How do they make beer, wine and liquor?
By Russ Cobbe
It's a good question and one you rarely think about on the way to the store to pick up a bottle or two of alcohol. They all involve some sort of fermenting process, which changes sugars in the ingredients into alcohol.
The basic ingredients are malted barley, yeast, water and sometimes other grains are added. Hops for example are used to make the resulting brew have a bitter flavor. Barley grain is turned into a malt by soaking it in water and allowing the grains to start germinating. The grains are then dried in a kiln, which stops the germination and voila you have malted barley. The malt is ground up and mashed with hot water, which is then boiled, the result is called wort. Next comes the fermentation process which starts with cooling down of the wort and the adding of yeast. The yeast turns the natural sugars that exist in the grain into alcohol over a period of time. The end result of course is beer.
The most important aspect of wine making is deciding when to pick the grapes from the vine. Conditions must be just right for the variety being used and the picking must be done quickly. Stems are removed from the grapes after picking and the skins are generally left on for at least 24 hours. The grapes are pressed to extract the juice from the grape. This juice is allowed to settle to remove any bits of skin. Yeast is added which turns the sugars in the grape juice to alcohol and carbon dioxide. There are specialized yeast cultures that act differently on the grape juice to provide different characteristics. The resulting wine is left so the yeast settles and the wine is drawn off, this can happen multiple times until the wine is clear. The wine is cold stabilized which precipitate white
crystals that are using in making tarter sauce. Finally the wine is filtered and bottled.
Spirits such as Rum, Vodka, Gin and Whiskey have a much higher alcohol percentage than wine or beer. Different grains, sugars, fruits or vegetables are used in the fermentation process depending on the flavor and type of alcohol being produced. The problem in creating higher content alcohol drinks is that yeast doesn't survive in that environment. So to create these type of drinks a second process is performed after the initial fermentation with yeast called distillation. Ethanol, which is the drinkable type of alcohol, has a lower boiling point than water (78.5 versus 100) so the fermented mixture is boiled and the escaping gas is captured and cooled. The cooling process turns it back into a liquid which is now a much stronger concentration of ethanol alcohol. It may be mixed with other liquids to produce the final product.
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