Brewing Beer

The following is from The BeerStack , a HyperCard file created by Robert Bush for recording brewing recipes. Note that this version of the document only provides background information. Robert originally wrote:

The BeerStack was first intended as a kind of base for me, because I almost lost track of all brewing & beer notes lying around. Please give copies of TBS to friends, post it on BBS’s, send it to magazines, spread it!

Written by Robert Bush, Eskilstuna, Sweden

Beer is one of the most complex beverages that you can drink. It is, among other things, good-tasting, social, and in too high a quantity intoxicating. To me, beer is more than a glass of light brown liquid with alcohol and a foam head; it is the ultimate topic to discuss among friends or enemies and a very peculiar fluid indeed.

Many people I know are not as enthusiastic. I have tried to convince them to try something other than the regular golden coloured brew that they always have when we’re down the pub, but talking about it doesn’t seem to be enough.

Water, of course, is the main ingredient of beer. Without water we would have to chew our brew, wouldn’t we? Then we have malted barley in different forms, hops of several varieties, yeast, and sometimes sugar or cereals known as adjuncts.



The most famous brewing water is the water of Burton-upon-Trent. It has perfect water for some types of beer but is not necessarily the best water for all beer. Burton’s fame has more to do with the fact that a couple of Benedictine monks who knew how to brew happened to live there long ago.

Water can be hard or soft and without me being to technical about it, let’s say that some waters are suitable for some beers while others are not as suitable.

Because of that, most breweries treat their water to suit their beer best. They add minerals like Calcium sulphate, Sodium chloride, Magnesium sulphate or reduce the contents of other undesirable chemicals. Sulphates are considered to produce a dry flavour, which suits pale ales best; a darker beer with a fuller flavour is helped by chlorides and milds or dark ales benefit from a higher quantity of (common) salt. A lot of breweries ‘copy’ the Burton water for their ales. Commercial breweries talk about ‘water’ as something you use to clean the equipment or cool the wort with, while the treated water used in beer is called ‘liquor’.

Malted Barley

Barley is what you get the fermentable sugar from. Most of the barley used in brewing is malted. That means it has been soaked in water for a time, until it has absorbed enough water to begin germination. After that it is kilned (dried in an oven) and sometimes roasted in order to reach the desired colour. From now on, it is called malt.

In days long past, all breweries malted their own barley. This is no longer common practice; most breweries get their malted barley from independent malteries. In Sweden, Pripps and Vivungs are the only breweries that still malt themselves.

The colour can range from very light (pilsner malt, lager malt, pale malt) to dark brown or black (chocolate malt, black malt). Between those extremes there are several more grades. A special scale, known as EBC (European Brewing Convention) is used to indicate colour in malts (and beers). The lower the EBC is, the lighter is the malt (thus kilned for a shorter time).

Mild ale malt7 EBC
Munich malt20 EBC
Amber malt40-60 EBC
Brown malt150 EBC
Crystal malt100-300 EBC

Some beer styles need roasted barley (1000-1550 EBC) for their colouring. That is unmalted but roasted barley that gives a very black, often opaque beer.


Rice, flaked maize, raw barley, wheat and oats are all examples of adjuncts. They have a similar amount of fermentable extracts to malt and some of them also contribute to head formation and retention. In some cases the brewer wants to achieve a special taste or a certain colour for his beer; then adjuncts might be the answer.

The use of adjuncts partly comes from the U.S.A., where they used maize and rice for economic reasons. Today it is not only because of economy brewers put adjuncts in their mash. Maize and rice gives a lighter, more easily-drinkable beer for the mainstream consumer. Many American (mainstream) beers have up to 50 per cent of adjuncts in them, and anyone can understand that this ‘dilutes’ the taste. Adjuncts are not all bad, though. Some beers actually benefits from them.

In Germany, in 1516, a law called ‘Reinheitsgebot’ was passed. This law implied that nothing but malt, water, hops and yeast could be used when brewing (i.e. no adjuncts). However, an EU-rule from 1987 says that beer with adjuncts can be sold within the Community and therefore Germany had to allow brewing as well (for Law students: 178/84 Commission v. Germany).

Nowadays the Reinheitsgebot is used as a sales trick. ‘Pure’ beer is supposed to be better according to the advertisers.

Sugar is another kind of adjunct. It is common practise to use sugar in Czech Pilsners and a Sweet Stout wouldn’t be sweet enough without it.


A very fast growing plant, hops is. It can reach 8 - 9 metres in a couple of months. Of course, it would be a bit inconvenient to climb that high in order to be able to harvest the cones so the plants are cut down to ‘man-height’.

It is only the cones that are needed in brewing. Furthermore, it is only the female plant that is used. The hop cones contain a lot of certain aromatic oils, resins and bittering and aroma acids known as lupulins. These things affect our final product - the beer - to a great extent.

