When it comes to home brewing, the one thing that’s certainly not in short supply terminology. If you’re new to the scene however, the sheer amount of brewing specific terms and jargon can seem overwhelming and having a go-to guide to help you decipher the most common beer making terms can be a godsend.
We’ve put together the definitive home brewing glossary to help you lauter (or separate) your Adjuncts from your Wort and everything in between.
ABV – Alcohol by volume (ABV) is a standard measure of how much alcohol is present in any given volume of of liquid. ABV is defined as the number of millilitres (mL) of pure alcohol present in 100 mL of solution at 68 °F (20 °C).
Adjuncts – Unmalted grains or other fermentable ingredients (that haven’t been malted) used in brewing beer which supplement the main mash ingredient either as a means of reducing costs or to deliberately induce a unique feature in the beer such as flavor. Examples of adjuncts can include honey, corn sugar, maple sugar, and maltodextrin as well as ‘mashable’ adjuncts such as corn, rice, oats, and rye.
Ale – Ales are brewed from a top-fermenting yeast with a relatively short, warm fermentation period.
Attenuation – The term attenuation refers to how much sugar has been converted to alcohol and CO2.
Base Malts – The foundation of every beer recipe, most of all malts created in a kiln (see Kilning) are known as base malts and provide the enzymes and brewing starches which eventually combine to produce sugar. Most barley base malts are referred to as two-row and six-row, referring to how the barley grows. There are other varieties of traditional base malt.
Bottling – The bottling stage refers to the packaging stage after conditioning and includes everything from thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing your bottles, to filling, and capping them.
Carboy – A type of vessel often used for the purpose of fermenting and/or bottling. Carboys are available in a variety of materials ranging from the classic glass design through to plastic and steel.
DME – Dried Malt Extract or DME is dried wort and is a form of Malt Extract.
Fermentation – The total conversion of sugars to alcohol is referred to as fermentation. In the case of home brewing, this refers to the conversion of sugars from the malt into alcohol, turning the non-alcoholic Wort into beer. Fermentation is in brewing is divided into three parts, adaptation, primary, and secondary.
Fermentor – This is the vessel in which fermentation takes place and can range from simple plastic ‘buckets’ through to glass carboys and stainless steel conical fermentors.
Germination – Once barley has chitted (see Steeping), it is transferred from steeping tanks to beds called germination tanks. After 4-5 days sitting here, the chit will grow into rootlets. The grain must be regularly turned during the germination process to stop it joining together. The goal here is for ‘modification’ to occur, where the process of germination breaks down proteins and carbs so that the reserves of starch are easily accessed by the enzymes, which in turn will lead to sugar in the mashing process of brewing (see Mashing).
Gravity – The gravity of a solution is the term used to describe the density of malt sugar in the wort. The specific gravity of a solution is measured using a Hydrometer during the fermentation process and compared to that of the gravity of the wort before fermentation began (known as the ‘Original Gravity’).
Hops – A climbing vine that provide bitterness, distinctive flavor, and aroma as well as protecting beer from spoilage, hops are one of the fundamental components to creating truly incredible beer. Hops come in a number of varieties and each type is particularly well suited to different varieties of beer.
Hydrometer – Used to measure the density of a solution relative to water, a hydrometer shows the Specific Gravity of the solution. The hydrometer measures the specific gravity by how high the hydrometer floats in the solution.
IPA – India Pale Ale or ‘IPA’ is a hoppy style of beer within the Pale Ale family.
Kegging – While more expensive to get started than bottling upfront, kegging your homebrew is both simple and convenient (filling one keg vs 25-60 bottles) as well as giving you a beer that’s ready to drink sooner.
Kilning – During the malting process the germination of the barley (see Germination above) must be stopped so that some starch and enzymes remain and the plant does not enter full growth mode. To do this, a drying process known as ‘kilning’ is used to expose the malt to heat from hours through to days at a time in order to remove moisture from the malt. The temperature and time over which this takes place are used to determine and affect the flavor and color of the eventual malt.
Lager – Refers to a beer that is brewed from a bottom-fermenting yeast and has been given a long, cool fermentation period.
Lautering – The improvement of wort as it’s separated from the mash through a process of straining and separating.
LME – Liquid Malt Extract is condensed wort and is a form of malt extract.
Malt – In brewing terms, ‘malt’ refers to the raw grain (often barley but also wheat, oats, and rye) that have been germinated and dried for developing enzymes needed later in the brewing process. For more information on this, see Base Malts above.
Malt Extract – Malt extract is concentrated wort ready for fermenting and brewing and comes in two forms, liquid malt extract (LME) which is simply condensed wort, and dried malt extract (DME) which is dried wort.
Pitching – Pitching is term given for adding yeast to the fermentor.
Priming – If you’re planning to bottle-condition your homebrew, you’ll need to prime the beer with a small amount of fermentable sugar before sealing in bottles. This creates carbon dioxide (CO2) which in turn will carbonate the bottled beer.
Racking – The process of moving beer from one container to another. This process is also known as ‘Transferring’. The racking stage is partiularly important if/when you need to transfer your beer from any residue or sediment from the fermentation stage(s).
Siphoning – The process of using gravity to remove a volume of liquid from a container or vessel at a higher level into one at a lower level.
Sour Mashing – While often associated with whiskey from the southern States, mashing is also applicable to home brewing an is formed when creating a mash with acid-producing bacteria present.
Sparging – This refers to rinsing the grain bed during the Lautering process in order to extract as much of the sugars as possible from the grain while not extracting any of the tannins from the husks of the grain (as these are astringent).
Specialty Malts – Building up from your Base Malt foundation, Specialty Malts allow you to add flavor to your beer by introducing a compliment of grains that have been roasted for varying lengths of time, at different temperatures, or generally altered in some way to significantly change their flavor profile.
Steeping – Usually lasting around 48 hours, this process involves the soaking and draining of grain until the moisture level of the kernel reaches a sufficient level to stimulate more enzyme development from the stimulated embryo. At a certain point, growth is activated and a small white rootlet will sprout from the barley. Once this occurs. the rootlet or ‘chit’ signifies that the barley is now ‘chitted’.
Transferring – See Racking.
Water – With any luck, your finished beer will very much be in liquid form and it’s for this reason that water is the primary ingredient in brewing great beer. Water chemistry is complex and the water from different regions can (and does) have a huge effect on the final beer that’s produced.
Wort – Wort is simply the name given to unfermented beer. There are a couple of ways you can make wort, either using a Malt Extract or through the all-grain brewing method which while more hands-on (you’re making the wort from scratch using malted grains) is highly rewarding and allows for the greatest degree of tailored customization to the final wort (and eventually beer) you end up with. Adding Yeast to your finished wort will begin the fermentation process and move you from a non-alcoholic, beer-like liquid, to the final glorious product.
Yeast – Yeast is the crucial ingredient that turns Wort into beer. One of the four essential ingredients for beer (along with Grain, Hops, and Water), there are many different strains of yeast which can alter everything from the flavor to the aroma of the final product.
Zymurgy – The science of fermentation and brewing.