What’s the best option when you want a beer but don’t feel like having any alcohol? Alcohol free beer! That was quite an easy question. But do you know what the best part of alcohol free beer is? You can do it yourself at home, with any beer you like!
What does alcohol free really mean? In the UK, a beer can be named “alcohol free” if it contains 0,5% alcohol by volume or less. And a beer with an ABV between “0,5% and 1,2%” can be called “low-alcohol beer”. So in fact, alcohol free beers still have alcohol but in very low quantity.
There are various ways to obtain a low-alcohol beer. Common technics can be divided in two categories:
1. Limiting the amount of alcohol produced during the fermentation
To do so, you can play with various technics. For instance, you can produce a low gravity wort which will result in a low production of alcohol by the yeasts during the fermentation.
You can also select a low attenuation yeast strain which can convert a very low amount of fermentable sugars into alcohol, also offering you a low alcohol beer.
And you can also stop the fermentation when you have reached your desired gravity. By simply dropping the temperature around 2ºC, the yeast will stop metabolising the fermentable sugar into alcohol and you will manage to control the level of alcohol in your beer.
2. Removing the amount of alcohol from the beer after its fermentation
Industrial breweries can work with several tools which are not accessible for homebrewing, such has reverse osmosis filtration or vacuum distillation. But an interesting technic for both homebrewers and breweries is to heat off the fermented beer to remove its alcohol content. This process is based on the fact that alcohol has a lower boiling temperature than water, which means it can be evaporated from the beer if heated over its boiling point. This is what we will focus on today.
Before we look at how you can obtain your favourite alcohol free beer with this technic, here’s an advice about the body of your beer. By heating off your beer and removing, you will reduce its fullness and it might feel very watery when you drink it. An interesting option to still obtain a nice bodied alcohol free beer is to use malt varieties which offer a denser body to the beer, such as our GoldSwaen@Light variety for instance. This variety, rich in more complex and unfermentable sugars, will provide fullness to your beer.
Also, it is important to think about the changes in flavour your beer will go through. Hop aromas are very volatile, and heating up your fermented beer will also eliminate some of these aromas. This is not such an issue for beer styles which aren’t focused on their hop flavours, but it can be a problem with hoppy beers. Therefore, after hoppy styles have gone through the heating off, you can decide to dry hop them to obtain the perfect dry-hopped alcohol- free beer!
The heating off technic
The first step is choosing the recipe you want to turn alcohol free. The best is if it’s one of your favourite homebrews, but it can also be any of you favourite beers. Once you’ve chosen the beer, decide how much of it you would like to turn alcohol free.
Almost time for some action! Just remember, make sure everything you do is with sterilised tools and hygienic methods in order to avoid contamination of your beer. And read all the following instructions carefully before you start, to know how thing will go and which equipment you will need.
- First, put your beer into a cooking pot or your homebrewing equipment if you have one, and heat it up to 82ºC. Alcohol boils at 80ºC, so make sure to stay over this temperature to evaporate the alcohol from your beer.
- Once you have reached this temperature, you can start smelling the alcohol evaporating. From this moment, you can set a timer for 30 minutes and occasionally stir your beer. Once the 30 minutes have passed, turn of the heating, stir the beer, and let it settle for a minute.
- With great caution not to burn yourself, you can take a sample of your beer to taste it, you can cool it down by running the sample glass under tap water. This will help you decide if you are happy with the alcohol content of your beer or if you want to heat it a little more. Remember, what you are tasting here is the level of alcohol. Warm flat beer isn’t the nicest to drink, but just focus on the alcohol for now.
- If you are happy with the results, we can move on to the next step. But if you feel it’s still a little strong, you can heat off the beer a little longer.
- After you are satisfied with the result, it is time to cool down your beer. Just perform it the same way as you’d cool down your wort on a brew day. You can use a chiller if you have one, or you can put your cooking pot in iced water in the sink. In any case, let the temperature decrease to 20ºC.
- Once you have reached this temperature, it is time to condition your beer. Before carbonating it, remember you can dry-hop your beer if you want to bring some nice aromas and flavours which you might have lost during the heating. Make sure to check our article about dry-hopping to perform this in the best conditions.
- Then, it’s time for you to carbonate your beer. If you use a Cornelius keg, you can simply fill it with your beer and inject CO2 into the keg until you reach your desired carbonation level.
- If you carbonate your beers in bottles, you will need some conditioning yeast and priming sugar. Indeed, the heating of the beer will have killed the yeast initially present and you will need to put some fresh strains to carbonate your beer again. So fill your bottles with beer, add the conditioning yeast according to its pitching rate and add the priming sugar to obtain your desired carbonation. If you need some advices about carbonating with priming sugar, check our article about the carbonation of your beer.
Once your beer is packaged and conditioning, all you have to do is wait for it to be ready. Let it rest at the correct temperature for the right time, get your beer cold and ready to drink, and enjoy.
We hope you have enjoyed this article. This easy technic to get alcohol free beer can be done with any beer you like, and allows you to obtain the perfect alcohol free beer just like a master brewer. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’d be delighted to help you: firstname.lastname@example.org