The hop cones (or in the form of pellets) are boiled with the wort and a series of reactions take place that contribute to the flavour and aroma of the beer, assist in the precipitation of trub (sludge, wort sediment). The oils and the acids also provide some nutrients for the yeast.

Virtually all beer styles contain hops - some more than others. It is the hops that help in preserving the beer, it is the hops that gives it its bitterness, flavour and aroma.

Different hops have different properties and therefore brewers classify their hops into three categories; namely bittering hops, aroma hops and dry hops.

Before we take a look at those categories I have to mention something about the system used to classify the bitterness of beer. It is known as EBU (European Bittering Units). This is another one of those scales, only this one tells you the alpha acid contents of beer. More alpha acid in the hops gives more bitterness and a higher EBU of the final beer.

Bittering Hops

These are the most bitter varieties. They are, not surprisingly, used for bittering purposes. Thrown in the copper (boiler) at an early stage of the boil. Typical bitterness for a bittering hop would be 7 - 12 % alpha acid.

Aroma Hops

Aroma hops have a lower yield than bittering hops which makes them expensive. They could be used for bittering too but that is not economical and only ‘De Luxe’ beers use them for that purpose. Instead of high bitterness they have a pleasant aroma which is the main reason brewers use them. Aroma hops are usually not thrown in the copper until towards the end of the boil, in order to retain some of the aroma that would otherwise be boiled away. Typical bitterness for an aroma hop would be from as low as 2 up to 7 % alpha acid.

Dry Hops

Even though you use aroma hops for aroma, it is sometimes not enough for some brewers. They want more aroma, more flavour and more taste of hops in their beer. Now, brewers are smart so they found out that if they add some hops after the wort is boiled or even after it is done fermenting they will end up with an even better product. I can assure you that brewers, including myself, are hop-lovers and commercial brewmasters would use much more hops in their batches if their bosses (or the so-called market) let them.

Since adding hops to the beer at this stage of the brewing process doesn’t add any bitterness one could think that any hops could be used for dry hopping. That is not true; only the finest hops are used. Bittering hops could impart a harsh aroma to the beer, which is why only a couple of varieties with low alpha acidity are used as dry hops.


Yeast is the most exciting ingredient of beer. It is also very important; I dare say that it is the most important, most character-and aroma-providing ingredient in all fermented beverages. Yeast is what turns sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It also helps head formation and head retention and produces a lot of other things that are responsible for a great part of the taste.

Most beers are filtered and pasteurised but sometimes yeast is added to the finished beer, to create a second fermentation in the bottle. Most wheat beers, some ales and many Belgian beers have yeast in the bottle. Look for the words “Bier op gist” or “Biere sur lie” on labels. It means “Beer with yeast” in Flemish and French. On a beer-bottle from Germany it might say “Mit hefe”, indicating that it contains yeast.

This is very useful to home-brewers, since it is possible to revive the yeast with some sweet wort and then use it in your own beer. It is of much help when you want to duplicate a particular beer.

When talking about yeast and brewing one might think that it is possible to go down to the grocer’s and buy regular baking yeast. That is not the case. It has to be real brewers’ yeast. Either in dried form or in liquid form. I use the latter because it is absolutely sterile, which ensures a clean, germ-free brew provided that your stirring equipment, siphons, funnels etc. are properly cleaned.

There are yeasts and there are yeasts. Ale yeast, Lager yeast and Wild yeast.

Ale Yeast

This is my favourite and what I use for most of my beers. Ale yeast is a top-fermenting or top-working yeast. That means that it stays on the surface of the wort and does its job there. It is the yeast used in Bitters, Pale Ales, Stouts, Milds, Altbiers and a lot more beer styles. The Latin name for ale yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisae. It works best at temperatures around 18-24°C.

Lager Yeast

A lager yeast is a bottom-worker. It ferments the wort from the bottom of the fermenting vessel. It is exclusively used in lagers (but there are several types of lagers).

When using this type of yeast one should ferment at a very low temperature. At different stages of the fermenting process, different temperatures are used. Anything from 0-15°C or even minus figures would be normal. It would work to use a lager yeast at temperatures over that too, but then you miss the point; ale yeasts perform much better in those cases. Like ale yeast and most other yeasts, lager yeast dies at around 30-35°C. In Latin, lager yeast would be Saccharomyces uvarum.

Wild Yeast

Since I haven’t had the opportunity to visit the Zenne Valley of Belgium to collect an air sample, I haven’t used this type of yeast in my own brews. Does that sound strange? I’ll tell you about it.

This type of yeast does not go berserk or anything; it is not wilder than any other yeast in that sense. On the other hand, you can’t keep it as a pet either. The term ‘wild’ is simply used because it is very difficult to keep wild yeast under control.

