influences the mashing process by controlling the temperature and inserting “pauses” in which the temperature is kept constant for a certain period of time before it continues to rise.

There are also screens in craft breweries that show what is happening. (Photo: AM)

Brewing process expert knowledge to remember quickly:

  • During the Maltose rast (62-67 degrees Celsius) the beta-amylases are particularly active, fermentable sugars are formed
  • During the Gluckoserast (68-76 degrees Celsius) alpha-amylases mainly produce non-fermentable sugars
  • There is also one more Protein rest (at 45 degrees Celsius), in which proteins are broken down, which improves the clarity and shelf life of the beer and the beauty of its foam

Mashing takes about an hour. Then it's mashed: the brewer turns the temperature up again (to 75 degrees) and the enzymes say goodbye to the afterlife. Off the mouse. Now it can be purified, i.e. the liquid can be separated from the solid. As a rule, this happens in the lauter tun, the kettle next to it. It has a sieve in the bottom through which the wort, i.e. the liquid that remains from the mashing, can flow off. What is sometimes confusing: First, the brewer pumps everything, i.e. all of the mud pound with malt pulp, husks and everything, into the lauter tun next to the mash tun. It has the false bottom where the agitator is in the mash tun.

From the mash to the lauter tun and back

The first wort flows out of the lauter tun through the spent grains cake (the rest of the malt with all the skins, the husks, which prevent the starch slush from forming an impenetrable dough). For most craft brewers, the brewing process is such that the wort flows back through a pipe into the mash tun, because it is also the wort or brewing pan. Then the brewer pours warm water onto the spent grains in the lauter tun (sparging) to loosen the rest of the starch and goodness from the malt. The tub's chopping mechanism helps prevent poles that go in a circle through the mash from sticking together. Then the spent grain can actually go away. The brewing process now continues where the liquid is, in the brewing pan.

Trister Marc in the empty lauter tun. (Photo: AM)

In the brewing pan

Now it's getting hot, really hot, the wort is boiled. That makes it sterile and durable, bacteria die. And so the good can be released from the hops, its stabilizing, bitter alpha acid and the pretty essential oils. The hops are added in portions at different times of the wort boiling.

Via whirlpool and cooler into the fermentation tank

The wort boiling takes an hour again. Then it goes to the whirlpool. This is a smaller container into which the hot wort is injected with a lot of energy, so that the liquid rotates in a circle, a small vortex is created and solid components, especially hops residues, but also leftovers from the malt and so on, settle in a cone in the middle of the container (sounds crazy, but it's just physics). Craft brewers like to use the whirlpool to hop again: the beer is no longer boiling hot plus the lid is closed - perfect for bringing the essential oils that otherwise quickly evaporate, which make IPAs smell of grapefruit etc., into the beer .

Hops must be dosed very precisely (Photo: AM)

So, almost the last step of the brewing process: Before the yeast can start turning sugar into alcohol, the hot wort has to cool down. Otherwise the yeast will break down and die if the liquid is too hot. In the past, the wort was poured onto a cooling ship, a kind of flat copper pool, often under the roof of the brewery, where the hot liquid could spread widely and cool down quickly (it has to be quick, otherwise the sterile brewed beer will catch infections). Today a plate cooler is mostly used to cool the beer down to 10 to 20 degrees, depending on what the yeast used prefers. Then it goes into the fermentation tank.