Brewing Ingredients


The Basic Essentials

There are three basic essentials for the manufacture of beer. They are Malt, Hops and Yeast.



This is the basic stuff that beer is made from. It is the source of fermentable sugars which are converted by yeast into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It is also the source of the basic malty flavour of beer. Experienced commercial brewers seem to feel that as a general rule, malt should make up no less than 70% of the total fermentable content of a beer. Malt comes in several forms.


Malted Grain

Barley is the most common form of malted grain, but malted wheat can also be obtained and used to make beer.

The grain has been specially treated to make it ready for brewing; however it still has to be put through the “mashing” process before the fermentable sugar can be extracted from it.


Malt Extract

This form of malt takes away the need for mashing. The manufacture has already done it for you and then removed most of the water that was used in the process. All you need to do to use it is dissolve it in water and mix it with your other ingredients. Malt extract is available in dry (powder) and liquid forms. Colours range from amber (light) to brown (dark) in the dry form and amber (light) to black in the liquid form.



The flower cones of the hop vine are another essential ingredient in all beers. They were originally used because of their qualities as a preservative. Now they are used in beer for their bitter taste, flavour and aroma.

Hops can be obtained in several forms; dried, pellets, extracts, essences and oils.

Hop pellets are the same material as dried hops except that it has been milled to a power then compressed into pellets. This process causes them to yield more flavour and bitterness than dried hops. Thus, when using pellets, you only need to use about 60% of the prescribed weight of the dried hops.

Hop extracts are generally only made from the bitter components of the hop cones, the aromatic components being lost or removed during the extraction process.

Hop essence and oils are concentrations of the flavour and aroma components of hops. If you can obtain them, you will amazed at the results you will be able to achieve with them



The collective name for the mass of microscopic plant cells that we put into our beer to do the job of fermentation.

They feed on the sugars in the wort converting them to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeasts vary a great deal in quality and characteristics. There is no substitute for a good quality brewing yeast.



Water quality is important. If your water supply is not good, boil it in advance.


Adjuncts & Other Aids

Although malt, hops and yeast are the only essential ingredients in beer, there are many other ingredients used in brewing for a variety of reasons.


Other Forms Of  Malted Grain

Crystal Malt

This is a form of malted barley that has been partially roasted to give the interior of the husk a red brown colour.

It has a distinctive flavour and gives added colour to the brew.

Black Malt

This is malted barley that has roasted until it is black. It has a sharp acid flavour and is used for making stouts, porters and brown ales.

Roasted Barley

Similar to black malt but made from unmalted barley. It is used in the same applications as black malt.

Opinion differs as to whether it has a different effect on the finished product.

See Notes on “Specialty Malts”


Unmalted Grain Adjuncts

Several types of grain are used in unmalted form, as adjuncts in the brewing process. They generally provide starch (and/or protein) and flavour and should be mashed to obtain most benefits. Some can be obtained in the form of flakes (flaked barley and rice) which have been cooked and then rolled. They can be put straight into the mashing process. Others are more readily available as uncooked grain (rice, pearl barley, maize or corn grits). These must be thoroughly washed and cooked before mashing.


It is high in protein with a smooth and grainy flavour. It is really good for improving the head. Too much may cause some haziness but moderate quantities will have an excellent effect.

Corn (Maize)

This has a slightly sweet grainy taste and is often used in American and Scandinavian beers. Breakfast style cornflakes should not confused with flaked corn for brewing.


This is mainly starch with minimal flavour. It is particularly useful for increasing the fermentable sugar content in pale beers without adding to the colour.


Not often used these days, except in some stouts.



Traditionally, beers have been made from malt with other grains as adjuncts. Sugars are not part of this tradition.

With the exception of lactose, sugars are used mainly as a cheap substitute for malt as a source of alcohol.

They generally ferment right out leaving only alcohol behind. Excess use may result in “cidery” or “off” flavours and the beer will be thin, lacking in body, flavour and head.

Many experienced commercial brewers believe that if sugars are to be used, they should not exceed 30% of the total fermentable content of the beer and ideally, they should be less than 20%. On balance, the use of sugars should be kept to a minimum.


Dextrose (Glucose)

If sugar is to be used, Dextrose produces the best result in terms of smoothness and taste as it has less tendency to cause “cidery” flavours.


Cane Sugar (White)

Because it has a tendency to add a “cidery” taste to beer, white sugar is not a particularly good brewing adjunct and should be used in moderation.


Cane Sugar (Coloured)

These sugars all tend to leave an additional “rumlike” flavour component in beer. Some people like the effect, others do not.



Also called “milk sugar”, lactose is not fermentable and therefore will remain in the beer as a sweetener. It’s use in stout gave rise to the name “milk stout”. If you want to sweeten your beer or stout, lactose will give better results than artificial sweeteners.

See Notes on  “Alternative Brewing Sugars”


Other Additives

Corn Syrup, Dried Corn Syrup and Dried Malt Additive.

These are all essentially the same thing, hydrolyzed starches which are made from wheat or corn.

They are mainly non fermentable and remain in solution in the beer adding body or thickness and improving the head. They are almost flavourless.


Beer and Brewing Terminology

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