Wild yeast is a form of fungus (so is all yeast) that flies around in the air and settles onto anything that it likes. Have you ever left a loaf of bread for too long in a plastic bag? See what I mean? After a while the loaf is green with mould; which like yeast is a fungus. This is exactly the way our wild yeast works, only it wouldn’t choose a loaf, but the wort we want to ferment. The wild yeast used in brewing is not any wild yeast though. It is only in the Zenne Valley mentioned above that people brew with this special yeast. The brewers make their wort like any other brewer but when it is time to pitch (pour the yeast into the wort), they don’t! Instead they leave a hatch or a window open and wait for the wild yeast to start munching the sugar in the wort.

This spontaneous fermentation produces a very special type of beer, known as Lambic.


I think it is necessary to know some ‘rules’ of classification that I use. Before you continue, read this:

Colour of Beer

I’ve mentioned the colour system for malt under the button "What’s in beer?". The same system is used for the colour of finished beer, only the figures are not in the same range.

Bitterness of Beer

A higher EBU gives a higher bitterness in the finished beer. Most brewers follow the alcohol content of the beer. A stronger beer often has more bitterness and vice versa. They seem to ‘disguise’ each other. A beer with good body or mouth-feel can be highly hopped too, without the high bitterness spoiling it.

It is fairly easy to calculate how bitter your beer will be if you know the alpha acid content of the hops used. The formula is available under the button "About Hops" on the main menu. There is also more information on the EBU system used to describe the bitterness of beer.

Alcohol Content

In Sweden (where I’m from) it is mandatory to put the alcohol percentage on the labels of beer bottles or cans. Until some years ago, Great Britain did not have that; they used another system (see below). Some countries don’t use any system, so you have to guess how strong the beer is. For a beer-lover like myself, sometimes that’s fine; it is the taste that matters to me. But what do you do when you have to drive a car? How do you know when you can drive? This creates a problem and I think that it should be mandatory everywhere to display the alcohol percentage.

There are two ways you can measure this. Either by % of the weight or by volume. The latter is more common internationally. With two simple formulas it is easy to convert from one method to the other. If it is displayed by volume, just take that figure times 0.8 and you get the percentage by weight (e.g. 5.5% by vol. × 0.8 = 4.4% by weight). The other way around you cannot use the same formula. Instead, if it is displayed by weight, take that figure times 1.25 and you get the alcohol content expressed in % by volume (e.g. 4.4% by weight × 1.25 = 5.5% by vol.).

I will use the % by volume system, abbreviated ABV.

Original gravity (OG)

This is what Great Britain displayed on labels until a couple of years ago (and still do sometimes, but accompanied by the alcohol content). It is the density of the wort before it is fermented. Using the original gravity, an estimation of the alcohol content is possible. We know that water has a gravity of 1000. The higher the gravity, the more fermentable sugar in the wort and with more sugar for the yeast to chew on, the more alcohol is produced in the beer. But all sugars are not fermentable so there will be some of them left in the finished beer. This gives some extra gravity left. Unless you use a hydrometer to measure this you can’t calculate the exact alcohol content. But you can ‘guesstimate’. Say we have a beer with an original gravity (OG) of 1045. The yeast ferments it as much as possible and we end up with a beer with a final gravity (FG) of around 1011. Using the following formula we can calculate the alcohol content:

OG - FG or 1045 - 1011

7.45 7.45

= 4.56% ABV
Degrees Plato

Degrees Plato are in a way linked with OG. It is just another way of expressing the ‘thickness’ of the beer. A beer with 6° Plato would be very thin, watery and weak in alcohol while a beer with 14° has a lot more mouth-feel, body and alcohol.

If you know the OG of a beer and want the degrees Plato (roughly), just take away 1000 and divide it by 4 (e.g. OG1045 - 1000 / 4 = 11.25° Plato).


There is, and always will be, brewers that misunderstand things and brew a beer they think will fit into a specific category without it having anything to do with the style. So chances are that you sooner or later will encounter a bottle of beer that, for instance, says Märzen on it when it’s just another plain lager. Or an IPA, which is supposed to be high in both alcohol and bitterness, that tastes like an ordinary bitter.

Another thing that is weird, is that I’ve seen beer bottles with the word ‘draught’! But all this doesn’t matter unless you’re really picky, as long as it tastes good.

Beer Types


The ideal pilsner would be a yellow, malty, flowery-hoppy lager with a dry finish and approximately 5%ABV and 12° Plato.

A lot of breweries call their beer pilsner even if it is not. An exception is Germany where most breweries follow the original quite good. So what is the original then? Well, the name Pilsner means ‘from Pilsen’ which is a town in Bohemia in the Czech Republic and this certainly tells us a lot about the origin of the style. The most famous pilsner is Pilsner Urquell, and I think I can say that it is also the best pilsner in the world. I blind-tested that brew along with four other Czech brews (Bohemia Regent, Kozel, Staropramen and Budweiser Budvar) and the result was devastating for the ‘challengers’!

