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KU Leuven: Beer: the science of brewing

4.6 stars
29 ratings

Ever wondered why your beer tastes the way it does? Learn how the ingredients, different biochemical reactions and process parameters in beer brewing influence the taste and aroma of beer.

13 weeks
4–6 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
Optional upgrade available

About this course

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In this course of 12 modules, our team of academic scientists and brewmasters will introduce you to the science underlying beer brewing. At the end of this MOOC, you will understand the science underlying beer production, and why your beer tastes the way it does!

This MOOC also gives you a sneak peek inside some of Belgium’s most iconic breweries. It features talks from Belgian brewers and maltsters, as well as from some of the most renowned academics on key features of the malting and brewing process.

Thirsty for more? Also check out the new postgraduate in malting and brewing sciences that is organized by KU Leuven:


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At a glance

  • Institution: KULeuvenX
  • Subject: Food & Nutrition
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Prerequisites:
    • Bachelor degree in Sciences is recommended
    • Understanding of key biological and biochemical concepts (enzymes, proteins, lipids, DNA, ions,…)

    See FAQ for more info on the level of scientific knowledge that is recommended for this MOOC.

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills: Biochemistry, Influencing Skills

What you'll learn

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After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Explain the importance of the 4 basic ingredients of beer in shaping beer taste and aroma
  • Understand the different processing steps in malting and beer brewing
  • Understand the key biochemical reactions occurring during each of these steps
  • Recognize and describe the main beer styles, and understand how the brewing process contributes to the different beers
  • Identify key factors affecting beer identity, quality, and stability
  • Carry out basic sensory analyses of beers and identify key flavors and off-flavors and their molecular origin

Module 0: Course introduction
Introduction to the main topics and goals covered in this MOOC.

Module 1: History and Overview of the brewing process.
A brief history of beer brewing and an overview of the basic steps in the brewing process.

Module 2: Beer ingredients: Malt
Exploration of the typical characteristics of cereals used to make different types of beer, as well as the different steps in the malting process.
Expert speakers module 2 :

  • Prof. Christophe Courtin, Full professor at KU Leuven, Leuven Food Science and Nutrition Center, BE
  • Dr. Sofie Malfliet, Operations Manager at Albert Maltings, BE

Module 3: Beer ingredients: Water
Focus on the importance of water composition, how water is treated and its influence on beer quality and taste. You will also investigate your local water quality.
Expert speaker module 3 :

  • Prof. Hedwig Neven, Master brewer, Duvel-Moortgat, BE

Module 4: Beer ingredients: Hops and spices
Exploration of the typical characteristics of hops and spices used in beer brewing, and their effect on beer taste and aroma.
Expert speakers module 4 :

  • Prof. Thomas Shellhammer, Nor’Wester Professor of Fermentation Science, Oregon State University, USA
  • Dr. Gert De Rouck, Brew Master, KU Leuven, BE

Module 5: Beer ingredients: Yeast
Introduction to the different brewing yeasts, as well as their metabolites that influence beer.
Expert speakers module 5 :

  • Prof. Kevin Verstrepen, Full professor at KU Leuven, Director of the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology, BE
  • Prof. Bart Lievens, Professor at KU Leuven, BE

Module 6: The brewing process
Explanation of the main stages involved in beer brewing.
Expert speaker module 6 :

  • Dr. Gert De Rouck, Brew Master, KU Leuven, BE

Module 7: Fermentation
Exploration of key biochemical reactions during fermentation.
Expert speaker module 7 :

  • Anne-Françoise Pypaert, Brew Master, Orval Brewery, BE

Module 8: Filtration and packaging
Overview of filtration and different packaging types.
Expert speaker module 8 :

  • Dr. David De Schutter, Innovation & Technology Development Director Europe, AB InBev Brewery, BE

Module 9: Beer quality and stability
Overview of beer quality checks, and what parameters affect beer stability.
Expert speaker module 9 :

  • Prof. Charlie Bamforth, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Food Science and Technology, UC Davis, USA

Module 10: Beer assessment and tasting
Get hands-on experience in beer tasting and identifying key (off)flavors.
Expert speaker module 10 :

  • Dr. Veerle Daems, Senior Sensory Scientist, Haystack Consulting, BE

Module 11: Final exam

Learner testimonials

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"I found so much original content here that I cannot imagine this course won't become a bible for all brewers worldwide. Deep-diving content that definitely places this MOOC in the will-go-back-regularly category. Questions are usually answered by instructors, even with more questions raised to think further or additional resources to read... Experts panel is impressive... Each expert talk completes so well the course. And we had an insight in a Trappist brewery: wonderful!" - former learner

Frequently Asked Questions

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What scientific background is required?

This MOOC will discuss and show different chemical reactions and structures, to better explain what is happening during beer brewing. We fully realize that all these reactions can be a bit daunting at first sight. No worries! We do not expect you to memorize all these reaction mechanisms and structures. The most important thing is that by the end of this MOOC, you know some beer-specific compounds (flavor molecules, ageing compounds, …) and how they are formed (as in: from what raw materials are they derived of; what factors affect their formation?) And, if like us, you are a bit of a science geek: feel free to dive a bit deeper into the different reactions!

Worried that you don’t have the proper scientific background?

The big advantage of MOOCs is of course that you can always go over things at your own pace; and even repeat sections that weren’t immediately clear (or even simply skip things that go into too much depth to your liking). Also don't be shy to reach out to us and your fellow learners in the discussion forum to seek for help when something is not clear!

Still struggling?

Perhaps you can have a look at these MOOCs to refresh your scientific knowledge:

If you are looking for a first introduction to how beer is made, we recommend the The Science of Beer MOOC by Wageningen:

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners residing in one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. edX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.

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