Brewing Terms

For new homebrewers it can be difficult to navigate the sea of brewing terms and acronyms that are used while discussing homebrewing. I’ve been brewing for a while now, and I regularly come across terms that I don’t understand or are used in a different context. Below is a list of some common terms used in brewing, and understanding them will help you enter the conversations being had and will help you identify some key elements in your own homebrewing.

Equipment Terms

Mash Tun: A vessel used to soak grains in water in order to extract the sugars in them. In homebrewing, Mash Tun is often used to refer to the Mash Lauter Tun, the vessel in which both the mash (extracting sugars from grains) and the lauter (separating the grains from the wort) vessels.

Wort Chiller: A device used to rapidly cool the wort post-boil. Wort chillers can be hooked up to a hose, or used through a sink faucet with an extra attachment.

Process Terms

Aerate: Mixing oxygen into wort or beer via methods such as shaking or injecting with pure O2. Oxygen helps yeast cells reproduce and do cell wall maintenance, and is needed for a healthy fermentation.

All Grain: All grain refers to a beer recipe where all (or a vast majority) of the sugars for the beer come from malt.
Attenuation: Used when discussing yeast, attenuation is the approximate degree of sugar that will be converted into alcohol and co2 by the yeast. Lower attenuating yeast will leave behind more sugars, resulting in a higher Final Gravity, and the reverse is true for highly attenuating yeasts.

Batch Sparge: Draining the mash tun, and then adding all of the sparge water to the grain bed at once to wash off the residual sugars from the grain.

Bottle Condition: Packing the beer in bottles with priming sugar in order to carbonate it, and allowing it to condition in the bottle versus a keg.

Brew in a Bag (BIAB): The acronym BIAB, which stands for Brew in a Bag, refers to the practice of putting crushed grains in a steeping-bag, and then steeping the grains at the appropriate mash temperature to make the wort. It is a popular form of all grain brewing which eliminates the need for a mash-tun.

Dry Hopping: Dry hopping is the practice of adding hops to the fermenter after primary fermentation has finished and allowing them to sit for a period of time before bottling or kegging. This is done primarily to enhance the hop aroma of a beer. While it is often done in the fermenter, some brewers dry hop in the keg.

Fermentation: The process by which yeast converts the sugars in wort into alcohol and co2.

Final Gravity: The gravity of the beer after fermentation has occurred. Final Gravity can be used

in conjunction with Original Gravity to estimate the alcohol content of beer.
First Runnings: The initial wort gathered from the mash tun.

First Wort Hopping First Wort Hopping

First Wort Hopping (FWH): First Wort Hopping (FWH) is the practice of including a portion of hops in the kettle while the wort is being drained into it. Many brewers claim this produces a smoother bitterness in the finished product.

Fly Sparge: A sparging technique where water is sprinkled over the grain bed to wash the residual sugars from the grains.

Gravity: Gravity refers to the concentration of sugar in wort, and is the liquid relative density to water. See Original Gravity and Final Gravity.

International Bitterness Units: A unit of measurement used to quantify the bitterness from the hops in a beer. Acceptable ranges vary based on style.

Krausen: Pronounced “kroy-zen”, krausen is a head of yeast and proteins that settles on top of the beer during fermentation.

No Sparge: Adding the total volume of water (mash + sparge) to the mash tun for the initial mash, skipping the sparge step entirely.

Pitching: Adding the yeast to the wort or fermenter.

Priming: The practice of adding sugar (often dissolved in water) to fermented beer and then bottling the mixture, allowing the sugar to carbonate the beer.

Primary (Fermentation): The initial fermentation period.

Racking: Transferring wort or beer to another vessel, often via a siphon or tube.

Secondary (Fermentation): Traditionally, the practice of transferring the beer to a “secondary” vessel after primary fermentation. In modern homebrewing, many brewers consider transferring to a secondary vessel unnecessary and risky, and for these individuals secondary fermentation can be referred to as “The period after primary fermentation has finished, but before transferring to a bottle or keg” and any steps during “secondary” would take place in the primary fermenter.

Second Runnings: The portion of wort gathered after the First Runnings; typically the wort made from the sparge water.

Vorlauf: The practice of taking a portion of first runnings from the mash tun and adding it back to the mash tun in order to create a natural filter for grains.

Beer / Ingredient Terms

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Alcohol by Volume (ABV): Alcohol by Volume, or ABV, refers to the percentage of a volume of liquid that is alcohol.

Dry Malt Extract: Essentially maltose (sugar from malt) syrup used in the brewing process as a substitution for malt. Malt tracts come in dry and liquid forms.

Grain: Small kernels that are often malted to be used in brewing.

Grain Bill: A Grain Bill is a list of grains to be used in a beer recipe.

Grist: The malt/adjunct/water mixture during the mashing process.

Hops: Hops are used in brewing to provide flavor, aroma, and bitterness. They also have preservative qualities.

Liquid Malt Extract: Basically maltose (sugar from malt) syrup used in the brewing process as a substitution for malt. Malt extracts come in dry and liquid forms.

Lovibond (L): Lovibond is a scale used to determine the color of a beer or malt. For example, in Crystal malts, 60L refers to 60 Lovibond, or the color of the malt.

Malt: Grain that has been germinated and then dried.

Original Gravity: The gravity of the beer after the boil but before fermentation has occurred. Original gravity can be used in conjunction with Final Gravity to estimate the alcohol content of beer.

SMaSH Beer: A Single Malt and Single Hop (or SMaSH) beer is a beer made from a single grain and a single hop.

Sparge: After the mash has taken place, brewers will often use additional water to gather residual sugars from the grain. See Fly Sparge, Batch Sparge, and No Sparge.

Standard Reference Method (SRM): The Standard Reference Method (SRM) is similar to the Lovibond scale in that it is a means of specifying the color of a beer or malt.

Trub: Pronounced “Troo-b”, trub is referred to as both (1) the hop and hot-break matter in the kettle after the boil and (2) the sediment that settles on the bottom of a fermenter during/after fermentation.

Wort: Unfermented beer; the liquid product of the mashing process which yeast is pitched into to create beer.

Yeast: The organisms that turns wort into beer by converting the sugars in the wort into alcohol and co2.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but is a solid introduction to some of the terms being used, and how they’re used, in homebrewing.

Happy homebrewing!

Matt Del Fiacco is a homebrewer with a passion for community, high-gravities, and wood aged beers. Take a look at him and his other work at his blog To Brew a Beer

written by Matt Del Fiacco

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