How to Brew Antioxidant Rich Beer

Beer is a source of readily absorbed antioxidants. Scientific studies indicate that the moderate consumption of beer, as well as beer-specific antioxidants, may help to promote cardiovascular health [1] and help to reduce the incidence of certain types of cancer.[2] Beer that is particularly high in antioxidants may have a longer shelf life, as it may be more resistant to oxidation.[3] This should result in higher quality, more stable sensory characteristics, such as flavor and aroma. Certain hop polyphenol antioxidants can also contribute to desirable foam stability. Beer is a complex beverage that is brewed using various ingredients and various types of equipment. Therefore, beer can be brewed to contain greater concentrations of antioxidants.


  1. Image titled Brew Antioxidant Rich Beer Step 1
    Choose the appropriate types of malted barley. Malted barley is the primary ingredient from which beer is made, and is higher in polyphenol antioxidants than most other grains, such as rice and corn (although corn is apparently a good source of polyphenols). A standard pale barley malt should be used as the base grain. A variety of darker specialty barley malts (including roast barley) should probably be used as well to add additional antioxidants. These antioxidants, such as melanoidins (Maillard reaction products), are formed when the barley is kilned or roasted at higher temperatures. Use a pound or more of a variety of these specialty malts so that the beer will have a variety of these antioxidants. Combine lightly kilned specialty malt such as melanoidin and crystal malts with darker malts, such as chocolate and carafa malts. Also, dark malts apparently provide compounds that help to keep hop polyphenols in solution in beer.
  2. Image titled Brew Antioxidant Rich Beer Step 2
    Choose hops that are high in polyphenol antioxidants. Noble, low alpha acid hops such as the Saaz variety tend to have a higher polyphenol content than high alpha acid bittering hops. Fresh hops will also be a better source of polyphenol antioxidants, as the polyphenols will degrade over time. However, fresh hops must be used very soon after they are harvested, preferably within twenty four hours. As fresh hops have not been dried (kilned), about five to eight times by weight will need to be used compared to dried hops.
  3. Image titled Brew Antioxidant Rich Beer Step 3
    Mash the grains as desired. Use any type of mash tun and a mashing schedule that is appropriate for the type of barley that is used. In this process, the milled grain is mixed with heated water. The water and grain mixture (the mash) is held at specific temperatures for specific periods of time. This enables the enzymes that exist naturally in the malted barley to become activated and convert (break down) the starch that is part of the grains into fermentable sugars.[4] The mash tun manifold enables the sugars and other constituents to be efficiently extracted from the grains during the sparging process (see below).
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    Lauter or sparge as desired. Fly or batch sparge in the mash tun or lauter tun. The goal here is to rinse or extract fermentable sugars from the grain and collect the resulting wort. Barley antioxidants such as polyphenols and important nutrients are also collected along with the sugars. The yeast that will eventually ferment the wort (after boiling and cooling, see below) will consume the sugars and produce alcohol. The yeast also requires the vitamins, minerals and amino acids that are provided by the malted barley. During fly sparging, a layer of hot water is maintained above the grain bed in the mash or lauter tun. As water is gradually added from the top, the wort is allowed to gradually flow out of the mash tun through a spigot that is connected to the mash tun manifold or similar device. During this process, a very rough filter bed is formed by the grain itself over the mash tun manifold, which enables the wort to be extracted and essentially separated from the grain. The wort is collected in the boil kettle.
  5. Image titled Brew Antioxidant Rich Beer Step 5
    Boil the wort. The wort is typically boiled with hops for 60 to 90 minutes in order to extract the bitter constituents (essentially alpha acids) from the hops. The alpha acids are antioxidants, but powerful hop polyphenol antioxidants are also extracted during this time. It is apparently best to boil for a shorter amount of time, such as 60 minutes. A hazy, polyphenol-rich beer is what is desired, and longer boil times may result in clearer beer. Longer boil times may facilitate the removal of proteins that exist in the wort. The proteins that contribute to haze adsorb (bind to) antioxidants, so should not be completely removed. A 90 minute boil should generally be fine, however, especially if dark malts are used. It may be best to add hops throughout the boil to extract different types of hop polyphenols. Hop polyphenols and other constituents such as the bitter alpha acids are isomerized, degraded, and lost during the boil (depending on the exact nature of the constituent). Isomerized and degraded hop constituents are still important antioxidants. In fact, the primary purpose of the boil is to isomerize the bitter alpha acids. Un-isomerized and undegraded hop constituents are also important antioxidants, and can be extracted and preserved when hops are added near or after the end of the boil.
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    Cool the wort rapidly. This helps to preserve the fragile hop polyphenols and other antioxidants, as hot wort is susceptible to oxidation. The oxidation process destroys antioxidants, and also degrades the overall quality of the beer. A wort chiller should be used.
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    Use a low flocculating yeast strain. This type of yeast remains somewhat suspended in the beer and does not form a very compact sediment. Yeast in beer is rich in antioxidants and nutrients, and therefore some should be consumed with the beer, as opposed to stuck to the bottom of the beer bottle or keg (see below).
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    Harvest and reuse yeast during the fermentation process. The yeast adsorbs (binds to) and consumes the antioxidants and nutrients from the wort. As such, the fermentation process results in the propagation of nutrient-rich brewing yeast. Breweries typically harvest yeast from the fermentation tanks and reuse it to ferment subsequent batches of wort.
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    Bottle or bulk condition in kegs with living yeast. This living yeast will not only provide antioxidants and nutrients for the beer consumer, but will also actively help to preserve the freshness and antioxidant content of the beer by consuming oxygen and producing carbon dioxide. Therefore, do not filter out all of the yeast from the beer before bottling or kegging. Yeast can also be harvested from the fermentation tanks and added to the beer at bottling to further increase the antioxidant-rich yeast content. It is undesirable to add additional yeast to kegs, as when kegged beer is dispensed, the beer is pulled from the bottom of the keg. This can result is too much yeast being dispensed with the beer when the keg is initially tapped. The use of a low flocculating yeast strain that remains suspended in the beer, as noted above, helps to remediate this situation.


