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Old 04-27-2013, 05:00 PM   #1
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Default Techniques To Make Non-Alcoholic Beer

I am on a quest to develop a system that is easy to use to make high quality non-aloholic beer from a beer brewed using traditional methods, ingredients, and yeast. The reason - I am no longer a college student wanting to consume copious amounts of alcohol. As I get older, I still love beer, but for health reasons, want to limit my alcohol consumption as much as possible. I feel being able to make NA beer will help others continue their brewing hobby even after they decide alcohol is not something they want to continue consuming.

I have narrowed the search down to 2 methods:

  • Vacuum Distillation
  • Reverse Osmosis

Regular Distillation/heating of beer is ruled out because it will not produce a quality end product. Also ruled out is small beer, using special yeast strains, etc.

I feel that vacuum distillation (without concentrating the vapors) would be ideal because it simply evaporates the alcohol and some water. Hop aroma would be lost but could easily be added back in. I don't know of any cons.
What equipment would be needed?A vacuum pump at what rating or Horsepower? How long do you have to run the pump and how much needs to be evaporated to remove the alcohol to a point where the beer is 0.5% or less?

Reverse Osmosis is supposed to be the 'best' technique, but reviews of na beers almost always mention a sour-ness. It's a known fact that reverse osmosis filtration of water at a ph of 7 will change it to an acidic ph of around 6. So, there are some issues with the sourness which would need to be remedied by adjusting PH.
Also, equipment specs are needed, such as exact types of filter membrane and molecular weight cutoff rating (seems to be 200-300)

Please post to this forum your real world experiences, equipment and process specifications. Please don't post just your opinions because this forum will get really off track.

The goal is to get some real solid scientific evidence of how to make NA beer at home with readily available and preferably inexpensive equipment.

Looking for people who have tried this technique to give some feedback on their experience.

Some information resources:
http://www.sumobrain.com/patents/wip...996012788.html

http://www.tastybrew.com/forum/thread/166833

http://perrin.princeton.edu/12spring...82/na_beer.pdf
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Old 04-27-2013, 08:43 PM   #2
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...high quality non-aloholic beer...
My only real world experience is that this is a contradiction in terms. It's not, I don't think, that the alcohol is an essential part of the flavor profile so much as it is that one doesn't seem to be able to remove the alcohol without also removing much of what makes beer beer (as you have observed with the hop aromatics).
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Old 04-27-2013, 09:34 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funtourist View Post
...Regular Distillation/heating of beer is ruled out because it will not produce a quality end product....
Quote:
Originally Posted by funtourist View Post
...Please post to this forum your real world experiences, equipment and process specifications. Please don't post just your opinions because this forum will get really off track....
So you personally have tried heating beer between the boiling point of alcohol and water and have found it not suitable?
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Old 04-28-2013, 10:48 PM   #4
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I am also interested in creating ultra low ABV brews. Something with all of the taste, body and flavors minus the alcohol. So I will follow this thread with great interest and hope you share you results from any experiments you perform. In the initial examination I think the Vacuum idea may be a workable solution followed by a round of force carbing in a keg after the attempt to remove the alcohol. I used to do a good bit of refrigeration and believe the temp/pressure differential will work to your advantage.

Wheelchair Bob

Prof,
I have tried the boil off experient and found the end result to be somewhat less pleasing than drinking stale, flat beer. Definately not an acceptable way of removing the alcohol since it cooks off the hops and alters the base malt taste very negatively...

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Old 04-29-2013, 03:42 AM   #5
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...Prof,
I have tried the boil off experient and found the end result to be somewhat less pleasing than drinking stale, flat beer. Definately not an acceptable way of removing the alcohol since it cooks off the hops and alters the base malt taste very negatively...
Thanks for the info.

I have seen a few threads about non-alcoholic beer before and understood the theory of the "boil off" (not really boiling though). As I consider it with more experience I see three issues. Altering the hop profile, accounting for the boil off volume, and carbonating. Altering the hop profile would be pretty negligible in a beer that only had a bittering addition. At 60 minutes the bittering is already at 95+ percent and climbs very slowly towards 100% with a longer boil. I do all grain and a 90 minute boil is not uncommon for some brews. One might even do 2 hours or more if one wants some carmelization. Of course, my experience is with heating unfermented wort, and maybe the issue is with heating fermented beer???

