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Old 01-09-2013, 09:47 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by highgravitybacon View Post
Not sure if I understand the point in a decoction mash. First, by pulling out liquid and boiling it, you're destroying the enzymes. which kind of is contrary to the whole purpose of malting and mashin. Second, at a time it was used, people didn't have nearly the understanding of malts nor the consistency of modern malts. The modern malting process itself does much of the work a decoction mash was intended to do with the ****ty malts of the past.

Am I missing something here? If I'm mashing to take advantage of the enzymes, why embark on a process like decoction that intentionally destroys the enzymes?
Yes, you're missing something. The decoction volume is taken from the thick mash; mostly grain, with some liquid, but most of the liquid remains behind in the mash tun. The enzymes are in the liquid. Sure, some of the enzymes will be destroyed, but certainly not enough to prevent conversion.

Secondly, there are supposedly other reactions that occur during the decoction that are said to create a more malty flavor. There is a lot of debate on this topic, but many claim an increased malt flavor to decoction brews.

I've done a couple decoctions, mainly "just because"... and it made for a long brew day. My first lager was an Oktoberfest that I decocted, and it was beautiful. Not sure it was worth the extra time investment, but it was still fun.
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Old 01-10-2013, 11:58 AM   #12
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Great post, Adam, it really answered a lot of my questions. I still have 2 things that confuse me, however:

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Originally Posted by biertourist View Post
As others have pointed out you're almost always pulling a fairly thick decocation (use a strainer)
How do you boil a "thick" decoction that's been through a strainer? Isn't this basically just a lump of wet grains? How would such a thing actually "boil?" Wouldn't you just get the occasional bubble popping up through the oatmeal-like mass? Maybe this is the sort of thing that will become obvious if I ever actually do a decoction, but intuitively, it just seems like if I tried to boil oatmeal that's been strained of all free liquid, it would just scorch to the bottom of the kettle rather than do anything resembling "boiling."

And how long do you "rest" at sacc temperatures on your way up to boiling with a decoction? Or does it depend on which decoction it is?
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Old 01-10-2013, 05:42 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by kombat View Post
Great post, Adam, it really answered a lot of my questions. I still have 2 things that confuse me, however:



How do you boil a "thick" decoction that's been through a strainer? Isn't this basically just a lump of wet grains? How would such a thing actually "boil?" Wouldn't you just get the occasional bubble popping up through the oatmeal-like mass? Maybe this is the sort of thing that will become obvious if I ever actually do a decoction, but intuitively, it just seems like if I tried to boil oatmeal that's been strained of all free liquid, it would just scorch to the bottom of the kettle rather than do anything resembling "boiling."

And how long do you "rest" at sacc temperatures on your way up to boiling with a decoction? Or does it depend on which decoction it is?
you still have liquid in the decoction and the hotter it gets the thinner it gets. had our brewing forefathers had the variety of malts we have today i don't think they would have bothered with decoctions. i wonder if you could tell the difference between a decontion beer and one that used melanoidin malt instead? i have no idea but maybe someone has experimented with this?
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Old 01-10-2013, 05:46 PM   #14
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someone did do a comparison: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f13/deco...n-malt-345844/

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Old 01-10-2013, 05:55 PM   #15
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As I put more thought into seriously considering trying a decoction mash, I came up with another question: How do you maintain the heat in your main mash while you're collecting and boiling decoctions? My cooler MLT can hold temperature for 60 minutes, as long as I keep it closed and wrapped in a blanket. But if I need it to mash for 30 minutes, then open it and remove a decoction, then close it back up for the 40 minutes I'm heating/boiling the decoction, won't it lose significant temperature?

What do you "decocters" do? Do you mash in a kettle to which you can periodically apply heat? Has anyone done decoction mashes with a cooler MLT? How do you maintain temperature in the main mash?

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Old 01-10-2013, 05:57 PM   #16
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You do have to keep stirring your thick decoction while you're cooking it, and occasionally you'll find some spots that are sticking a bit that you'll want to break loose, but it shouldn't scorch if you stay on top of things.


So far as the MLT logistics go, I put in the strike water, stir it all up to get the temperature equalized, and then IMMEDIATELY pull out the first decoction to get it going. By the time you have heated up your decoction and boiled it for the appropriate amount of time, you should be ready for you next decoction step in the MLT anyway. You will want to slowly raise the temperature in the decoction...if you just turn the burner on full blast you very well could end up scorching it, and the point of the decoction is to slowly bring it up through the amylase temps anyway. So, a couple degrees F per minute is a typical guideline.

