How To Brew Great Non & Low Alcoholic Beer at Home
Alcoholic beer is great. You walk away from a good beer feeling more relaxed and often happier. However, there are thousands of people who love beer for its taste but want to avoid the alcohol in them.
You can easily brew great non and low-alcoholic beer at home by removing the alcohol from a batch that’s already been brewed with full alcohol. This can be done in a few different ways, such as by heating the beer in the oven or reverse osmosis.
You should be aware that the beer will lose its carbonation during this process, especially if you are heating it. You’ll have to go through some sort of recarbonating process afterward. We’ll get into that as well in this article. Let’s get started with how to brew some great beer.
1. Brew Your Beer
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already familiar with how to homebrew your beer. This is a prerequisite to brewing non and low-alcoholic beers, and while we’re going to cover a quick introduction in this section, it is by no means exhaustive.
If you’re brand new to homebrewing, check out this easy step-by-step guide on how to make beer at home.
With that in mind, let’s move forward with an introduction to how to brew beer at home.
To brew beer at home, you’ll need a few tools. As much as we would love to start homebrewing with the tools, we have on hand, this isn’t a feasible option. Let’s look at what tools you’ll need to purchase.
We aren’t going to go into all the tools, but you’ll primarily need a brewing kettle, a fermentor, a hydrometer, and of course, bottles to place your beer in after it’s complete.
While you should have additional tools, such as a stirring spoon and automatic siphon, they aren’t always necessary. However, you won’t end up with very good beer without them.
When you’re new to homebrewing, it can be challenging to figure out exactly what to get. If you’re confused, be sure to check out this guide on homebrew beer equipment.
Next, let’s take a look at the ingredients you’ll need.
The ingredients of homebrew beer are relatively simple. There are very few ingredients that go into making a really good beer. Let’s look at some of them.
Malt is one of the core ingredients in any homebrew beer. Malt provides the foundation for your beer. This ingredient determines how your beer looks and tastes – the two most important aspects of any beer.
Hops are another key ingredient in beer. The hops add body to the flavor of your beer and typically contribute some bitterness. You can grow your own hops or purchase them.
Yeast is the most important ingredient in any homebrew beer. Yeast is what creates the alcohol and carbonation in the beer. Before you ask, no, you cannot brew beer without yeast. At least you can’t brew genuine beer without yeast. You can sometimes use other bacteria, but the final product typically doesn’t turn out like the beers you know and love.
You can use store-bought or wild yeast to make homebrew beer. While it is often made with store-bought yeast, wild yeast is a great way to experiment. For more information about this, check out my other article on using wild yeast to create diversity in your brew.
The final core ingredient is water. Water is the base for all drinks – beer is no exception.
The Beer-Making Process
The process of beer-making begins with sanitation. Sanitation is a critical part of the beer-making process because it’s far too easy to get bacteria and harmful viruses in your beer. This results in illness and a strong desire to never homebrew again, most likely!
The good news is that sanitation is a relatively simple process. Usually, you need to soak your equipment in a quickly-made sanitizer solution, and you’ll be good to go.
After everything is sanitized, you’ll start by filling up your kettle. You’ll want to fill it up and leave it for about a day to remove any chlorine from your beer.
After the water has had a chance to sit, you can begin the beer-making process by heating your water. Once the water is heated, you’ll mix the grains. These grains need to sit for some time in the water and eventually produce what is known as wort.
The grains will also begin to ferment, leading to the alcohol we get from beer. Even though you will be making non or low-alcoholic beer, you need the process to happen naturally upfront.
Eventually, you’ll remove the grains. You’ll do this through a straining process where you’ve kept the liquid and discarded the solids. Once all the grains are removed, it’s time to boil the leftover liquid, known as the wort. During this time, you’ll add any additional ingredients to your beer, such as hops. You can add various other ingredients for flavor, but we won’t go into detail here. For more information, check out this article on three things you can add to your homebrew for extra flavor.
The rest of the process involves chilling and fermenting your beer. The fermenting process takes the longest, but eventually, you’ll end up with a great brew.
Again, this explanation doesn’t have enough detail to make good homebrew, so be sure and check out our other article. However, this the basics you need to know.
Alright, now let’s talk about how you can start removing alcohol.
2. Remove the Alcohol
There are a few different ways to remove the alcohol from beer, and we’ll dive deep into each below. Before we get started, however, I want to cover why you would want first to brew normal beer and remove the alcohol after.
Upfront, it seems like a lot of extra work to go through the entire regular brewing process just to remove the alcohol. After all, there has to be an easier way, right? Yes, and no.
The most common way no and low-alcohol beers are produced commercially is through controlled fermentation. Controlled fermentation involves interfering with the brewing process midway through the fermentation.
Controlled fermentation is the best option if you’re trying to replicate commercial beer. However, homebrew beer has a special flavor many people have grown more attached to. If you’re interested in learning more, take a look at this article discussing the differences in taste between homebrew and commercial beer.
