Brewing Jargon & Definitions

Brewing Jargon | Hydrometer Reading prior to Bottling

Taking a hydrometer reading before bottling.

Mystified by brewing jargon?  Let us help!

Below are the most common beer-related terms and their definitions/explanations (many of which are mentioned in our brewing primer).  Don’t let brewing jargon keep you from enjoying the homebrewing experience OR from attending a homebrew group!

For a more in-depth explanation of these and MANY more, visit the Homebrew-o-pedia provided by the American Homebrewer’s Association.  While you’re there, why not join?  The resources and opportunities are amazing!  They’re great folks, too!

John Palmer has a fantastic book (How to Brew) which is also a wonderful (searchable!) website with a very complete glossary of brewing terms!   When Colleen’s brother bought us our first homebrew kit, he said to “read the first 40 pages three times before beginning.”  That made all the difference in our techniques (including cleanliness) and how our first beer tasted!

If you haven’t read through our brewing primer, head on over and read all about how WE have been making amazing beer since early 2015.

ABV – alcohol by volume

Adjunct or Addition – anything added to the wort that is outside the norm such as cocoa nibs, sweet orange peel, or herbs/spices.

Aging – letting the brew sit long enough for the flavors to develop and the characteristics to mature.

Barley – the grain of a barley plant that is used for brewing.

Batch Sparging – pouring sparge water over the grain bed, and then draining the wort from your mash tun into your brew kettle in 2 or 3 successions (batches) depending on the size of your equipment and batch.

Blow-off – a tube added to the airlock and/or fermenter to help an aggressive fermentation release pressure.

Priming – when we add a small amount of fermentable sugar to the bottling bucket prior to bottling in order to encourage the yeast to create carbonation.

Carboy – container to hold the fermenting wort while the yeast extract the most wonderful flavors.  Our preference is the Big Mouth Bubbler, but there are MANY (many!) other options.

Gravity – (OG = original gravity) a measurement which tells how much sugar is present in the wort.  “The specific gravity of water is 1.000 at 59F. Typical beer worts range from 1.035 – 1.055 before fermentation (Original Gravity).” {shameless quote from John Palmer’s How To Brew website & book}

Hydrometer Reading – a way to measure the difference in gravity (density) between pure water and wort to determine the amount of sugar present.  John Palmer’s appendices has a great explanation and how-to guide!

Iodine Test – Using iodine to verify that starches have been converted to sugar prior to beginning the sparge process. Put a few drops of wort (avoiding grain or other solids) into a small bowl or plate (white dishes are best), and then add a couple of drops of iodine on top of the wort drops. If the starch conversion is incomplete, you will notice the iodine turn black. The lighter the iodine, the more starch conversion has taken place, and the closer you are to sparging.

Mash – steeping grains in order to breakdown the starches into fermentable sugars and bring out the malt character in the beer.

Mash Tun – vessel for holding the mash during the steeping and sparging processes.  We use a 12 gallon Coleman cooler with two 12 inch false bottoms (very similar to this example from

Runnings (first, second, third) – the liquid that is collected during each of the phases of batch sparging.  There are times when we collect each stage (running) separately in order to brew separate beers.  Since the first running is more like the “cream of the crop” and the second running is a lighter beer, they have very different characteristics.  Most home brewers collect all the runnings together in the kettle and use the total amount of liquid to brew a single batch of beer.

Setting the grain bed – gently adding water in order to provide a layer of grain that serve as a filter layer to allow water to wash the wort through, without allowing grain particles to pass.

Sparge – rinsing the grain bed in order to collect as much wort (fermentable sugars and grain characteristics) as possible without extracting tannins from the grain husks.

Tannins – bitter characteristics left behind by grains and some adjuncts and additions that can negatively affect the taste of your homebrew.

Trub – particles of hops, yeast, and adjuncts that are left behind during the brewing process.  There is usually at least SOME trub left behind in the carboy by the end of the first fermentation, and oftentimes also after the second.  Even though we use a fine mesh cheesecloth when filtering our beer prior to fermentation, we still have trub.

Wort – we call it “grain tea” – it is the “malt-sugar solution that is boiled prior to fermentation (How To Brew by John Palmer)”

Yeast Starter – similar to a mini batch of beer, a yeast starter consists of water, yeast, dry malt extract (DME), and yeast nutrients.  The AHA has a great how-to guide about Yeast Starters.

Jargon busting beer definitions

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Brewing jargon can be confusing and may even keep some folks from venturing into this rewarding hobby.  Please don’t let all the different terms (and the different ways they are used!) confuse you or keep you from enjoying the process of making amazing beer!  Let us help!

Do you have brewing primer-worthy links and/or definitions?  Email us and we will add them to the page (providing they are appropriate, of course).

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