Making the Wort
Once the ingredients are prepared and the equipment has been cleaned and sanitized, the brewing process begins with the creation of the wort, the brewer's name for the sweet, malty liquid that will become beer by a process of fermentation.
Making the Wort for the Beginning Homebrewer
For the beginning brewer, making the wort is extremely simple. Most brewers start with malt extract brewing, and many long-time brewers continue brewing with malt extract; it's a good way to learn about the heart of the beer brewing process without having to worry about the somewhat complicated processes involved in mashing grain.
Beginning brewers can read the section on malt extract below, or simply mix the malt extract that came with their Ingredient Kit into hot water and stir it to dissolve. If your Ingredient Kit or recipe includes specialty grains, you should also review the section below on steeping grain. Some of the different methods for making the wort are listed below.
- Making the Wort with Malt Extract - Using malt extract is by far the simplest method of making beer and is typically how new brewers are introduced to the process. Brewing from extract involves simply boiling some water and adding the extract to make the wort.
- Steeping Grain - To make the wort with steeping grains the brewer brings 1.5 to 2 gallons of water to 160 degrees F (70 degrees C) and adds specialty grains. These grains are then allowed to soak for 20 to 30 minutes. After the specified time has elapsed the grains are removed and the water is brought to a boil. Once the boil is reached, the water is removed from the heat and malt extract is added to create the wort.
- All-grain brewing - This is the process of extracting the wort from brewing grains and using it to make beer, rather than reconstituting pre-made wort from malt extract. Despite the name, "all-grain" beers can contain sugars or other adjuncts; "all-grain" simply means no (or at least very little) malt extract is used. While malt extract is easier to work with, all-grain brewing gives the brewer more control over the batch and allows him or her to use a wider variety of grains. See the article on all-grain brewing for information on the basics of all-grain, including mashing, lautering and sparging.
- Partial Mash Brewing - Partial mash brewing involves mashing a small amount of base malt and specialty grains as in all-grain brewing and adding some malt extract to obtain the remaining fermentable sugars. Partial mash is often viewed as a hybrid step between extract brewing and all-grain. It is typically practiced by new brewers who want to get a feel for the all-grain process or brewers who have limitations on their ability to conduct a full boil (such as those that brew on indoor stoves).
- Sour mash - A few beer styles, such as Berliner Weisse and Kentucky Common, use a special kind of partial mash procedure called a sour mash, in which part of the mash is prepared early and allowed to sour by using either natural or cultured lactic acid bacteria, then sterilized and added to the main mash.