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Chemistry of Beer

Chemistry of Beer

For some reason this course is incredibly popular. The University of Oklahoma is offering a free class on brewing chemistry with a credit option. You can earn college credit by studying and perhaps even sampling the popular hoppy beverage. It’s no surprise that it’s getting people in a froth of excitement.


Chemistry of Beer covers the brewing process from grain to bottle, describing the chemical and biochemical processes involved at each stage. It’s available to the public for free, unlike beer (sadly). Home brewers’ forums have noticed it and quite a few have taken the course and found it instrumental in taking their beer to the next level. One experienced home brewer said, ‘Understanding the whys in each brewing phase moves the brewer from analog to digital control … you can really expand your flavor palate and fine tune your beers.’


The course goes into detail with the chemistry that makes beer taste good, what off flavors are and how to avoid them, and gets pretty involved with discussions of disaccharide cross-linkages, denatured proteins and isohumulones (which give beer its bitter taste).


9,000 learners signed up for the course’s first run in 2015. Everybody loves beer, so the beer monsters cohort of chemists came from all around the world. Some previous knowledge of General and Organic Chemistry is required to understand analytical techniques used in brewing, the chemical compositions of the ingredients and end products, and the molecules involved in the biochemical processes. But the course is open to anyone, so it might be a good one to take if you just want to appear knowledgeable next time you head to your local bar for a beer or two.


Similarities and differences between various beer styles are explained in terms of the chemistry of the malting, mashing and fermentation processes and how these produce the characteristic flavor, aroma and color of the finished product.


This course should help towards eradicating bad home-brewed beer and general ignorance about this fine and venerable drink. It is presented by Mark Morvant, Ph.D, a Professor in the Department of Chemistry of Oklahoma University.