Home brew ingredients that are needed to produce a tasty, high quality beer are yeast, hops, barley and water. These four ingredients combine in a fantastic way to create beer. Sugar is got from the malted barley, hops give it the bitter taste and the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol. Even though these four ingredients are the basic essentials, many home brewers use other ingredients to their recipes and make subtle changes to the brew.
The most essential ingredient is malted barley without which there can be no beer! The barley needs to be malted before usage because the starch in it is insoluble and this process of malting involves keeping the moist grains of barley warm so as to let them germinate to produce enzymes. When the barley grains sprout germination is stopped by heating it and killing the seed. The dark grain is called malt.
Mashing the malt extracts the sugar and while this is being done, it is infused with warm water (also called liquor) and kept at a temperature of 60 -70 degrees for around 2 hours during which the enzyme that is produced converts starch into fermentable sugars. It is important to note that different temperatures will produce unfermentable and fermentable sugars of various proportions which will in turn affect the quality and type of the finished product – whether the beer will have a heavy (malty) or thin (watery) body.
Many home brewers opt for the ready made malt extract that is sold in the market instead of doing the mashing at home. Canned liquid malt are sold to which hops are added. Different types of grains are also added to the beer in order to get different characteristics where body and color is concerned. The difference to the beer will depend on the amout/quantities added.
Home brew ingredients that are common malted barleys include lager malt, pale malt, mild ale, Vinenna malt (which is German and has a nutty aroma), Munich malt, amber malt (which tastes like biscuit), Victory Malt that has a beautiful golden color and a toasted taste, Crystal or caramel malt, chocolate malt and black malt that has a burnt taste and pretty overpowering.
Other ingredients include malted wheat that is refreshing and has to be used along with barley because it lacks the enzyme to convert the starch into sugar and has to borrow the enzyme from grains of barley; White wheat malt that helps in foam stability and foam production; Brown malt, Smoked malt or Peated malt which impart a wonderful smoky taste;carapils etc.
Home brew ingredients like leaf hops, plug hops and hop pellets add bitterness to the brew. These ingredients should be stored well or else they can lose the bitterness. Hard water is considered best for home brewing of beer and ales because of the dissolved salts in it. Other ingredients include dextrose, glucose that are fermentable and better than cane sugar, Belgian candy sugar, lactose(milk sugar), maple syrup and of course honey, golden syrup or molasses that produce specific styles and tastes.