hist-brewing: ancient brewing

Ramesh sramesh.sramesh at gmail.com
Thu Feb 18 09:33:52 PST 2010

There is a good book called "Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The
Secrets of Ancient Fermentation" which goes through a number of the
different traditional beers which use a variety of methods to create
sugars from starches.

I think there are three methods that are traditionally used:

1. Maltng, which is basically sprouting a seed, and using the enzymes
produced by the sprout to convert starch to sugar. This is the way
most beer gets brewed today

2. Natural fungii that convert starch into sugar. There are many
fungii that naturally convert starch into sugar, and were
traditionally encouraged, along with yeast. This is the way most sake
gets brewed today.

3. Using saliva to convert starch to sugar. For instance this was what
was used for many root beers, such as manioc beer. The author says
these beers were traditionally around 5%, and talks about a number of
experiences of tasting them. According to the methods of making these
beers described in the book, saliva was added by chewing the product
initially, but not added during the brewing process.

I have been brewing a number of herbal brews from the ideas in that
book, though I have to admit I start with sugar (either a malted
barley, or an actual sugar) - they have been surprisingly good.


On Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 11:29 AM, Daniel Butler-Ehle <dwbutler at mtu.edu> wrote:
> Will H <w_hanrott at yahoo.co.uk> writes:
>> I'd like to suggest another possible route to access the sugars: Salivary
>> Amylase.
> And it is used in many indigenous beverages around the
> world. Those are generally beverages that are made from
> starch sources in which there are no significant diastatic
> enzymes present. That I've read, they're all very
> inefficient and only convert a small percentage of the
> starch even after a day of chewing and spitting.
> However, we're not talking about those.  We talking
> about cereal grains such as barley and wheat relatives,
> which, once malted, are *already* much higher in amylase
> than saliva.
>> Amylase works at considerably lower temperatures than mashing
> Er, mashing uses amylase. . .that's how it works.
> There are primarily two amylolytic enzymes involved
> in saccharification: alpha amylase and beta amylase.
> Both are present in pretty huge quantities in malted
> wheat, barley, or rye.  They will both work, to a
> degree, even down at room temperature and function
> faster at higher temperatures.  However, they also
> denature more quickly at higher temperatures, so
> there is a temperature point at which the gains in
> enzymatic efficiency are overcome by the losses of
> activity due to the enzymes breaking down in the
> heat. (Actually, it's a lot more complicated than that,
> and there are other enzymes at work, such as protease
> and beta gluconase, that affect the progress, but I
> don't think it's necessary to go into that here.)
> Sure, one could use room-temperature mashing to
> convert a small amount of the starches into sugars
> before the enzymes self deactivate. But it wouldn't
> be a significant enough amount even to qualify the
> resultant beverage as alcoholic.  That I know of,
> the reason that beers made with salivary enzymes can
> achieve noticeable alcohol is because the mash has a
> continuous stream of additional fresh enzymes.
> So, even though one *can* convert some starches at
> lower temperatures, wheat and barley are used for
> making beer because they are capable of converting
> *all* the starch into sugars, when handled in the
> appropriate temperature ranges.
> Dan Butler-Ehle
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