We’re Getting Really Good at Making Alcohol-Free Beer and Wine, Here’s How It’s Made

In recent years, however, there has been a growing trend to opt for low- and no-alcohol versions of the traditional drink. Just check the soft drink aisle of your supermarket if you need proof.

Drinking has been a part of Australian culture for at least 240 years and probably for millennia. In recent years, however, there has been a growing trend to opt for low- and no-alcohol versions of the traditional drink. Just check the soft drink aisle of your supermarket if you need proof. Non-alcoholic beverages have been on the market for decades, but for a long time their range was limited and, in most cases, the flavors were inferior to their alcoholic counterparts.

Now online retailers (some of which specialize in non-alcoholic drinks) are stocking over 100 different low- or non-alcohol beers and an equal number of non-alcoholic wines – most of which are produced in Australia . What’s behind the big boom in this side of the industry? And where can it go from here? It all starts with yeast Alcoholic beverages are produced through microbes, usually yeasts, which convert sugars into ethanol (alcohol) in a fermentation process.

In addition to the production of ethanol, yeast also causes other desirable flavor changes. This means that the yeast process is integral to the flavor of beer and wine, and we cannot leave it out to make low and no alcohol beverages. Consider the difference between unfermented grape juice and wine: It’s not just the presence of alcohol that gives wine its flavor! As such, the production of most non-alcoholic wines and some non-alcoholic beers begins with a specific fermentation process, after which the alcohol is removed using slightly different advanced systems.

High-Tech Systems Changed the Game Two of the most common methods of making non-alcoholic beer and wine involve filtration and distillation. Both systems are technologically advanced and expensive, so they are usually only used by large producers. Beer and wine in particular are pumped through filters in a technique called reverse osmosis to separate compounds based on their molecular size. Relatively small molecules such as water and ethanol pass through the filter, but others do not.

Water is continually added to a mixture of larger flavor compounds to recreate beer or wine. This process continues until all the ethanol is removed. Another process is distillation, in which compounds are separated based on the temperature at which they boil. Therefore, distillation requires heat, and heat alters the flavor of beer and wine—making it a less desirable product.

To reduce the effect on flavor, the distillation used to make alcohol-free products takes place under very low pressure and in a vacuum. Under these conditions ethanol can be removed at about 35–40 °C as opposed to 80 °C at atmospheric pressure. It is based on the same principle that explains why water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitudes than at sea level. Small producers becoming better producers The rise in low- and no-alcohol beer production reflects consumer preference, partly driven by the wider range of brews now available.

Several brewers in Australia are producing good tasting low alcohol beer without additional expensive equipment. They do this by carefully manipulating the leavening process using two main methods. In the first method, beer makers intentionally reduce the amount of simple sugars available to the yeast. With less sugar to use, the yeast produces less ethanol. There are a few ways to achieve this, including using higher or lower than normal temperatures during mashing (the process of extracting simple sugars from the barley grain).

The brewer may also want to stop the fermentation process early, before too much sugar is converted to alcohol. The second method involves the use of different yeasts. Traditionally most beers are made using Saccharomyces yeast. It has been used for millennia to make beer, wine and bread. But there are thousands of species of yeast, and some are not capable of producing ethanol as a byproduct. These yeasts are gaining popularity in the production of low-alcohol beer.

They still provide the flavor compounds we’ve come to expect, but with much lower levels of alcohol (sometimes less than 0.5 percent). Although most yeast strains are likely commercially available and have been reported previously, some manufacturers still keep secret the technology they use to produce low-alcohol beer.

You’ll soon notice the difference in barley. It’s difficult to make a low- or no-alcohol beer or wine that tastes exactly like a full-alcohol beer. This is because ethanol contributes to improving the flavor of alcoholic beverages, and this is more pronounced in wine (typically around 13 percent alcohol) than in beer (around 5 percent). Removing the ethanol and water also removes small molecules and volatile compounds (chemicals that evaporate under normal atmospheric conditions)—though manufacturers do their best to add them back into the final product.

Similarly, changing the conditions of the mash for a lower-alcohol beer or using unconventional yeast strains results in different flavors than those obtained through the normal process. Despite these challenges, manufacturers are constantly improving their products. Our preliminary investigation showed that even experienced drinkers of some alcoholic beers could not tell non-alcoholic beers apart from their alcoholic counterparts. So if the mood or situation demands, don’t hesitate to try a low- or no-alcohol beer or wine this festive season (or all year long). You might be surprised how the range and quality of these products have improved. And of course, the benefits are obvious.

Disclaimer:Prabhasakshi has not edited this news. This news has been published from PTI-language feed.


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