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Monk 11-28-2006 06:18 AM

"Mashing" specialty grains
Quick question for all:

I read a guy's comments about his own beer, and he said "maybe I'll mash the grains a bit higher so I can get more unfermentable sugars." He wanted it sweeter. When I double checked the recipe, however, I confirmed that he only had Crystal malts in it.

So, the question is: do crystal (and other specialty grains) add more sweetness if steeped at higher temps? Like, does a pound of Crystal steeped in 158F water add more sweetness than a pound steeped in 150F?

I always thought it was the temperature during starch conversion (mashing) that mattered for fermentability/sweetness.

Thanks in advance!


texasgeorge 11-28-2006 06:25 AM

Steeping really only affects the color and, to a small degree, malt flavors. It does not contribute anything significant in the way of fermentables. If by "sweetness" he is referring to more malty than bitter, he can up the amount of malt (or extract) and/or reduce the amount of hops.

If he's actually referring to sugary sweetness, you can try adding some honey (pasteurized at ~160F for 15 min) to the secondary. What kind of beer did he make? A recipe would help point your friend in the right direction for the type of beer.

the_bird 11-28-2006 11:14 AM

I can't imagine that a higher steep temp would have any impact. Temperature impacts the conversion of starch to fermentable and unfermentable sugars, but with crystal the conversion has already occured - you're just rinsing.

Chairman Cheyco 11-28-2006 01:39 PM

These two guys are right, however there is one point which needs to be made clear. Mash temperature has no affect on the flavor of the final product, be it related to sweetness or maltiness. It has everything to do with the body of the beer through the control of unfermentable sugars which have no flavor. The body of the beer may have an impact on how the beer tastes but if you want sweeter beer, you need to change the ingredients, not the mash temperature.

Orfy 11-28-2006 02:08 PM

He could try adding MaltoDextrin, an unfermentable sugar. It'll also add body.

Chairman Cheyco 11-28-2006 02:12 PM

Maltodextrin has no flavor, if he wants it to be sweeter, he needs to add lactose. Lactose is unfermentable and is also sweet.

Evan! 11-28-2006 02:38 PM


You don't mean "steeping", because the commenter you're talking about said "mashing", which is not the same as steeping. Steeping merely rinses already-converted sugars from the grains, along with flavor and color. Mashing actually activates enzymes, which then convert the starches to sugars.

Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but it sounds like the guy you're talking about wants more dextrose (longer sugar molecules) and less maltose, etc. As I understand it, higher mashing temps deactivate some of the enzymes which "chomp on the ends of the molecule chains", thereby halting the process which reduces those chains to small enough sugars that they can be fermented by the yeast.

In other words, lower temp mashing converts long unfermentable starches into smaller and smaller molecules. Once they get to a certain point, they're dextrins, which are unfermentable sugars (they add sweetness, but since the yeasts cannot convert them, that sweetness carries through to the final product). If you mash them even longer at those temps, the dextrins further convert down to fermentable molecular lengths.

I'm a bit new to all this, so please, anyone, correct any of my mistakes.

If I were you, though, I wouldn't go through all the trouble. Just add maltodextrin powder to the boil. Unfermentables, voila!

Monk 11-28-2006 02:55 PM

Actually, I do mean steeping. I know the difference between steeping and mashing. The commentator did say that he was "mashing", but I think this was in error, due to the fact that he only had Crystal malts in the grain bill.

My only question was whether steeping at higher temps affected the perceived "sweetness". I take it the answer's no. Thanks for the confirmation, guys.


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