In the last few Vocabrewlary posts and the next few Vocabrewlary posts, we’re focusing on the production of beer from start to finish. There are a lot of terms that get thrown around in this process that you may not be familiar with. This week’s will be short and sweet and coincidentally, the word we’re looking at is short and its definition really is sweet. It’s time to discuss wort.
Per the usual, my typical disclaimer about the fact that this is a general overview of the topic mentioned above and not an in-depth science lesson applies.
Wort in the world?
Wort, in the simplest of terms is sugar water. Before we discuss how commercial breweries get their wort, I wanted to point out that home brewers have the option of buying malt extract (essentially powdered malts) and adding water to them, eliminating the use of grains altogether. This process makes it easy to brew beer on a kitchen stove with minimal equipment.
Last week we discussed the mash and how crushed grains are soaked in warm-hot water in order to allow enzymes to convert starches to sugars. When this process is done, you’re left with a sweet porridge that’s got a lot of grains in it and some sweet water that those grains are sitting in. Along with their sugars, those grains have imparted their color and flavor on that water too.
The flavorful, colorful, sweet water is the wort and it’s very important that the brewer is able to get that wort isolated so that they can continue their brewing process. The brewer will eventually need to boil that wort with some hops added at times they deem appropriate as well as any other special ingredients they choose. Since the grains have served their purpose, the brewer will discard them and move on with their brew day.
So, how do you separate the wort from the grains? Would it surprise you to know that you’ll find out in next week’s Vocabrewlary Lesson?
Next week, we’ll discuss lautering.
Do you have a beer term that you’d like to know more about? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below with something you’d like to see explained in a future Vocabrewlary Lesson.