Free course

The science of alcohol

Free statement of participation on completion

In this free course, The science of alcohol, you will learn about the processes involved in the creation of alcoholic drinks – how they are produced, how the wide range of flavours are generated and how scientists ensure the safety of what we drink. You will also explore the effects of alcohol on our bodies in both the short and long term.

Alcohol production is an excellent example of how modern-day science and engineering has met twenty-first-century commerce. This course investigates the basics of the chemistry and biology behind alcohol production. You will be introduced to the fermentation process, how the ingredients used lead to different flavours, and what chemicals cause these differences. By understanding the processes used in preparation you will explore the different types of beer. A practical 'experiment' of a homebrew will run alongside this course. If you wish you can try your hand at brewing as you learn the science behind it all.

You will learn about the distilling process and how this occurs at a large scale. You will explore the natural botanicals that are used to infuse flavour into spirits and the chemicals within these.

The providence behind alcoholic drinks is incredibly important in terms of safety, but also from a commercial viewpoint. Therefore, you will study how this has developed over the years and explore the modern-day analytical instrumentation used to combat fraud and counterfeiting.

Alcohol is well known to affect the human body. You will learn about the reasons why we get drunk, and how the body processes alcohol, and the deleterious long term effects of excessive alcohol consumption. You will explore how taste and smell work and why this is important to our choice of drinks, and go in search of the best hangover cure.

Earn this free Open University digital badge if you complete this course! The badge can be displayed, shared and downloaded as a marker of your achievement. The badge is awarded for completing the course and passing the quizzes.

You can start this course right now without signing-up. Click on any of the course content sections below to start at any point in this course.
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Course content