The plain truth is, if you want an impartial analysis of beer, you can't ask a beer drinker. They just can't give you a scientific opinion because they care too much. It's like asking me to choose between Rocio Guario Diaz and Doutzen Kroes.*   Sure, I can give you an answer but it will depend on my mood. It's the same for beer drinkers.

So if you didn't read Practical Science Part I - Bugs Bunny and Beer you may not know how to make your very own shrunken head or how smart Bugs Bunny really is or why moms actually do know best but you most especially don't know how, at the end of that research project, I came to grab a cold beer.

"Miller Genuine Draft" it said, and "unique cold-filtering process."

"What's so great about cold-filtered beer?" I thought and, because I am a practical science guy, I found out.

Best use of beer foam

It's not that I never heard of Miller, though if I had to choose beer towns that have baseball teams I would have to go with St. Louis, it's just that I don't think I ever had one before, at least not this brand. I never learned to drink, which makes me the perfect person to do this analysis.

Can I tell you if Miller beer tastes good? No, not really. My opinion on the taste of beer is as useless as Richard Dawkins' opinion on religion or Jerry Falwell's opinion on biology. They get paid to appeal to their faithful and I'm too scientific to become either one of them.

But around here we don't just stick to the theoretical. We field test ... there's nothing more useless than results that haven't been subjected to the rigors of a real world environment.

Hour 1 of field testing

Beer made simple

I won't go into elaborate nuances of the beer-making process because a lot of that is taste driven but you can basically make beer in anything. What is important is what goes in the beer. Beer is made from starches. If you use something else, it isn't beer. Grapes don't make beer though they make a nice wine while honey can make mead. If it's distilled it isn't beer either.

For the experimental phase, actual beer creation, I was in a bit of a quandary. I don't own any beer making equipment. Sure, I have pots and pans but I know if I start dragging hoses, kettles and strainers across the granite countertops, it's going to be a very weird day in the Cashominium. What I do have a lot of, and eminent domain over, are coffee pots. Plus, I don't care much about taste as much as I care about figuring out why things work.

Beer - in a coffee pot.

If you make your own coffee you know that you put beans in hot water to get yummy caffeinated goodness. Brewing beer is the same way, minus the yummy caffeinated goodness part. Luckily, any coffee maker with an ordinary heater and a hot plate is the perfect temperature for brewing beer. To make the process quicker and more efficient, cracking the grains ( or beans, in coffee) is a good idea.

You're thinking, 'neat, you can also use a coffee grinder to crack the barley.' Well, no, I didn't want to grind the barley into flour so I milled it by hand with a rolling pin. They had a grain crusher at the store where I bought the barley and, because the owner is an expert and therefore useless in this experiment, he told me how much better the barley would be when prepared in that. Some people think their way is the only way. "Hey, Richard Dawkins," I said, "Show some tolerance for diversity." He didn't know what that meant but I assured him it would get a laugh in any biology conference.

Hour 2 of field testing - this nice lady is concerned not enough beer is being consumed and requests a breathalyzer test

I told him what I wanted to do and, when he wasn't looking at me like I was from outer space, sold me 2 cups of grain ( a pilsner base malt), a few hops and some cheesecloth.

After returning I cracked the grain with a rolling pin, put it into the pot, poured 3 cups of water into the reservoir and let it go to work. I let it sit for about an hour, figuring that was long enough for the starches and complex sugars to break down into fermentable sugars. Then I put the gooey mess into a filter, put the filter in the basket, and ran the liquid through 5 more times, adding a cup of water each time. Why? Because the recipe said you wanted to really wash these grains out and get those delicious sugars.

And it didn't smell like beer at all. It was definitely sugary. The rest of the process you can look up on the internet because it doesn't involve the coffee pot, but basically you boil the liquid and mash, put in some hops and cook it and then pour it in a jar ( without the sediment), aerate it a little and add yeast after it cools to room temperature - some namby pamby type will jump in here and tell me I didn't include enough detail but that's why they invented Google - I then covered it with cheesecloth and secured it with a rubber band so the CO2 it produced would keep out other contaminants, like Al Gore (© 2007, Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense, Democrat Party), and left it alone for a week. That's why there was a delay in writing part II but it gave us time to do field testing, as you can see in the pictures.

Now that we have the process out of the way we can talk about the chemistry.

Hour 2.2 - She is pleased to be part of a science experiment

Chemistry - pasteurization versus cold filtering

I don't get much into opinion so I will just give you the facts and you can decide for yourself which makes a better beer. Pasteurization, by definition, is heating to kill microbes. So it kills yeast and bacteria. Filtering basically removes yeast and bacteria. Filtering is going to leave a clear beer but advocates of pasteurization say that optimizing those things instead of filtering them gives a beer with a distinct flavor. Filtering also takes less time.

Fine, fine, but why cold filtering?

My inclination was to think this is just marketing hype. With any filtering, they are getting rid of 'spoilage bacteria', (Lactobacillus brevis), which means you can let it get warm and it won't spoil anyway so the cold aspect and the claims you hear in those commercials is basically irrelevant. Removing bacteria sounds like a good thing. On the other hand, they make a fermented pickle in Kyoto that contains Lactobacillus brevis and they swear this increases interferon and boosts the immune system. Like a lot of things in science, you can choose what you want to believe.

Cold filtering has value to breweries because ice forms on haze particles and yeast. Since those chunks are now bigger, they can be removed easily. Most breweries still use diatomaceous earth ( basically a fossilized algae ) filters and easier filtering is going to be cheaper for the company.

Yes or no, is Miller's four-stage cold-filtering better or not?

Most everyone uses a DE filter but those leak so there is usually an additional filter. Miller uses four filters, including perhaps exceedingly fine ones like .45 micron membrane filters. Since enthusiasts say even one cell of bacteria can ruin a bottle of beer, that extra filtering can make a difference. It may be that four filters is overkill, like four blades on a razor, but my conclusion is:


You'll have to wait for Part III to see the actual home-brewed beer though. You can't rush good science.


* Correct answer: Rocio Guario Diaz

Everyone was happy that Miller's four-stage filtering is the winner, including Rocio Guario Diaz