Brewing Arts Program

The Brewhouse

Module 04: The Brewhouse

In Module four, we jumped right into equipment for the brewhouse and then how this equipment and procedures are applied to the fermentation process including:

Brewhouse Configuration

Here’s a quick and dirty overview of the brewhouse equipment:

  • Malt Handling: aka grain storage, you’ll either have a silo or grist case. A silo holds unmilled grains and grist cases hold milled grain.
  • Mash Tun/Mixer: used to mix hot water with the milled grain. A mash tun can be outfitted with a mash mixer to then pump the entire mash (grain and water) into the Lauter ton.
  • Lauter Ton: after the mash tun, the mash is moved into the lauter ton to separate the liquid wort from the solid grains. They allow the liquid wort to run into another vessel and keep the solid grain behind.
  • Wort Grant: wort grants are used to help control the separation of liquid wort and solid grain, using gravity to control the lauter ton instead of a pump.
  • Wort Receiver: the wort receiver accepts the liquid wort from the lauter ton. Typically they keep the wort at a high temperature before moving to the boil kettle.
  • Boil Kettle: collects the liquid wort either directly from the lauter ton or from the wort receiver. The boil kettle has a heat source to boil the wort.
  • Hop Back: post wort boil, but before the whirlpool, the hop back is used to help increase hop character (flavor and aroma).
  • Whirlpool: centrifugal forces help spin the wort and separate out solids. This act also helps cool down the wort and clarify it before moving it to the fermenter.
  • Heat Exchange: wort is rapidly cooled down through the heat exchanger.
  • Liquor Tanks: there are two types of liquor tanks – Hot Liquor Tanks and Cold Liquor Tanks – that maintain hot and cold brewing water to use on demand.

Kettle Design

As part of the kettle design, there are a variety of different heating systems used to boil wort. Each has its own pros and cons with efficiency and cost.

  • Direct Fire Heating System: this traditional system uses a direct flame to heat the wort.
  • Electric Heating System: instead of direct flame, electric heating elements are used.
  • Steam Jacketed Heating System: steam is used as the heat source in this system.
  • Internal Heating System: a calandria is installed in the center of the kettle to recirculate the wort and heat with steam.
  • External Heating System: the wort runs from the kettle, through an externally installed calandria, and then back to the kettle

Wort Boiling

So at this point, now that we know about the equipment to make wort, how do you actually apply and use it?

When boiling the wort, you have many objectives that need to be met to create something flavorful and usable. You need to bring wort to a boil to sterilize any microbes present, isomerize the hops to bring out the perceived bitterness of the beer, and stop the active enzymes that were in the mash. 

Boiling also produces coagulation of proteins in the wort that need to be removed to help with healthy fermentation. The boil also helps evaporate volatile compounds from the malt and hops that can lead to off flavors.

Lastly, boiling helps to concentrate the volume and color of the wort, helps acidify it, and reduces compounds that aid in delaying oxidation and spoiling the finished beer.

Kettle Additions

Along with the objectives above that help create the beer itself, wort boiling is also the opportunity to add a variety of flavor components to your beer.

Of course, you’ve got your hops, time timing of which is very important in how it affects the beer. Longer boiling time of hops results in more bitterness but cooks off the flavor and aroma. Shorter boil times allow for the addition of flavor and aroma. This is why during wort boiling, hops are typically added at multiple points during the boil.

Finings are another option for boil addition. While it comes in different forms, it assists in removing the coagulated proteins and clarifying the beer.

Acids can also be added often used to reduce color, lower pH, improve clarity, soften bitterness, or add a unique flavor.

Fermentables are simple sugars that can increase gravity and flavor to the beer, or assist in drying out the final product. Corn sugars, candi syrups, or fruit are common options. 

Lastly, the boil can extract flavors from spices added to the wort.

Wort Cooling and Aeration

Once your wort boil is done, it is extremely important to cool it down to at least 75 F, very quickly. This is often done through a heath exchange. As mentioned in the main brewhouse equipment, heat exchangers use thin plates to allow hot wort to flow on one side and cold water (or glycol) to flow on the other side. The two liquids exchange temperature. There are two main types, a single stage or dual stage.

Wort aeration assists in creating an ideal environment for yeast growth and fermentation. Oxygen is added to the wort, the amount of which depends on the temperature, gravity, turbidity of the wort, and the yeast you are going to use for fermentation.

From here, you’d add in your yeast and leave your beer to start the fermentation process! You’ll learn all about the science behind yeast next. If you missed my last post all about hops – check it out!

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