Typically, the temperature reaches around 150 Degrees Fahrenheit during the fermenting process. However, it must be kept much lower to prevent alcohol from forming during this time. With controlled fermentation, the temperature is kept below 60 Degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, the fermentation still happens without much, if any, alcohol content.
Other professional methods of producing non and low-alcoholic beers include dilution, simulation fermentation, and dealcoholization – which we will discuss below.
For more information about how non-alcoholic beer is made, check out this helpful guide.
When it comes to homebrew, it’s nearly impossible to perform controlled fermentation unless you have an entire brewery at home. For this reason, homebrewers nearly always turn to dealcoholization. Let’s look at some ways that you can do this.
Remove the Alcohol Through Boiling the Beer
Boiling is one of the most common ways to remove the alcohol. The process is relatively simple as well.
To boil your beer, simply pour the beer into a large pot. Remember that you may need to use multiple pots or do this process in sessions.
When boiling the beer, you aren’t going to heat it to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). Instead, you’ll want to keep the beer at a consistent 173 degrees Fahrenheit (78 degrees Celsius). This allows the alcohol to evaporate without losing the beer itself. If you boil it at a higher temperature, most of the water will evaporate with the alcohol.
The best thing to do is use a digital thermometer to measure the temperature of the water.
Keep an eye on the alcohol content as your boil. You want to bring it down to about .05%, or sometimes lower. You can measure the alcohol content by checking the gravity of the beer. For more information about how to do this, take a look at this article.
Let’s look at another method below.
Remove the Alcohol Through Oven-Heating the Beer
Another option, and often a better option, is to heat the beer in the oven. This process heats the beer more evenly and usually produces a better result than boiling. In addition, it’s significantly easier to keep the temperature under control when heating in the oven.
To remove the alcohol through oven-heating, heat your oven to 185 Degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius). Keep in mind that ovens can vary in their temperatures.
While 185 degrees (29 degrees Celsius) should be 185 degrees (29 degrees Celsius), ovens can be as much as fifteen degrees off in one direction or another. To prevent this, you should use an oven thermometer such as the Anvin Oven Thermometer (available on Amazon.com), which hangs on your oven rack.
It should take no more than a half hour for nearly all of the alcohol to be released from the beer. Again, test the alcohol content using the gravity method we discussed.
Let’s look at a different method that doesn’t involve using heat now.
Remove the Alcohol Through Filtration
Removing the alcohol via filtration is longer and more difficult than heating the beer. It’s also significantly more expensive. For this reason, I don’t recommend going this route unless you’re already an established homebrewer. However, this is an acceptable way to remove the alcohol, so let’s look at what will happen in this situation.
Essentially, you are doing so through reverse osmosis when you filter your beer. Reverse osmosis is a process of removing contaminants from water, or alcohol from beer, by sending the liquid through a membrane that has a good amount of resistance to it. This is known as a semi-permeable membrane. For more information about how reverse osmosis works, check out this article explaining the process.
We aren’t going to go deep into this process, but the basics are that you would need to purchase the equipment necessary to perform reverse osmosis. You would then filter your beer through the membrane to remove the alcohol. This process takes quite a bit of time, and usually, you’ll need to send it through a few times to get it to the point where all the alcohol is removed.
These are the primary methods for removing the alcohol from your beer. Now let’s look at the final step – recarbonation.
3. Recarbonate Your Beer
While heating the beer is the quickest and easiest method for removing the alcohol, it has a major downside. The biggest downside to doing this is that the beer will lose almost all of its carbonation during the heating process. If you’ve ever heated up soda – perhaps as an experiment to check how much sugar is in it – you’ll probably remember that the soda goes flat very quickly.
The same thing will happen with your beer. We all know that flat beer is horrible, so let’s talk about how you can add carbonation to your beer.
One option is to use carbonation tablets. This method is the easiest and requires little more than dropping the tablets in, waiting a few days, and then bottling your beer. However, this method is also a bit more expensive, especially if you have a big batch of beer.
You can also add back carbonation naturally. This can be done by adding more yeast to your beer and allowing it to ferment longer.
Another method is to force carbonation. You can do this by pushing carbon dioxide directly into the beer through a gas cylinder. This method, too, is more expensive and requires additional equipment. However, it is by far the quickest method for carbonating your beer.
As you can see, you have quite a few options for carbonating the beer. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid this process, but luckily, there are quite a few easy ways to do it.
Removing the alcohol from beer begins with homebrewing the beer as normal. While there are other ways to make non and low-alcoholic beers, this is by far the easiest method.
After brewing your beer, removing the alcohol is usually a fairly simple process. However, it does take a process and requires patience. There are a few different ways to remove the alcohol.
You can do so through heat – either through stovetop or oven heating. You can also do it through filtration.
After removing the alcohol, ensure you recarbonate your beer, and you’re good to go!