Pilsner is the number one beer of the Czech Republic and the Czechs really know how to brew it. In Plzen they made their first batch of this type of beer in 1842, and in the 1870s it became famous throughout Europe. The Germans brew similar beer but variations are rather great so in my opinion a pilsner is a Czech beer. The barley grown in Bohemia is special; it contributes to the softness of the beer, and the hops used in a true pilsner is almost always the Saaz variety, which is grown in the Czech Republic as well.

PilsnerOG 1044 - 1056EBU 35 - 45
EBC 7 - 14ABV 4 - 5%

Pale Ale / Bitter

Bitter and Pale Ale are very similar but it is not the same. You could say that the Bitter is what you get on tap while the Pale Ale is bottled, but that is not all true. The Bitter is less carbonated and slightly more bitter than the Pale Ale but the Pale Ale is said to have a higher original gravity.

The name suggests that it is bitter. This type of beer is among the most bitter ones but there are breweries that call their beer Bitter even when the bitterness is lower than it is supposed to be for the type.

The Bitter can be divided into Ordinary Bitter, Best Bitter or Special Bitter with ascending strength and complexity. The colour varies between bronze and dark copper.

Although it is becoming more and more accepted in other countries, it is most common in Britain. But there are Belgian ales that are interesting as well. They are more aromatic and spicy in both malt- and yeast character than their British counterparts.

IPA is short for India Pale Ale, which is a bottled beer. It was originally intended to be shipped to the British army in India at the turn of the nineteenth century. In order to keep, the beer was very strong and hoppy. It is not very common these days; only a few breweries have it. Instead, IPA is used as a name for ‘super premium’ ale and I get very disappointed when I have an IPA on tap and find that it’s just another ale.

Pale Ale /OG 1033 - 1056EBU 20 - 55
BitterEBC 10 - 35ABV 3 - 5.5%

Lager (or ‘Beer’ to some)

This is silly, really, because lager does not represent a style of its own although many people think so.Lager is the name of a beverage that has been fermented with a yeast strain that works on the bottom ofthe vessel.

Under this heading falls the BIG mass-produced, internationally famous brands like Carlsberg, Stella,Heineken etc. These brands don’t have anything to make them stand out; they’re all light in colour,have a clean and neutral flavour and often a short after-taste.

The "International Lager" is often brewed with adjuncts as maize, rice or sugar. They are so similar intaste and appearance that I won’t bother to mention them again.A beer-style that comes very close is Dortmunder. It is stronger in alcohol and has a more appearingmaltiness as it is not brewed with adjuncts.

LagerOG 1035 - 1055EBU 5 - 20
EBC 4 - 20ABV 3.0 - 5.6%

Märzen / Oktoberfest

Märzen is the German name for the month March. It is also a type of beer. (In Belgium they used to brew a beer in March, called Mars but that style is now extinct.) The name stems from the fact that it was brewed in March and stored in cool caves during the summer, and by October it was just enough left to have a great ‘fest’. Today we have fridges to store our beer in so this style still lives because people want traditions. Every October, or rather September/October, there is a beer-drinking party in Munich (Oktoberfest). This tradition is now spread to the whole world and thousands of people swing their 1.2 litre beer-jugs, around this time, every year.

What about the beer then? It is almost the same as Vienna-beer, which often is amber in colour and is brewed with so-called Vienna-malt (a lightly roasted type of malt). The difference is that the Märzen / Oktoberfestbier is brewed to a higher gravity, which in turn gives a beer stronger in alcohol.

Märzen /OG 1052 - 1064EBU 22 - 28
Okt'festEBC 10 - 35ABV 4.8 - 6.5%


Another famous type of beer with its roots in Germany, first produced in a little town called Einbeck in the 14th century. The word ‘Bock’ is often misused on any lager with a high strength in alcohol but a true Bock is also an all-malt beer with a very long lagering time. It can be either golden or dark brown. It is mostly a seasonal beer, but the season it is served varies from country to country. A Maibock is a bock that is brewed for the first of May, to celebrate the arrival of spring. A Doppelbock is an even stronger brew. It reaches 7.5%ABV or more and is always leather coloured or dark brown. Many Doppelbocks have names with the ending ‘-ator’, because Paulaner of Munich, made a Doppelbock called Salvator and the other breweries wanted similar names. The EKU brewery in Kulmbach has its Kulminator, Ayinger in Munich has its Fortunator and Hacker-Pschorr brew a Doppelbock named Animator. Delicator, Celebrator and Optimator are other examples, while my own home-brewed Doppelbock is called Liquidator. (Please, let me know if that name is taken by a professional brewery!) As if the Doppelbock wasn’t strong enough, somebody had to invent a method to make it stronger. Since water turns to ice before alcohol does, they freeze the beer, remove the ice and voilà, the beer is stronger. That type of Bock is called Eisbock.

