Oh, man. We’ve come to a word that you probably haven’t seen before. What now? The panic!
Relax, guys. I’ve got you. That’s the whole point of these lessons. My goal is to make you the next Ken Jennings when your Alex Trebek of a friend start’s quizzing you over a pint. Last week we looked at wort and just before that we looked at the mash. These two things went hand in hand and they led us down the road of where we are today: The lautering process.
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.
What is it?
Lauter, like most beer terms, is a German word. One of the translations of lauter in English means “pure” and in this case, it can more accurately be translated to “clear” or “clarified.” In the simplest of explanations, lautering is the separation of the wort from the grains. After the mash is complete, there is this mess of wort and grains that are sitting in the“mash tun” (the vessel in which a brewer added water to the grains) and at this point, the brewer just wants the wort. Some home brewers save those “spent grains” to make dog treats, bread or other fun little things and most commercial breweries have a relationship with a local farmer to take them or end up composting them. Either way they’re not necessary for making beer anymore.
So how do you do it?
Oh boy. This is a simple process but it’s usually a completely different process based on if you brew at home or commercially. The main reason for this is that a lot of commercial breweries have a dedicated vessel for this process called a “lauter tun” while most home brewers are keeping things as cheap as possible and use their mash tun to accomplish this. With a lot of microbreweries that are trying to save on costs, don’t be surprised if they use the same process as the home brewers.
No matter how the brew system is set up, the overall idea is the same. A “false bottom” (a porous piece of metal that sits inches above the true bottom of your mash or lauter tun) is used to make sure that the wort can flow out the bottom of the brewing vessel (into a hose that takes it to another brewing vessel) while the grains get trapped and stay inside.
That was a fast one. What lauter means is a lot quicker to speak of than how it’s truly done. You now know what lautering is as a whole but there are a few more little pieces that are part of the process. I’ve briefly defined some of the smaller terms throughout this article like the “mash tun” and “lauter tun” but the other pieces of this puzzle are goofy words and terms that deserve a little more explanation. There’s the vorlauf, grant tanks, sparging and a handful of other steps that make up the overall lautering process. I won’t overwhelm you today so we’ll look at all of those in upcoming Vocabrewlary Lessons.
Do you have a beer term that you’d like to know more about? Email me at email@example.com or comment below with something you’d like to see explained in a future Vocabrewlary Lesson.