Business

The Biotechnology of Beer Production

When we talk about biotechnology, we refer to all those technologies that use living organisms, or parts of them, for the purpose of creating products that are useful to mankind and beyond. 

Biotechnology is also used to produce one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, namely beer. This, in fact, contains yeasts (to a very small degree) that are useful in its production, with a procedure that uses micro-organisms to transform the glucose present in grapes or deriving from barley malt, into alcohol, more precisely, into ethanol. All this is possible thanks to what is known as metabolic fermentation.

The stages of beer production

Brewing has evolved a lot over the years and has made great strides. Over time, people have learnt to use special elements such as enzymes and yeast to speed up the process. Both of these play an important role in the production phase of this drink and can be easily and safely purchased on dedicated websites, such as Aeb-Group UK

Having said this, it is now necessary to analyse the individual steps involved in beer production:

  • Malting: The first stage of beer production is malting, and it is the one that transforms the grain into malt. In fact, the seeds of the cereals used in beer production, such as barley and wheat, are characterised by a rather high starch content. These cereals are moistened and then buried, in order to allow germination, and then lightly scored, either by abrasion or by adding enzymes (cellulase);
  • Wort production: the second step in brewing beer is to produce the wort, using degrading enzymes. Amylase, protease and other enzymes release the sugars into the liquid and make the wort. The latter must be boiled, and only then can hops be added, which prevents bacterial proliferation and gives the beer its typical slightly bitter aroma;
  • Fermentation: the must, after being cooled, passes through a fermenter and is then inoculated with yeasts. These allow nutrients to ferment and sugars to produce alcohol. The proteins, on the other hand, are consumed by the yeast itself for its nourishment. This phase has a different duration depending on the type of yeast used, and the final product is influenced not only by the yeast but also by the concentration of the sugars and the temperature;
  • Downstream: after maturation, beer can undergo further treatments to improve its organoleptic characteristics. For example, carbon dioxide can be added to improve CO2 saturation and remove proteins, resulting in a lighter colour;
  • Pasteurisation: this constitutes the final stage of beer production. Currently, there are techniques to pasteurise beer while preserving all its properties, such as so-called ‘cold’ pasteurisation, which involves the use of chemicals. There is also unpasteurised beer, but this drink must be consumed more quickly (approximately one month after production) otherwise bacterial contamination may occur.

Why microbiology interests craft beer

As mentioned several times, microbiology plays a very important role in beer production. Anyone who wants to brew beer, in fact, is required to study food microbiology in order to understand what goes on in the laboratory and be able to control bacteria that may affect production, recognise possible causes of beer spoilage, know how to store the finished product, interpret water analyses and so on. 

Many are hygienic provisions, dictated also by compliance with the control manual or HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point), others, however, are techniques that one only learns by gaining experience in brewing.

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