BockOG 1066 - 1085EBU 20 - 35
EBC 10 - 40ABV 6 - 14%

Münchner Helles / Dunkel

In German ‘hell’ means ‘light’ and ‘dunkel’ means ‘dark’. A Dunkel is a Münchner that is amber or dark, while a Münchner Hell is lighter in both colour and often also in alcohol.

Münchener is one of the earliest bottom-fermenting beer styles. It was developed by a brewmaster at the Spaten brewery in the beginning of the 19th century and a hundred years later, the first light variety (Helles) was brewed (in 1928); it is now the most common in Bavaria. The Dunkels are full in body with a noticeable malt-aroma and often a taste of roasted malt. The Helles are thinner, with a modest bitterness.

HellesOG 1044 - 1052EBU 18 - 25
EBC 7 - 12ABV 4.5 - 5%
DunkelOG 1052 - 1056EBU 16 - 25
EBC 40 - 80ABV 4.5 - 5%


Being very low in alcohol, this type of beer is perfect if you intend to consume a lot of it. It cannot be kept for too long so it must also be consumed quickly. It is certainly not as hoppy as Pale Ale or Bitter, but more on the toasty, sweet side. The colour could be copper but more often it is dark brown. The Scots have a similar beer that goes under the name Light Ale and in Wales they refer to it as Dark.

MildOG 1030 - 1038EBU 10 - 24
EBC 16 - 135ABV 3.2 - 4%

Old Ale

Also known as Stock Ale because it was stored for quite a few months, or even years, in the old days. Before refrigeration, it was difficult to brew ale during high summer due to problems with infection. Instead, the brewers made their beer in January or February and stored it for the summer. It was usually a very strong beer.

Old Ale is still brewed today. It is often dark and sweet. The sweetness comes from the very high OG which means a lot of sugar in the wort and sometimes sugar is added by the brewer. Sugar gives alcohol, but that is only true if you let the beer ferment out properly. That is not often the case with Old Ale; the brewers want their Old Ale sweet.

Modern Old Ale (What a contradiction!) is not as strong as Barley Wine but stronger than the average brew. It often contains crystal malt and black malt and is given a long period of maturation in cask and an extra six to twelve months in the bottle.

Old AleOG 1055 - 1075EBU 30 - 40
EBC 20 - 35ABV 6 - 8%
• Competition brews worth remembering:-

Plain Pils German Pils Brewer: Robert Bush

Gold in The Swedish National Homebrewers Competition 1995, class 1 "Light lager". Judges comments: "Impressive head, yellow / golden in colour. Lovely clean aroma with a hint of peppermint. Clean, straight and correct for style. Nice bitterness in aftertaste. Slim and well balanced..."

Score: 38.

Bushendonk Belgian Abbey Beer Brewer: Robert Bush

Silver in The Swedish National Homebrewers Competition 1995, class 8 "Specialty Beers". Judges comments: "Nice head. Acidic aroma that is a bit over the limit but otherwise gives a nice association to apples. Elegant, light flavour with held-back acidity. Winy, a bit fruity and a little brown sugar. Another couple of years in oak casks, maybe?"

Score: 37.

The Brewing Process

Beer has been brewed in virtually the same way since man first discovered that it was possible to brew. The equipment used is more modern these days but the main principle is the same: Barley is malted, steeped in water which becomes wort. The wort is boiled with hops, yeast is added and fermentation takes place. After that, the beer is matured and bottled.

Since this is a very rough description I better explain the steps more thoroughly, but only on a homebrewing level; commercial brewing is more complicated, with a lot of extra steps involved.


Fortunately, this is something you don’t have to do yourself, as a home-brewer, but it is important so I include it anyway.

Finest barley is germinated for a certain time and then dried. This drying-process is called kilning. During the kilning phase the malt gets its colour (depending on the time its kilned). Sometimes it is roasted or almost burnt but the main part of the malt is simply dried; meaning it is turned into pale- or lager-malt.

After it is dried (and/or roasted), the malt is crushed in a mill. It is important that it is not ground to a flour; nor should the grinding be too coarse. A perfect malt should have its shell cracked open just enough to let the water in. If it is too finely ground it creates a set mash, which means that the water won’t run through the mash tun. On the other hand, if it is to roughly ground, the water doesn’t reach the sugar (in the form of starch) inside the barley.


It is through mashing the starch in the barley is converted to sugar. At different temperatures different enzymes start to work, and it is those enzymes that sort-of ‘suck out’ the sugar (the starch actually). It is not that simple but I will try to explain.