  • Antioxidant-rich beer is generally dark and at least somewhat bitter. Higher mash temperatures may be important in order to give the beer additional sweetness and offset the bitterness of the beer.
  • Some dark malts, such as black patent malt, can contribute to the bitterness of a beer. Therefore, it may be best to use chocolate, coffee, and carafa malts that were kilned at lower temperatures.
  • Pale-colored beers can also be antioxidant rich, especially if the beer is hazy, late hop additions are used, and the beer is not filtered or overly clarified.
  • High-gravity beer should provide greater concentrations of antioxidants, although the corresponding high alcohol content may negate potential health benefits.
  • Do not overly filter the beer, as this will remove some of the antioxidants, especially the antioxidant-rich yeast and other antioxidant-rich particles. If the beer must be finely filtered, it may be important that the beer be dark, as the dark malt not only provides certain antioxidants that are resistant to filtration, but helps to keep antioxidants such as polyphenols in the beer during the filtration process.
  • Many modern brewing methods are implemented in order to produce beer that's bright and not susceptible to haze formation. Haze in beer is indicative of a higher antioxidant content, so brewing methods should be adjusted to preserve haze formation.
  • Fruit can add polyphenols and antioxidants to beer. To make fruit beer, add fruit to the secondary fermenter. Be sure to use canned or pasteurized fresh fruit so that the beer does not become spoiled.
  • Do not ferment in a secondary fermenter for extended periods of time. Some of the antioxidants and antioxidant-rich yeast will fall out of the beer as the beer clarifies naturally in the secondary fermenter.
  • All beer is a source of readily absorbed antioxidants. Therefore, do not be discouraged from drinking whatever beer you may currently have at hand just because it's not brewed specifically to be antioxidant-rich.
  • Flavor and aroma hops will probably provide certain polyphenols that are not provided by the bittering hops, as these polyphenols are degraded or lost during the boil. However, antioxidant-rich beers do not need to have flavor and aroma hop additions, especially if dark malts are used. Do not deviate from a specific beer style too much.
  • Avoid using a whirlpool, if possible. The whirlpool process can remove much of the healthy antioxidants from the beer. Removing trub by filtering the wort through a layer of whole hops may be an excellent substitute for the whirlpool process.


  • It is not recommended that someone begin drinking beer in order to gain health benefits. Beer may only promote health when consumed in moderation. Alcohol can be very harmful to your health, especially when consumed in excess. It is very important that pregnant and nursing women not consume alcoholic beverages, as alcohol is very harmful to the fetus, infants, and children. It may be wise for beer drinkers to consume no more than one pint of beer per day.

Sources and Citations

  • Wunderlich S, Zurcher A, Back W. Enrichment of xanthohumol in the brewing process. Mol Nutr Food Res 2005; 49(9): 874-881. PMID 16097021
  • Gerhauser C. Beer constituents as potential cancer chemopreventive agents. Eur J Cancer 2005; 41(13): 1941-1954. PMID 15953717
  • Nardini M, Natella F, Scaccini C, Ghiselli A. Phenolic acids from beer are absorbed and extensively metabolized in humans. J Nutr Biochem 2006; 17(1): 14-22. PMID 16242314
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