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Old 01-10-2013, 06:13 PM   #17
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Thanks, Weirdboy, that makes sense.

All of the responses in this thread have really helped clarify the idea of decoction mashing for me. This seems to be a topic that is frequently glossed over or ignored completely in brewing literature. I'm currently reading New Brewing Lager Beer, and it has a good section on decoction mashing (though I think I'll need to read it several times for it all to sink in). I would love to try my hand at a Doppelbock, and thanks to the answers you guys have provided, I think I might just take a stab at one later this summer.

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Old 01-10-2013, 09:47 PM   #18
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Go onto Kai's website (BrauKaiser) and watch his 2 or 3 videos on decocting and read the couple of items that he has on the subject on his wiki page. -It will make you feel much more at ease with decocting. -You will be able to calculate how much grain to pull for each decocation and at which thickness on your own, without a calculator tool, too. (I find it reassuring to be able to at least theoretically understand the process enough that I don't need to just rely upon someone else's calculator or documented process.)

To answer your direct question: The grain holds plenty of liquid so transfer to your decoction pan/vessel with the strainer and then just top it up with liquid so that it's covered. (I just wanted to do a simple single decoction my first time and really just wanted to see if I got a maltier taste -I did a sacc temp to mash-out temp decoction as it takes the least amount of time; this was for a dunkel bock so I gave it a 20 minute boil. It's not a traditional decoction at ALL; you just won't find that profile anywhere but it is an easy way to try a decoction without making your brew day take forever and you have little worry of killing off the enzymes as you don't pull the decoction until after you've finished conversion.)

Don't forget the 15% - 20% "fudge factor" that Kai recommends in his video(s) as it's pretty rough math given all the system to system and mash to mash variables. -I found that the BeerTools calculator had a much smaller fudge factor and I was glad I calculated it on my own; I nailed my temp numbers with my insulated mashtun, anyway.

Also, take a picture of your decocted portion at the beginning then take a picture after 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and so on (depending upon how long you boil the decocted portion). It's pretty amazing how much darkening you get from a 20 minute boil even though you don't realize it while watching it in real time. -You'll quickly understand how an old Munich Dunkel and Dunkel Bock recipe could have used ONLY Munich and Vienna malts and still ended up so dark.

Decoctions don't have to been a pain, although they WILL make the brew day longer I find them super therapeutic as my brewing has become less and less hands on as my system gets more advanced; there's something nice about having a really hands-on decoction brew day. The connection to the tradition, although having no impact on the finished product is also really cool, too. I really appreciate the old German pictures of guys moving grain manually from one vessel to another using wooden buckets attached to poles (or "mash scoops" or whatever they're called.) now.

Adam

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Old 01-10-2013, 09:57 PM   #19
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P.S. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this forum! There's SOO many super super knowledgeable and experienced people; it's fantastic to be able to finally have these sorts of discussions after being stuck in all my brewing books and not having the ability to talk about the finer points with anyone!


Adam

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Old 01-10-2013, 10:17 PM   #20
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I did my first ever decoction mash on the Hefeweizen that's just about done with primary fermentation (did a double decoction from protein rest to sacch rest to mash out) .

I was mortified at first, but it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I ran with Palmer's math from How To Brew. He also references lab tests showing that even the thickest possible decoction pull is still about 50% water, so there's plenty to boil. And I learned that the math and calculators aren't going to get it right (both mashing in for the protein rest higher than planned, and increasing the decoction volumes 15-20% more than the math said, and I hit the second rest temp, but fell a degree short of my planned mashout temp), and will generally instruct you to pull less than you actually need. And as many others have said, trick to not scorching your decoction is stirring 100% of the time. Can be a little tough on the arms.

It may well be placebo, but from a gravity sample it certainly tastes maltier than previous Hefes I've done. If I were thorough I'd replicate the recipe with a single infusion mash and do a blind side by side tasting. Perhaps if I rebrew this down the road I'll do it then. There was a tasting done (I don't recall who did it) where the same beer was done with and without decoction, and people chose either decoction, no decoction, or no preference. More folks preferred decocted to non-decocted, but no preference outnumbered both. So it seems it's a contentious issue whether it's really necesary or not.

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