Brewing beer is a pretty straightforward process. The most common beers typically consist four main ingredients - malt, hops, yeast, and sugar. Malt comes from a grain known as barley. Barley is in the grass family, slight different from wheat in that is has a lower gluten content. Different types of beer will have different levels of each ingredient.
Yeast is basically a culture of bacteria. While hundreds of strains of yeast exist, brewers traditionally use lager yeast or some form of ale yeast. Yeasts can come in dry or liquid form. Yeast is added to the wort - a product of boiling malt and hops in water - before the fermentation process.
Fermentation is a result of adding sugar and sealing the container to allow the wanted bacterial cultures to develop. A chemical process then takes place between the wort and the yeast, whereby the sugars in this solution become ethyl alcohol and the liquid becomes carbonated. Temperature control is also a critical element to maintaining growth of bacteria.
A hop is a climbing plant that grows similar to a vine. In the brewing process, the flowers of the hop plant are used to make the wort. Although hops are not technically a necessary ingredient to brewing beer, they are considered to be a stability agent for fermentation. Hops aid in allowing only the wanted bacteria to cultivate in the beer. Again, temperature plays a significant role in stabilizing the outgrowth of preferred, healthy bacteria that exists in beer.
This is a simple breakdown of the ingredients necessary for brewing beer. A lager and perhaps a stout are the most widely available in most mini-markets and gas stations across the US. However, a range of recipes have now been incorporated to produce anything from a Belgian to a pale ale. Though micro-brews have cropped up all over the nation, the equipment and procedures of brewing beer remain pretty standard.
Since the whole brewing process starts out with boiling temperatures - and then down to warm temperatures when adding the yeast - the beer would naturally need to be cooled at some point, in order to end up cold and bubbly on the store shelf. At this stage is where cooling equipment is useful.
Temperature plays into the time required to complete the fermentation process. Depending on the type of yeast being used (dry or liquid) and the type of beer being brewed, the timeframe can range anywhere from 2 days to a month. The fermented grains that give beer its character can only live within a certain temperature range. As with most other life forms, below 45 degrees or above 72 degrees is entering the danger zone of survival.
Over the years, several different methods have been employed to cool the wort solution - anywhere from cellars or even caves of yore to air conditioning and ice packs of today. The advent of technology has enabled even more sophisticated cooling systems for both small and largely commercial brewers. Portable chillers are a common piece of equipment used in today’s brewing systems.
To put it plainly, these cooling units are basically like an electric water cooler, or refrigerator, for the fermenting brew. They are much more precise, thus more reliable and efficient, in maintaining a stable temperature than the fundamental practices mentioned above with none of the active maintenance. Industrial, air-cooled fluid chillers are used by some of the most profitable breweries on the market. A more compact, non-industrial version is available for the home brewer enthusiast.
With the right ingredients and equipment, a brewery is able to produce top quality beers in high demand on the consumer market. Today, a good beer recipe is like a good pastry recipe and plenty of people have developed a taste for it in similar ways. Creative brewers have incorporated a variety of other elements into their systems, including licorice, fruits, and herbs. Refined formations for brewing beers have created opportunities for vocation and enjoyments in every aspect of the process.