Brewing Beer at Home: Glossary of Technical Terms

Various common fermentation vessels for homebr...

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An essential ingredient when making wine. Citric acid is commonly used to give freshness to the finished flavour, to balance the sugar, alcohol and tannin, to assist in the fermentation and in the creation of a good bouquet. Malic acid from apples and tartaric acid from grapes may also be used in conjunction with, or instead of, citric acid.


Cereals other than malt added to a brew to vary the flavour, e.g. flaked rice, flaked maize, torrified barley, etc.


A simple device filled with water and fitted to ajar during fermentation to exclude air whilst permitting the carbon dioxide to escape.


In the context of home winemaking and brewing, ethyl alcohol is meant. This is the spirit formed from sugar during fermentation, that gives wines and beers their satisfying taste.


The fullness of a wine or beer. Without body the beverage tastes thin and watery.

Campden tablet

The trade name for an aspirin-like tablet made from sodium metabisulphite. When dissolved in 4.5 litres/1 gallon of liquid 50 parts per million of sulphur dioxide is released. This sterilizes equipment and ingredients, prevents oxidation and the growth of micro-organisms.

Capping tool

An instrument for crimping crown caps on to bottles in order to effect a gas-tight fit.

Carbon dioxide

The name of the gas formed during fermentation. Almost half the sugar (47.5%) is converted into alcohol and a similar quantity into carbon dioxide. The gas rises to the surface in tiny bubbles and bursts with a hissing sound or forms a froth in conjunction with minute particles of insoluble matter.


An instrument used for fitting softened cylindrical corks into bottles.

Draught beer

A beer matured in and served from a cask instead of from a bottle. Less gassy and sometimes less bright than a bottled beer.


The word used to describe a wine or beer in which there’ is no taste of sweetness.

Dry hopping

The addition to a fermenting wort of some dry hops, hop pellets or hop oil to improve the hop flavour in a finished beer.


The action of enzymes secreted by yeast which converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The action is usually contained in a fermentation bin or jar. Initially the fermentation may be ‘tumultuous’ especially if the must or wort being fermented contains much solid matter. Fruit is often fermented as crushed pulp for a few days while the colour and other constituents are extracted. Must can be fermented ‘on’ by adding sugar in small doses to make a strong wine. It can also be fermented ‘out’ to make a dry wine provided the original sugar content was not too high.


Substances added to a wine or beer to assist solid particles in suspension to settle and so clarify the beverage.


A beer that does not contain sufficient carbon dioxide to give it any life or vitality.


The two single sugars which are combined in household sugar.


A mineral salt, calcium sulphate. Sometimes added in the making of sherry-type wines to increase the acidity. More frequently used as an addition to soft water to make it suitable for the production of bitter bed’s. Often mixed with traces of other minerals and called ‘hardening salts’.


The creamy froth on the top of a glass of beer, occasionally encouraged by the addition to the wort of some ‘heading compound’.


The Mowers of a bine called humulus lupulus which are dried and added to a malt solution to improve the flavour. There are a number of varieties used for different beers. Nowadays, the hop flower can be ground up, unwanted particles discarded and the essential parts compressed into tablet form. Alternatively, an oil can be produced and used to enhance the hop flavour induced by the flowers or pellets.


A thermometer-like instrument used for measuring the weight of solids dissolved in water. In home winemaking and brewing, this weight is mostly sugar. Since we know that approximately 47.5% of the sugar can be converted into alcohol, we can control the amount of alcohol likely to be contained in a finished wine or beer, by controlling the amount of sugar that is put into the must or wort.

Irish moss

Also called Carragheen moss. A substance added to a wort just prior to the boiling to ensure a clear wort for fermenting.


The name of the sugar found in small quantities in milk. It cannot be fermented by wine or beer yeasts and so is used as a sweetening agent especially for brown ales and stouts.


The name given lo barley grains after they have been stimulated to start growing and then stopped by heating them. The greater the heat the darker the malt. Colours range from pale through crystal, amber and chocolate to black. The latter contains no sugar and is used for colouring and flavouring brown ales and stouts. The essential sugars can be extracted from malt to form a thick syrup more commonly known as malt extract. This, in turn, can be dried and formed into a flour. Malt is the very basis of beer.


The infusion of mall grains in hot water for some hours while diastase enzymes in the grains convert the starch into maltose the sugar from which alcohol is produced in the process of brewing beer. The process is usually contained in a mashing bin sometimes fitted with a heater, a thermostat and a draw-off tap.


A beer or wine ready for drinking. Both beverages need a period of time after fermentation is completed in which they can mature. It can vary from a week or so to several years. It is an important and essential part of home winemaking and brewing that is too often neglected.


A flavoured water containing acid, tannins, nutrients and sugar prior to fermentation into wine. The flavouring is often obtained from fresh, dried, canned or frozen fruits or fresh, pasteurized or concentrated fruit juice. Sometimes infusions of flowers, herbs or grains are used and sometimes the water in which vegetables have been boiled.


The name given to a mixture of mineral salts that release nitrogen needed by yeasts to remain viable. Sometimes vitamin B, is also included.

Original gravity

The specific gravity of a wort prior to fermentation.

Pectolytic enzyme

A substance added to fruit musts to break down the pectin, increase the juice extraction and minimize haze in the finished wine. Available as a white powder or a brown liquid.


The act of adding a precise amount of sugar to a finished beer to create a secondary fermentation in the bottle or cask and so give liveliness and vitality to beer.


The process of removing a clearing wine or beer from its sediment at the end of fermentation and also the removal of a bright wine from its sediment at any time. Usually performed with the aid of a siphon.


The dead yeast cells and other solid particles that collect on the bottom of a fermenting or storage bin or jar. Sometimes called lees.


A length of plastic or rubber hose, sometimes attached to a J tube or similar gadget, and used for removing a clear or clearing wine or beer from its container without disturbing the sediment.


The process of rinsing the final traces of malt sugar from the grains after mashing them.

Specific gravity

The weight of a solution compared with the weight of the same volume of water at 15° C/59°F. The gravity of the solution is mainly sugar as far as home winemakers and brewers are concerned. See also Hydrometer – the instrument used for measuring specific gravity.


The opposite of dry.


A bitter tasting substance contained in the skin, pips and stalks of grapes, especially black grapes, and in the skins of pears, oak leaves, tea and to a lesser extent in some fruits such as elderberries, blackberries, etc. It is necessary in a wine, particularly a red wine, to give it character and balance. It can be added in the form of a brown powder or liquid.


The basis of all wine and beer. In Britain, tap water is usually perfectly adequate although highly-chlorinated water should first be boiled. The hardness or softness of the water affects beers more than wines.


The name of a malt solution prior to fermentation.


The essential ingredient in the making of all wines and beers. Yeast is a single botanical cell invisible to the naked eye. It secretes a number of enzymes that cause the conversion of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeast cells have been developed for particular purposes. Wine yeast with its various strains for making different wines. Beer yeast with its sub strain for stout and the bottom fermenting variety for lagers. It is best to use a pure culture and to activate a strong colony before pitching it into a must or wort.

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14. November 2011 by admin
Categories: Beer, Introduction, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Brewing Beer at Home: Glossary of Technical Terms


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