There are more than one method of mashing:

The Infusion Mash

The simplest method. All you have to do is mix the malt with water at a temperature of about 63-67°C. The temperature is then held there for 1.5-2 hours and then raised to 76°C to reduce wort viscosity and make the wort easier for mash tun run-off.

The left-overs (the spent grains) are then sparged (see below) with water at 78°C. This method of mashing is very common in Great Britain, where a lot of bitter and pale ale is brewed.

The Decoction Mash

A complicated method invented in the mid-nineteenth century by the Germans, to deal with high nitrogen malt. The Brits already had transparent beer at that time, which probably was an annoyance to the Germans. But Germany didn’t have the same quality of their barley so they had to treat it differently.

A decoction mash is started at low temperature and then gradually raised to 45-55°C. That temperature is held for about 30 minutes. At that temperature a lot of protein is degraded into simpler substances. This is called the protein rest and is done because protein in the wort gives the beer a haze.

After the protein rest (and this is where the complicated bit starts) a third of the mash (grains and water) is taken away and thrown into a boiler. It is boiled and put back into the mash tun. This raises the temperature of the mash to around 65°C. Another rest for about 30 minutes and again a third of the mash is removed, boiled and put back into the mash tun. This goes on until the temperature of the main mash has reached 76°C and it is time for run-off. As with the infusion mash, the spent goods is sparged.

The reason for boiling the grains is that the boiling gelatinises the starch, which would otherwise give a cloudy beer if the malt was bad.

The Temperature-stepped Mash

I use the decoction mash every time I brew a lager and sometimes I use adjuncts (like flaked maize for instance) to make a lighter beer and some adjuncts can cause a haze if too much protein is left in the wort. It is here the temperature-stepped mash comes in handy.

It is not as simple as the infusion mash but it is the easiest way to raise the temperature. I start with water heated to 54°C (called strike heat) which I pour into my mash tun. I then add the grains. This makes the temperature drop to about 50°C, which is perfect for the protein rest. I hold that temperature, with blankets wrapped around the mash tun, for about half an hour. Then I raise the temperature again, through the adding of boiling water. This time it goes up to 60-70°C. The rest is similar to an infusion mash, with the temperature held there for an hour-and-a-half, run-off at 76°C and sparging at 78°C.


This is part of the mashing procedure. It simply means rinsing the spent grains in order to get most out of it. The grains are gently sprayed with water (77-80°C) until the gravity of the wort collected is around 1005. If you continue sparging after that, you get almost only water (which has a gravity of 1000). It is important that the sparging is carefully done. If you pour too much water in the mash tun at a time, you will crack up the ‘filter bed’ (the grains filter the wort) and a very cloudy wort will be the result.

The spent grain is called draff; commercial breweries sell it to farmers as cattle-feed.


You now have wort, ready to be boiled, and that is done because you have to:

As soon as the wort boils, it is time to add the first (bittering) hops. The wort is then boiled for about an hour-and-a-half and the aroma hops is added during the last 1-15 minutes. It is very important that the boil is vigorous, to allow volatile products to escape. A mere simmer is not sufficient. When the wort has been boiling for some time it gets hazy. This is the hot break; the protein particles that begins to stick to each other, creating little ‘sausages’ which will sink to the bottom when the heat is turned off. This undesirable sludge is called trub; it is left behind in the boiler when you transfer the wort to the next bucket.


It is important to cool the wort as soon as possible. You don’t want any bacteria in it, and the sooner you can pitch the yeast, the sooner the wort can start fermenting (the yeast ‘protects’ the wort). Furthermore, a quick cooling to around 17-20°C will cause even more trub to drop out of solution. This is called the cold break.

An easy way of cooling the wort is to put a piece of hose on each end of a copper coil, put the coil in the bucket with hot wort, connect the hose to the water-tap and run cold water through the coil. The other end of the hose must, of course, be put in the sink so that the water doesn’t get into the wort. I use this method, and 25 litres of hot wort is cooled down to 20°C in just over 20 minutes. A friend of mine runs the wort through the coil instead; keeping the coil in cold water. This takes about the same time but I find it a bit risky, since the inside of the coil is more difficult to clean and thereby keep sterile.

Fermenting / Maturation

If you think that your beer has the perfect balance in hop aroma, fine, but if you want a hoppier-tasting brew it is now time to add the dry-hops. As with ingredients only the finest hop varieties are used for dry-hopping and the hops are put in the fermenter at this stage. This is also when you pitch the yeast. It could be an ale yeast or a lager yeast and the fermenting-bin should be placed with what yeast you’re using in mind. Ale yeast - 18-22°C, lager yeast - 10-15°C to start with.