Personally I'd consider krausening with a yeast addition for the 0.5ish ABV.

I'm wondering if it's possible to make a nice non alcoholic Hefe or Cream Ale for the summer.
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Old 04-29-2013, 07:00 AM   #6
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What kind of vacuum pump are you considering? I did refrigeration and those relied on an oil seal and aren't made to remove that kind of liquid volume. The oil would probably get contaminated pretty quickly. I make some pretty low alcohol milds and Scottish ales.

Have you tried making a beer with a high percentage of specialty grain for flavor and low base malts mashed high? Remember alcohol does have a flavor.

Are there any commercial low alcohol beers you like?

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Old 04-29-2013, 08:12 AM   #7
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Has anyone tried simply not adding yeast? It may be sweet but you could design a recipe to compensate.

Brew like normal, cool the wort, then carb.

May be worth a shot, certainly sounds easier than the methods you have been describing (no offense).

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Old 04-29-2013, 01:37 PM   #8
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Has anyone tried simply not adding yeast? It may be sweet but you could design a recipe to compensate.
Bückler is made that way. Guess what it tastes like. Unfermented wort. Pretty disgusting IMO.

I would suggest OP buy and taste as many of the non/low alcohol beers as he can find. These use state of the art processes such as dialysis, vacuum distillation, fermentation with special yeast etc. and should, therefore, produce the 'best' results. I don't think he will be very pleased with any of them. What makes beer beer are not malt, hops alcohol and residual sugar but the host of volatiles that are responsible for the flavors. These are by and large fermentation byproducts. All the known methods that remove or suppress alcohol also have a profound effect on these. What you attempting to do is rather like trying to make vanilla ice cream without any vanilla.

Rather than trying to do the impossible I suggest that senior (and I am one) drinkers learn to practice moderation. If you can't do that you shouldn't be drinking at all. As any AA member will tell you trying to handle the problem with non alcoholic beer analogs only makes the problem worse.

It is quite possible to enjoy beer in moderation. I went to a gravity fed lager party yesterday, had a quarter of a mug of three or four of the beers and came home with my breathalyzer reading 0 ABV.

Another approach is to drink low alcohol session beers. The jewel in the crown of British brewing is lots of flavor with relatively low ABV.
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Old 04-30-2013, 03:40 AM   #9
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Thanks for the suggestions.

Although drinking small beer, drinking in moderation, brewing beer without yeast or with a high level of non-fermentables are all options, they aren't solutions. Nothing is impossible. A recipe for success just hasn't been devised yet.

I am looking to merely add 1 more step in the brewing process. You brew the best beer possible, as you normally do, but then remove the alcohol in a way that will have a minimal impact on the beer.

Reverse osmosis with a membrane using a low molecular weight cutoff, can filter beer under high pressure and low temperature. You may have to add back in something to correct the flavor.

Most na beers aren't good because of the process of ultrafiltration strips the flavor from beer. Ultrafiltration is necessary to prevent clogging up the reverse osmosis membrane. I have read that major breweries are now using a special (inverted) funnel and vacuum distillation to distill off the aromatic compounds. The funnel increases the surface area of the liquid allowing the aromatics to be captured.

That's why I think vacuum distillation under ambient temps would be preferable, since you don't have to filter the beer.

Things that are worthwhile pursuits are often difficult, but that doesn't mean they are impossible. I am hoping we can get some real word testing results with equipment recommendations on this forum.

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Old 04-30-2013, 04:27 AM   #10
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A friend of mine made a very nice NA stout by heating off the alcohol after fermentation, then priming and bottling. We did a side by side taste test and we actually preferred the smoothness of the NA version vs the extra little alcohol tang of the regular. The low hop, dark brews lend themselves to this extra heating step, and you could always dry hop afterwards if you want some aroma back.

We looked into a freeze method, like is used in reverse to concentrate alcohol in things like apple jack. The issue is that you can't really get rid of all of the alcohol this way.

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