There are four main ingredients in beer: water, malted barley, hops and yeast.
Depending how technical you want to get, Water can be one of the simplest or one of the most complex ingredients in brewing. In fact, there are entire books dedicated to brewing water. For the one-hour brew day, I’m going to keep things simple and suggest that if your tap water tastes fine, use it. You can let it sit out overnight, or run it through a filter to remove the chlorine.
Alternately, you can purchase a few gallons of distilled water from the store. One secret to the one-hour brew day process is to keep a gallon of water in the fridge to use for cooling the wort (the pre-fermented beer).
Malted Barley is the base of all beer. There are two different types of Malted Barley used in the recipes: Specialty Grain and Dried Malt Extract.
Again, there are entire books written about grains, so I’ll just give you the cliff notes version.
In traditional brewing techniques, the grains are steeped in warm water usually for an hour. This process is called Mashing. During the Mash, enzymes convert the non-fermentable starches into fermentable sugars.
With Dried Malt Extract someone has already gone through the trouble of Mashing the grain and dehydrating the wort into a convenient form. Like the Mr. Beer Keg, many brewers turn their nose at extract beers, but the truth is that extract can make beer just as good as all grain. The extract is added to the water and boiled for 15 minutes. The 15-minute boil is considered the shortest amount of time needed for sanitization.
Besides adding body and fermentability to beer, grains also provide color and flavor to beer. These grains are called Specialty Grains, and typically don’t have to be mashed as their starches have already been converted to sugars in the malting process. Our recipes all call for Specialty Grains that are steeped in the water while it heats up and then removed before the boil.
Hops are the spice of beer. Hops have traditionally been broken up into three categories: Aroma, Flavor and Bittering. Hops come in two forms: pellets and whole hops.
Pellets are dried hops that are compressed into rabbit-food like pellets. Whole hops are just that. They are usually dried, although you can use them fresh as well.
Hops are sold by weight and recipes call for a certain weight.
There are also entire books written about Hops. The one thing to note about hops is that the shorter boil time, changes the amount of hops used. If you’re converting a conventional recipe, read this note about hops to get the amounts correct.
Yeast is the magic ingredient that turns sugars into alcohol during fermentation and later on creates the CO2 bubbles during bottling. When it comes to creating beer styles, Yeast is probably the most influential ingredient.
Yeast is generally sold as a liquid or as a dry packet. Once again, there are entire books written about yeast.