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Homebrew Terminology

Acid

Apart from acetic acid, acidity is desirable to render a sharpness or an edge to your beers and wines.

Adjuncts

Grains added to the mash in order to improve the flavour, aid head retention and provide additional potential alcohol.

Aerate

To mix air into a solution in order to provide oxygen & thereby a quick start for yeast.

Aldehydes

These contribute to the bouquet of wine and are chemical compounds resulting from the interaction of acids with alcohols.

Ale

Beer brewed from a top fermenting yeast with a comparatively short and warm fermentation.

Attenuation

The degree of conversion of sugar to alcohol and CO2.

Autolysis

The decomposition of expired yeast cells. Active yeast cells may then use the nitrogenous matter that is released. This results in a creamy mouth feel to beverages & apparent fuller body.

Bentonite

A natural clay in powdered grain form used to clear wines.

Brix

Degrees Brix is the sugar content of an aqueous solution.
1° Brix is 1g of sucrose in 100 g of solution and represents the strength of the solution as percentage by weight.

Campden tablets

These are either from potassium or sodium metabisulphite and are a sulphur based product that is used primarily in the wine cider and beer making to kill bacteria and to inhibit the growth of most wild yeasts.

CO2

This is the gas that is formed during fermentation and can be seen in the form of bubbles through an airlock or the sound of gently breaking bubbles as they reach the surface of the fermenting beverage. During fermentation approximately half the sugar is converted into alcohol and the remainder into CO2.

Cold break

The rapid cooling of wort in order to facilitate the coagulation of proteins and the minimisation of airborne infections.

Decant

To gently pour beer or wine from a container that contains sediment into another so that it is sediment free.

Dry

Used to describe a beer cider or wine that is devoid of sweetness.

Dry hopping

The process used to add hops, pellets or oil to a brew when undergoing fermentation to improve the hoppy contribution or sharpness of the beverage.

EBU

European Bittering Units a method of measuring the hop utilisation in a beer.

EBC

(European Brewing Congress)a unit of colour.

Enzyme

Large biological molecules responsible for thousands of metabolic processes that sustain life.

Esters

Aromatic compounds formed from the interaction of alcohols with yeast typically fruity.

Fermentation

The process of converting sugars into alcohol and CO2 caused by enzymes secreted in yeast cells.

Fining

The removal of small solid particulates suspended in liquids in order to gain clarity.

Flocculation

The process of yeast clumping together thereby producing a sediment.

Fortification

The process of adding alcohol to wine to increase its strength, usually in the form of northern European types of alcohol which do not impart any flavour e.g. Vodka.

Fructose

Fruit sugars.

Hardening Salts

Mineral salts such as carbonates & sulphates added to the utilised water that is lacking in them (e.g. in soft water) to improve the quality of bitter style beers.

Heading agents

Compounds that can be added to beers to improve the retention of their heads.

Hops

Bine flowers used to flavour beer.

Hot break

Proteins that can coagulate and settle out of the solution during the wort boil.

Hydrometer

An instrument used to measure the specific gravity of a liquids aka a sugar meter.

Terminology in Brief

Invert sugar

A mix of glucose & fructose produced from sucrose, used in brewing to accelerate the rate of fermentation.

Irish moss

This adds clarity to the beer through emulsification & is not a fining agent as it is used prior to the commencement of fermentation.

Kraeusen

The foamy head that is created on beer during fermentation and also a method of priming.

Lactose

An un-fermentable sugar used to sweeten brown ales & stouts.

Lag time

The period of time from pitching a yeast into wort and activity typically last for between 2 to 12 hours.

Lager

Beer brewed from a bottom working yeast providing a prolonged fermentation.

Lees

The sediment consisting of dead yeast cells, dust, fruits, pulp, debris falling to the bottom during fermentation & maturation or conditioning.

Lovibond

A unit of malt colour measurement based on standards solutions.

Malt

Grains that are stimulated by warmth & water to commence growth & subsequently roasted.

Mash

The conversion through the action of diastase enzymes of un-fermentable starch in malted grains into fermentable sugars through the process of holding the grain with water at certain temperatures for a specified period of time creating a porridge from the grain bill. It is an integral part of the beer making process from grains & requires a mash tun. Different temperatures & lengths of time impart differing attributes & flavours to beers.

Maturation or conditioning

The process of retaining a beverage in bulk to allow the residual yeast cells to assimilate & convert flavours in the young beverage.

Must

Juice or extract prior to being converted into wine.

Nutrient

Nitrogenous nutrient in some form is required for healthy yeast growth.
This is required to produce some wines more than some others e.g. for Mead, honey being deficient in nutrients & usually takes the form of tablets or crystals containing di-ammonium phosphate or ammonium sulphate.

O.G – Original Gravity

The measured specific gravity of a liquid prior to commencing fermentation usually expressed on a scale of between 1000 & 1120.

Pectolase aka Pectolytic Enzyme

A compound enzyme which breaks down the pectin in fruits thereby increasing the extraction of the juice, the abv & clarity of wine.

Potassium Sorbate

A salt used in conjunction with sulphite to terminate fermentation.

Priming

The addition of sugars of various types to a fermented beer or wine to cause a residual fermentation during maturation to facilitate the provision of life or vitality to beer & wines.

Proof

In the United Kingdom, 100 proof equals 57.1% ethanol by volume.

Racking

The process of transferring (often by syphoning) off the sediment so as to retain bright wine or beer, occasionally assisted by prior fining.

Sparging

The rinsing of the grains after mashing to gather main frame remaining sugars maltose.

Specific gravity

The weight of a given volume of liquid compared with the same volume of water at a specified temperature & used extensively in fermenting & brewing to measure the approximate amount of sugars. The specific gravity of water is 1000 at 15°C.

Starter

With the use of a pre-sterilised bottle may be partly filled with (ideally) pre-sterilised water into which a quantity of fruit juice or malt extract is put plus where required the addition of citric acid & dissolved nutrient salts.

Sulphite

The short hand version of Potassium or Sodium Metabisulphite.

Tannin

A bitter substance that imparts bite & somewhat astringency to wines & essential to maintain good balance to the finished product.

Trub

The sediment at the bottom of a boiler consisting of material from the hot and cold breaks and primarily made up of debris from hops and modified yeast.

Wort

A solution of malt & hops & other minor items dependent on the brew prior to fermentation.

Yeast

Unicellular fungi which secrete enzymes & which convert carbohydrates into alcohol & CO2 through the process of fermentation. It grows best in a neutral or slightly acidic environment.

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