Brewing As A Science: What Is Fermentation?

For lovers of beer, it is an obvious fact that in order to make beer, you have to use yeast. Most people know that beer is a fermented beverage, just like the ever-popular kombucha drink that is hitting health stores everywhere, but not everyone knows what fermentation actually means.

This unique process is completely responsible for giving beer its alcohol, taking it from a funky tea to something that you can get drunk on at a football game. However, few people know how this process actually happens and what about yeast takes grain water and turns it into something that tastes delicious and has intoxicating effects. In this guide, we are going to give you a crash course on what it means to ferment beer and how it applies to your brewing process.

In a simple sense, yeast takes the glucose and turns it into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. As most anyone knows, alcohol is the component of beer that is capable of getting you drunk. The carbon dioxide gas is responsible for lending beer the wonderful carbonation effect that it is so well known for.

These two products, born of the fermentation process, are signature aspects of beer that make it what it is known for. While other alcohol types also rely on fermentation, beer is generally known for its signature use of grain or barley as a base. Depending on what is used and how the beer itself is fermented, the alcohol and carbonation levels in the beer can change. You will probably have noticed that some beers have a higher alcohol content than others. You will likely also have noticed that some beer has more carbonation than other kinds. Each of these factors and how they play out in the brewing and fermenting process is determined by the approach that the individual making the beer makes.

The aspect of the beer that is involved in the fermentation process actually exists prior to it becoming beer. During the brewing process, a liquid called wort is made that is the result of boiling grains and their respective enzymes. This wort is then taken and mixed with a set amount of yeast in order to determine how the fermentation process will play out. The yeast will convert the glucose in the wort to the alcohol and carbon dioxide, and from this process, beer is made.

The fermentation process is not a universal constant. In reality, it changes from one type of beer to the next. Fermentation as a process is known to emit heat, and the temperature that the beer is kept at can determine what kind of beer it actually turns into. Some types of beer are maintained at higher temperatures while other types of beer are kept at lower temperatures. This, in combination with how long the fermentation process is carried out, can determine various factors about the beer. Some beers are fermented for a couple of weeks while others can be fermented for well over a month. It is all kept to the discretion of the creator.

When you make your beer, the fermentation process is considered one of the most relevant steps. Since it gives the beer some of the signature traits that we all know and love, it is easy to see why people stress this step so much. It is what takes an awkward brew and turns it into that delicious cold one at the end of a long day. As you pursue your brewing process, you will find that the various approaches to fermentation available can drastically impact the final product. Don’t hesitate to experiment with this step to see how you can alter your homemade brews.