Basic Brewing Guide: What is Beer Made of?

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Jun 7, 2022
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Water, malts, hops and yeast were first used to jump-start the beginning of farming and civilization as we know it, all for the love of making that magical delicious elixir, beer!
Developing recipes is an art, so don’t worry if your beer turns out wrong because every mistake is a lesson learned, and you can always brew another batch!

Here we have broken down a quick run through on the basics behind each of the four components that go into making beer, and we have also made a youtube video going through the below as well if you’d prefer to watch instead of read!

Water is the most crucial and often overlooked ingredient. Beer is approximately 90% to 95% just water! Hot water (not boiling) between 63-72 degrees Celsius (depending on the beer style) is used during the mashing and sparging stage (78 degrees celsius for sparging) to extract the sugars from grains and provides the liquid (wort) that later gets turned into alcohol. Different water sources have different pH, salt & mineral levels. Generally, when mashing, you want the pH between 5.2-5.8 to not cause astringency or an exceedingly acidic or acrid taste to the beer. Correct water chemistry also allows for proper sugar conversion and flavour extraction from grains which are critical for brewing a great beer.

Grains (malts)
Grains/Malts provide the sugar and bulk of the flavour to a finished beer. Grains are turned into malts through the process of malting. Malting involves germinating and converting the grains into a seed. This process allows for α-amylase and β-amylase to be developed, which are two enzymes crucial for converting grains into sugar during mashing. Different types of grains such as barley, rye, wheat, oats and many more undergo the malting process. They have allowed access to many kinds of flavours and beer styles. Some malts like black and chocolate malts undergo roasting after germinating. This process produces chocolate and coffee characteristics mainly used in dark ales, stouts, and porters. Grains lay the foundation for the beer style you’re going with, so choosing the right amount and percentage of specialty grains is crucial for perfecting recipes.

Derived from the plant Humulus lupulus, hops are a flower cone used in beer to add bitterness and additional flavours. These flavours cover a range of spectrums, from citrus to earthiness, Tropical to spiciness and so much more. Hops are generally added during the boiling phase of the brewing process. Typically, bittering hops are added at the start of a boil, and flavouring & aroma hops are added towards the end (within the last 15 mins) of the boil and/or during whirlpooling. Another method for adding hops is dry hopping, which is the process of adding hops directly into the fermenter during fermentation and is used to produce hoppy pale ales and IPAs. There is a massive variety of hops around the globe, which is excellent for us brewers and our beer experiments, and has led the charge to an explosion of different beer styles & flavours!

Yeast is a single-cell organism that converts the sugars extracted from the mashing phase into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process is known as fermentation and occurs naturally all the time in nature with wild yeast. Over the years, humans have now been able to cultivate yeast strains for specific styles of beers. We can precisely brew lagers by utilising bottom-fermenting yeast and brew ales by using top-fermenting yeast. Yeast also plays an essential role in adding flavour to a beer. It is critical for rounding out the beer’s hoppiness, maltiness & esters and whether you want it to have a fruity, or dry finish. Choosing the correct yeast strain is important for brewing specific styles of beers, and unless you are brewing in a very controlled environment you should never expose your beer to open air because of wild yeast & bacteria!

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