Yeast comes in a large variety of both dry and liquid forms. It is the main actor of the show. If you don’t make them happy then your beer will either come out slightly off flavored or a complete drain pour. Pick the right strain and give them the proper environment if you want any chance of a good fermented beverage.
Grains, Malts & Extracts:
Crushed grains and malts form your sweet wort that will eventually be consumed by the yeast and turned into alcohol. It’s quite amazing when you look at the vast variety of grains out there. Extract brews rely heavily on malt extracts with just small additions of specialty grains. All grain brews will get everything from your crushed grains. Grains are the sugar of your wort but also play a fundamental role in everything from head retention to body to color.
Hops are one of the primary ingredients and provide the yin to the yang of your sweet wort. Hops provide the bitterness to balance out overly sweet beers or to pack a punch in an IPA. There is a wide variety of types with new experimental ones coming out every year. Hops come in everything from the common pellet to the newer hop shots. It’s very important to experiment carefully as the wrong selection can even alienate the biggest hop head.
Sugars can play a big role in both boosting your original gravity and adding flavor. Sugar can come in a variety forms from liquid honey to granulated table sugar. Most sugars ferment differently from each other so be aware of each sugars role in your brewing. Yeast strain selection also plays a critical role in what the sugar leaves behind.
Fruits are the primary ingredient in ciders, mead and wine but also add a great boost to beers. Fruit comes in everything from dry, fresh and of course juice. Fruit is interesting in that the addition time plays a big role in how it will affect your fermented beverages. Fruits added in the boil will have major differences from being added in the primary or secondary fermenter. Experiment with these but keep an eye on each types requirement for sanitation.
Spices are what run the world or they at least make it better. From cacao to peppercorns, spices will play a big role in the final flavors. Timing is also important as a vanilla bean won’t have the same effect in a boil vs a fermenter. They aren’t one of the necessary ingredients but shouldn’t be ignored.
The other additions consist of yeast boosters, pectic enzymes, Camden tablets and brewing salts. These aren’t flavor ingredients but play a role in many other aspects of the perfect fermented beverage.