About half-way through fermentation the beer is transferred to another bucket (known as dropping), leaving excess yeast and sludge behind. The hydrometer is needed to determine when that is done. (For instance, a beer with an OG of 1040 and a calculated FG of 1010 would be dropped at around 1025, which would leave enough active yeast cells to ferment the rest of the sugar.) When the gravity has gone down to close to the calculated FG the beer is transferred again, this time leaving as much as possible of the yeast behind. The beer is then matured for some time (depending on what type of beer is being brewed). A lager needs longer maturation than an ale.


A day or so before it is time to bottle the beer, it is usually primed. That means sugar or dry malt extract is stirred into the beer. This will give the remaining yeast enough ‘food’ to build up carbonation. I usually put my beer in kegs, so I put the priming sugar into the keg, siphon the beer into it and seal it. A couple of weeks (sometimes months) later the beer is carbonated and ready to drink. When bottling, I wait 24 hours after I have put the sugar into the fermenting-bucket, siphon the beer into bottles and cap them.

Note: Corneliuskeg = 19 litres

The only time I bottle beer is when I brew an extra-strong or ‘expensive’ batch. These batches often need a prolonged maturation period; sometimes years.Bottle sizes:

Bottle SizeUsage
50 clEuro Standard
50 clWeiß
33 clNewcastle Brown Ale
33 clSwedish Standard
33 clBritish
75 cl
12 ozAmerican
17 cl
25 clBelgian

Home Brewing Equipment

Commercial breweries have a lot of equipment that would take too much time and space to explain here, so I will just tell you what is needed for home brewing. Almost every type of beer is possible to brew at home with domestic utensils; without the use of the expensive stuff they have at breweries. Here is what you need:

Mash tun: a vessel where you put your malt and the water, in order to get the fermentable sugar out of the malt. That sugary water becomes wort.

Copper or boiler: any vessel that can be used for boiling the wort with the hops. Unless you are brewing a pint at a time you should use something bigger than a household saucepan; preferably in the range 25 - 50 litres. The ‘copper’ word is used because many old breweries still have boilers made of copper.

Hop-back: many home-brewers use a perforated false bottom in their boilers as a strainer. That way the spent hops are kept back and the boiled wort can be run off. Another method is to use a hop-back. A plastic bucket with holes drilled in the bottom is fine. Simply put it over another bucket, pour the wort in it and the hops stay in the upper bucket.

Fermenting vessel: this could be made of plastic, glass or metal. It should be large enough to hold the amount of wort you just have boiled plus enough head-space for the foam that will rise from the fermenting process. A carboy is a fermenting vessel; a plastic bucket another. The fermenting vessel should be fitted with a lid, to keep bugs and bacteria out. A fermenting lock in the form of a glass tube filled with water is also useful.

Hydrometer: it looks like a thermometer but instead it measures the gravity of the wort / beer. When the gravity has gone down to 1007-1018 the beer has finished fermenting (normally; it depends on the beer being brewed). Gravity varies with temperature and most hydrometers are calibrated to be used at 20°C. Scale: essential for weighing malt, hops, sugar etc.

Thermometer: also essential. Temperatures are important when you mash and when you pitch the yeast you have to make sure that the wort isn’t over 30°C or the yeast dies. Siphon: a hose on a tube. Used for transferring liquid from one container to the other.

Kegs: cleaning bottles is laborious. I use stainless steel kegs instead and put all my beer in those. I only use bottles when I’ve brewed a really good beer that I want to keep for a while.

Spoons, funnels, strainers: things that can come in handy unless you want to stir with your arms, get hot wort over the kitchen floor or use a towel to filter out dirt in your wort.

Brewing in Detail

The best part about home brewing is creating your own recipes. Check other recipes that are known to work and see what is needed for the beer style you want to brew. Roll up your sleeves and start writing & calculating. I usually create a recipe, write it down, think about it for a week and then go back and change it or approve of it. I then gather the ingredients and brew!

You will need a pocket calculator when you are using the following formula:-

OG × Percent of grist × litres

Extract of ingredient

= Weight of ingredients in kilos

Example: You want a beer with an original gravity (OG) of 1050. Take away 1000. You want the grist to consist of 70% lager malt. That’s 0.7. You want to brew 25 litres. You check the table where you can see that with a mash efficiency of 80% the extract contribution is 237, i.e. the figure to divide by. If your mash efficiency is lower or higher you simply take the laboratory figure times your efficiency (e.g. ME of 70%: 296 × 0.7= 207).


50 × 0.7 × 25 = 3.690 kilos


Repeat procedure with the rest of the ingredients (e.g. 25% Munich malt and 5% Black malt).


