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The science of alcohol
The science of alcohol

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

The science of alcohol

Introduction and guidance

This free badged course, The science of alcohol, lasts 24 hours, with 8 weeks. You can work through the course at your own pace, so if you have more time one week there is no problem with pushing on to complete a further week. The eight weeks are linked to ensure a logical flow through the course. They are:

  1. What is alcohol?
  2. An introduction to brewing
  3. Taste and smell
  4. Brewing on an industrial scale
  5. The short-term effects of alcohol
  6. Distillation and spirits
  7. The long-term effects of alcohol consumption
  8. Product protection and maintaining product provenance.

This course will develop your confidence and skills for online study, whether this is to explore natural science topics or part of your preparation for other study.

You’ll start by thinking about how alcoholic beverages are produced, how different products are manufactured and analysed. The effects on the body will be explored, both in terms of consuming alcohol and how they smell and taste. The history of alcohol manufacture will be explored and you will have the chance to make your own drinks, through an optional home-brew experiment. All these aspects will be explained, so don’t worry if they seem unfamiliar at the moment. There are vivid videos examples to help with this and you’ll get plenty of opportunities to demonstrate your new understanding and practise your study skills.

Part of this practice will be the weekly interactive quizzes, of which Weeks 4 and 8 will provide you with an opportunity to earn a badge to demonstrate your new skills. You can read more on how to study the course and about badges in the next sections.

After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • describe the process of fermentation and how it is used to create different varieties of alcoholic beverage
  • compare brewing on the microscale and commercial scale, and describe how a spirit such as gin is produced on a large scale
  • describe how alcohol affects the human body, both in terms of long and short term effects
  • describe how chemicals within a drink give it its taste and aroma, and how the body recognises it
  • discuss how modern-day scientists use cutting edge technology to protect against counterfeiting and contamination.

Moving around the course

In the ‘Summary’ at the end of each week, you will find a link to the next week. If at any time you want to return to the start of the course, click on ‘Full course description’. From here you can navigate to any part of the course.

It’s also good practice, if you access a link from within a course page (including links to the quizzes), to open it in a new window or tab. That way you can easily return to where you’ve come from without having to use the back button on your browser.

The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others.