Definitions & Explanations

Here you’ll find a list of some of the terms we use and a short explanation.  If you’re new to home brew, you may find this page a good reference.  We’ll do our best to keep everything in alphabetical order.

  • Cold break: refers to cooling your wort down as quickly as possible.  It’s important to get your wort chilled to a suitable temperature to pitch your yeast, and this needs to be done as quickly as possible.  The most important reason for this is because since everything isn’t boiling anymore, there is a risk that bugs can get into the wort.  Cooling the wort down quickly limits the amount of time the wort has a chance to get infected.  A cold break can be done either with a wort chiller or simply by letting the pot sit (lid on) in a sink full of cold water.
  • Dextrose: a sugar that ferments completely. This means that the yeast converts all this sugar into alcohol without leaving any residual taste or sweetness.  Generally, dextrose isn’t good to use as your primary sugar as it doesn’t really add anything to your brew except alcohol.  This can great if you’re trying to up the alcohol content of your beer though.
  • Hops: the ingredient in beer that gives it its bitterness.  Hops is also often responsible for fruity flavours and sometimes a bit of spice.  There are many different kinds of hops, and each different kind will give different flavours and subtle characteristics to a beer.  Hops is typically added in three separate phases during the brew.  First, the bittering hops are added; these are typically left to boil with the malt for about 30 minutes.  Flavour hops are given a 15-20 minute boil.  Finally, aroma hops are given a boil of about 5 minutes.  With that, it’s not unusual to use a different type of hops for each stage.
  • Hot break: happens when the wort first starts to boil.  This is an intense bubbling that happens that creates a relatively thick foam on top.  The hot break will die down fairly quickly, but the pot may boil over in the process.
  • Hydrometre: a tool for measuring the specific gravity of a liquid.
  • Malt: a sugar derived from mashed grains.  Yeast converts this sugar into alcohol and leaves lovely flavour behind.  Different malts will give give a brew different flavours.  Malts can either be bought in liquid or powder form or made through the process of mashing grains.
  • Specific gravity (SG): sometimes just referred to as “gravity”, this is a good measurement of how dense a liquid is, and therefore a good indicator of much sugar is in your wort: by comparing the specific gravity of the beer before and after fermentation, the amount of alcohol can be determined.  Basically, specific gravity is the density of a given liquid divided by the density of water.  So water has a specific gravity of 1. Something more dense than water will have an SG of more than one.
  • Strike temperature: for grain mashing, the temperature the water needs to be prior to adding the grain.  This temperature is based on how much water you have, the specific heat of grain, and the temperature of the grain.  If calculated correctly, the temperature of the water will drop to the desired mashing temperature when the grain is added.  While it’s a relatively simple formula, there are tons of strike temperature calculators on line.

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