When you’re new to the world of brewing your own beer, you’re sure to encounter some new terms that you might not understand. Even a conversation with somebody who has been brewing for only a few months can make your head spin. Sometimes it’s a completely new term for a brewing concept, other times it might just be what brewers call something simple. Don’t worry though, we’ll help you navigate it all.

Here are six terms you won’t have to worry about hearing and looking confused at again:


This is one you will hear a lot. Wort (pronounced wert) is unfermented beer. You add yeast to wort to get beer. When using a kit the wort is what you have once you have mixed the kit contents with water.

Why is it important?

Mostly it just stops confusion of what step in the brewing process you are at.

Specific Gravity

Quite simply specific gravity (SG) is a ratio of the density of your product (the wort or beer) compared to the density of water.

Why is it important?

As yeast ferments sugars and produce alcohol the density of your beer changes. By comparing the SG of your beer to the SG of your original wort, using a hydrometer, you can determine if it’s ready to bottle and how much alcohol is in the beer.


This one is a simple one, and if you already drink beer you will have seen it on every beer pack you’ve ever bought. It stands for percentage alcohol by volume. This is all about how much alcohol is in your beer. Specifically, what percentage of a volume of beer is alcohol. For example if a beer has  7%ABV, in 100 gallons of that beer there will be 7 gallons of alcohol.

Why is it important?

When you’re making a beer it’s good to know how alcoholic it is. Kits will tell you a range and you can calculate using the original and final specific gravity.


Hops are added to the wort when boiling to add bitterness, flavor and aroma. The bitterness comes from the alpha acids in the hops isomerizing to become iso-alpha acids. The amount of iso-alpha acids in the beer are used as the measurement for bitterness. This measurement needed to be expressed in units. Those units are International Bittering Units. Clever name, isn’t it?

Why is it important?

When you are starting out you may not have to worry about adding hops and calculating IBU, but a lot of kits will have IBU listed on pack. When deciding what to brew it’s a good way to if the bitterness will be right for you (you might have to go and try a few beers to figure it out).


When you start out it’s likely you will use some sort of adjunct. An adjunct is a fermentable substance that you use in brewing that isn’t a malted grain. It’s usually used to target %ABV without contributing any additional color or flavor.

Why is it important?

You will probably use them straight away. A great example that beginners use is dextrose. Many kits include dextrose, a sugar usually derived from corn, to add to the hopped extract to get to the desired %ABV.   

Cleaning and Sanitizing

These may sound like the same thing, but they are very different. Cleaning is the physical removal of any solids (usually stuff left from a previous brew) from your equipment. This can be achieved with hand scrubbing or pressure from water. Cleaning does not mean your equipment is ready for brewing with. For this you need to sanitize. Sanitizing is the use of temperature (usually boiling water) or a sanitizing agent to kill any bacteria or wild yeast that may be in your equipment. You need to do this before you brew so that only the yeast you add is fermenting and you get the flavors you want.

Why is it important?

You don’t want bits of past brews or off flavors in your beer.

These are just a few that you will encounter. There’s sure to be more. But learning is part of the fun. Once you learn the terms, you’ll master the techniques and be brewing great beer in no time.

Got some others to share? Leave a comment.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This