The list shown below gives the colour of some well-known beers, expressed in EBC-units. This is short for European Brewing Convention and it is the special scale that is used to indicate the colour of beer in Europe. In America the SRM method is more common (I think) but I’m not too familiar with that so I won’t mention it any further. A very light pilsner would be approx. 7 EBC units, an English bitter maybe 25, whereas a stout can be as dark as 350 EBC. The latter would mean that the beer is opaque.

Robert Bush Plain Pils11.8
Einbecker Bock Hell15
Schneider Weisse19
De Koninck22-23
Einbecker Maibock25
Frankenmuth Bock32
Grolsch Amber32
Caledonian 80/-30-32
Spaten Ur-Märzen Oktoberfest32.5
Rauchenfels Steinbier32-33
EKU ‘28’35
König Ludwig Dunkel40
Einbecker Bock Dunkel40
Newcastle Brown Ale50
Schlenkerla Rauchbier52
Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel52
Rodenbach Grand Cru60
Liefmans Goudenband60
EKU Kulminator65
Sapporo Black Beer100
Kulmbach Eisbock130
Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout150-160
Courage Imperial Russian Stout235

The ingredients shown below can be used to obtain the required colour. Some of the ingredients are only available in some countries (I have never found Amber malt here in Sweden for instance) and might be named differently in different places (Crystal malt is also known as Caramel malt).

The figures under “Extract” are the highest possible extract (expressed in °kg/litre) one can expect out of an ingredient, and that’s in a laboratory.

“80% ME” stands for 80 percent mash efficiency. I usually achieve 80-85% when I brew at home. Some people might reach a higher value, some a lower value; it all depends on your equipment and/or processing methods. Experiment until you know what figure to use in the formula. Start with 70% if you’re a beginner and go up 5-10% when brewing your next batch. Click "Formula"-button to see the formula I use.

“Colour” is expressed in EBC units. Sorry, but it wasn’t available for all ingredients.

Pilsner malt2962371-3
Lager malt2962371-3
Munich malt29623715-25
Pale malt2962374-6
Mild ale malt2922347-8
Enzyme malt296237?
Amber malt28022435-65
Wheat malt3102487-10
Crystal malt26821410-300
Chocolate malt268214850-1200
Black malt2652121200-1500
Roasted barley2702161000-1500
Wheat flour304243? little
Flaked wheat279223? little
Flaked barley253202? little
Flaked maize3132500
Flaked rice3102480
Torrefied wheat273218? little
Torrefied barley253202? little
Torrefied rice3042430


Bitterness of beer is expressed as European Bitterness Units (EBU). The higher the alpha-acid content in a hop variety, the higher the EBU in the finished product (your beer)!

The EBU varies between different beer styles. A Bavarian wheat-beer might have as little as 10 EBU, whereas an Irish stout might be very bitter, 45-55 EBU.

"Utilisation" in the formula below depends on how long you boil the hops, how high gravity the wort has and the vigour of the boil. Normally, with a good rolling boil, it would be approximately 25% and if you use pellet hops instead of whole cones you get maybe 35% out of it.

I don’t think beer is beer unless it has hops in it! So use this formula to add the correct bitterness to your brew. Be careful in the beginning. A beer that is 95 EBU’s is not pleasant! You need a pocket calculator to figure it out, at least I do.


EBU × 10 × volume brewed (litres)

alpha-acid × utilisation

= Hops needed in grams

Example: You want a beer with a bitterness of 30 EBU. Take that times 10. Take that figure times the number of litres you want to brew (in this example: 25 litres).

Check the alpha-acid content of your hops (in this example: Fuggle with 4.2%). Your utilisation is 25%. Take that times 4.2. Divide, and see how much Fuggle hops you need in order to brew a beer with a bitterness of 30 EBU.


30 × 10 × 25 = 71 grams

4.2 × 25

The table below shows the difference between some of the most commonly used hops. The longer the grey bar is, the more bitterness it will give to the final beer. Note: These figures are by no means exact. The alpha acidity varies from region to region, from year to year. The figures are approximate.

Low alpha-acid varieties, mostly for aroma:

TettnangerAromatic, Flowery
GoldingAromatic, Fruity
FuggleAromatic, Spicy
SaazAromatic, Spicy
HersbruckerToffee-ish, Spicy
Styrian GoldingSweet, Spicy, Aromatic

Medium alpha-acid varieties, all-purpose use:

Brewer’s GoldA bit harsh, Spicy
CascadeCitric, Flowery
NorthdownAromatic, Dry, Woody
Northern BrewerPeppermint-ish
ChallengerAromatic, Fruity

High alpha-acid varieties, mostly for bitterness:

TargetRough and very bitter
ChinookSlightly vegetable-ish

This list is not complete, there are several more varieties but it gives you something to start with. This list is also very subjective; it is my opinion, what I have detected with nose and mouth.

Converted to HTML by Ray White, August, 2003.