Brewing vs. Fermenting: What Is the Difference?

Brewing vs. Fermenting

Brewing and fermenting are two common terminologies often heard when you talk about methods of alcohol production. Some claim to make the wine using fermentation, while others brew beer. But ever thought, what’s the difference between brewing and fermenting? Are they the same processes used interchangeably or not?

Fermenting is used for fermentation primarily. It involves the process of converting sugars into respective alcohol using yeast. On the other hand, brewing is a much broader term that involves beer production using two main steps: steeping the starch source, followed by its fermentation. 

So, let’s dig into the article and find brewing vs. fermenting; what is the difference? 

Brewing vs. Fermenting- A Few Similarities 

Before enlisting the differences between brewing and fermenting, let’s have a look at some similarities present between the two processes.

These are:

  1. Both processes involve the use of microorganisms to convert sugars into required alcohol. 
  2. Both are used to produce different types of alcohol.
  3. Both methods need special conditions like temperature, environment, etc.

Brewing vs. Fermenting: 8 Key Differences

Brewing vs. Fermenting

Though the prime purpose of both the processes, brewing and fermenting, is to produce alcoholic liquor and spirits like wine and beer, there exist various notable differences between them. For example, fermenting is used to prepare wine, while brewing is explicitly used for producing beer.

So, let’s buckle down and become well abreast with the difference between fermenting and brewing. 

1. Main Process 

Fermentation is the key process that is used to produce any kind of alcoholic spirit. It is defined as a biological process that involves the usage of naturally occurring or added yeasts to convert sugars into alcohol, along with the release of carbon dioxide.

In contrast to it, brewing is a process in which germinated grains such as barley and wheat are milled and steeped, followed by their fermentation to produce beer.

2. Steps Involved

The steps involved in brewing and fermenting make the prime difference. 

So, the steps involved in brewing are:

  • Milling- In it, different types of grains and barley are ground into coarse grist. 
  • Mashing- Mashing involves mixing the ground grains with water, followed by heating to convert the starch into sugars
  • Lautering- a process in which the thick mashed porridge is transformed into a sugary liquid using a mash filter.
  • Boiling- heating the wort to ensure a clean and sterile environment. 
  • Fermentation- During it, the wort is converted into desired alcohol (Ale or Lager) by adding microorganisms. 
  • Finally, the obtained alcoholic drink is filtered and packed.

On the other hand, no such steps are involved in fermenting. It is a single step in which sugar is converted into alcohol. 

3. Purpose/ Use

Brewing is used to produce beer primarily. On the other hand, fermenting is used in the production of not only wine but also pickles, yogurt, curd, and many more eatables. 

But when it comes to alcohol and beverage production, fermentation is used to make pure wine, like brewing is used to make beer and distillation for vodka.

4. Equipment 

Moving on to equipment, both fermentation and brewing take place in special equipment.

For brewing, you need:

  • A siphon
  • Long stirrer
  • Bottle stick
  • Beer kit
  • Bottle stick
  • Airlocks
  • Fermenting bucket 

On the other hand, for fermentation, you require the following things:

  • Fermentation crock or fermentation tank
  • Glass bottle 
  • pH strips
  • Airlocks

5. Prime Ingredients 

The prime ingredients you need for brewing a beer are:

  • Malted cereals, probably barley 
  • Yeast for fermentation 
  • Hops 
  • Water

Similarly, the prime ingredient needed during fermentation is yeast. However, when fermenting wine, grapes are also required.

6. Flavor Development 

In the fermentation process, the flavor is developed depending on the type of sugars present in the mixture. Moreover, during it, various fruity esters and acids are produced, which grant the final drink with floral and fruity notes.

On the other hand, in brewing, the flavor is developed depending on the ingredients used, like different hops, barley, wheat, and other added extracts.

7. Temperature and Time 

The two processes differ in their temperature requirements too. Brewing involves heating and boiling and, therefore, operates at high temperatures. 

On the other hand, fermentation occurs at a lower temperature for yeast to function properly. 

8. Example 

A few typical beers that are made using the brewing process are:

  • The creamy Guinness Stout
  • The American Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  • The Amber Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  • Mexican Corona Extra

On the other hand, fermenting is used in nearly all alcoholic spirits, including:

  • Rum
  • Tequila
  • Kombucha
  • Whiskey
  • Vodka
  • Wine, etc.

So, these are a few notable differences between brewing and fermenting. Brewing is a much more detailed process but narrow in its usage. On the other hand, although a small process, fermentation takes place in producing nearly all alcoholic liquors.

What Is The Difference Between Top And Bottom Fermentation?

Top fermenting and bottom fermenting are two types of fermentation processes, depending on the temperature and exposure rate. 

A few differences are:

  • Yeast floats on the top of the drink in top fermentation, while it sinks to the bottom of the tank in case of bottom fermentation.
  • Top fermentation takes nearly seven days to complete, while bottom fermentation takes almost one month to complete.
  • The top fermentation offers the drink more floral and fruity notes, while the bottom fermentation gives the drink a clean and crisp flavor.

Final Verdict 

And with this, the comparison of brewing vs. fermenting comes to an end. 

Although both involve the use of yeast, brewing and fermenting are two different processes. The former is a more detailed process involving mashing, steeping, and fermentation of barley. 

On the other hand, fermenting means simple conversion of sugars into alcohol. 

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