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Old 03-28-2008, 05:12 PM   #1
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Default Controlling Attenuation Through Mash Times

I’ve read it before, but until recently I never thought it relevant to my brewing…the notion that your mash time will effect the attenuation (fermentability) of your wort.

I’m here to tell you it makes a huge difference. Recently I’ve taken to doing 90 minute mash times as a normal course. A few reasons:

  • It seems to help my efficiency.
  • My targeted OG’s seem more consistent and predictable.
  • And just as important…it allows me time to go take a nap.
Now consider that I do a hybrid of a slow batch/fly sparge, and by the time I’m drained, my mash is easily sitting at prime conversion temps for nearly two hours. (Well within the safe window of preventing oxidation).

Since doing these longer mashes, I’ve noticed that my beers are over attenuating like crazy. Where one batch of Kona pale ale finished at 1.012 in December, my last (identical) batch finished at…1.005. Only difference was my mash time. It has just taken me a few batches (4 in a row) that came in under 1.010 to put 2 and 2 together.

To me, this is empirical evidence that longer mashes cause higher attenuation.

I like to brew lighter beers so this attenuation isn’t a big issue for my blondes, wits and other “crisp” beers. But for malty Pales, Octoberfests, Munich Helles, Ambers and English Ales, this could make the beers too dry for the desired style.

Between improving my efficiency using a batch/fly hybrid sparge, longer mashes and lower final gravities, I’m going to have to reformulate some of my recipes. My 4.5% beers are becoming 5.6% beers.

So…..

If you’ve been plagued by beers that just won’t drop below the 1.018 (ish) mark, try adding 20-30 minutes to your mash times and see if that helps. Or…if your big pale ales are just too dry and not malty enough, reduce your mash times by 20 minutes and see if that doesn’t produce more unfermentable sugars.
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Old 03-28-2008, 05:20 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BierMuncher

I like to brew lighter beers so this attenuation isn’t a big issue for my blondes, wits and other “crisp” beers. But for malty Pales, Octoberfests, Munich Helles, Ambers and English Ales, this could make the beers too dry for the desired style.
I am going to try this on my next batch and will report back, Do you think it will dry a German hefe out really bad?
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Old 03-28-2008, 05:24 PM   #3
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I brewed a German Pilsner a few weeks ago that I wanted to finish very dry. I let the mash go at 147F for 90 minutes. I hit my targeted FG of 1.011 very easily. I would not hesitate to do the same thing for any beer that I am trying to get dry and/or no harm would come from even dropping a few extra FG points.

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Old 03-28-2008, 05:27 PM   #4
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I've beed doing 75 minute 152*F mashes, as I like a little drier beer. Might have to give the 90 minutes a try and maybe mash at a higher temp as well for my less dry beers. This is good news as I thought I was going to take to long to do a decoction I was planning.

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Old 03-28-2008, 05:36 PM   #5
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I agree BierMuncher.
I also do 90 min mashes and believe that this in combination with a proper mash temperature will greatly aid in your attenuation level. If you are not worried about style and just want higher alcohol then you could do a 90 min mash at a lower mash temperature.
Now thanks to BierMuncher we might be seeing more druck posts!

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Old 03-28-2008, 06:47 PM   #6
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Yes, time and temp have an affect on attenuation. That's why I recommend to pay attention to both. Contrary to my believe of the beta amylase having only a short life-span at mashing temps, I recently saw charts that suggest that it can easily be active longer than 60 min if the temp is around 150F.

If only the mash temp would not have such a big impact as well. Then we could control attenuation by mash time. This would be much easier to control than hitting the mash temp dead on.


Kai

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Old 03-28-2008, 07:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaiser
If only the mash temp would not have such a big impact as well. Then we could control attenuation by mash time. This would be much easier to control than hitting the mash temp dead on.


Kai
I don't want to get too off topic, but wouldn't doing a separate beta and alpha rest and varying the time spent in each also alleviate the need for spot on temperatures when controlling fermentability of wort? I started off doing this since I didn't really trust my thermometers (all read differently), but it doesn't sound like many people here do the two saccarification rest temps.
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Old 03-28-2008, 08:22 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reshp1
I don't want to get too off topic, but wouldn't doing a separate beta and alpha rest and varying the time spent in each also alleviate the need for spot on temperatures when controlling fermentability of wort? I started off doing this since I didn't really trust my thermometers (all read differently), but it doesn't sound like many people here do the two saccarification rest temps.
Yes, this works as well and is the way many of the larger breweries do it. The problem for homebrewers is that most use coolers for MLTs and would have to use infusions to raise the temp. This can be a bit tricky and more difficult than a single infusion mash where you simply change the time needed.

I have a SS MLT that is direct fired and have done several step mashes recently and have been getting better than rated attenuation lately. Luckily none have gone too dry yet.
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Old 03-28-2008, 09:23 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BierMuncher
If you’ve been plagued by beers that just won’t drop below the 1.018 (ish) mark
Hrm, that sounds familiar. I think having an ordinary bitter finish at 1.017 was a sign that I need to take a closer look at my technique to figure out where the problem lies. Thanks to this thread I'll definitely be experimenting with mash times now.
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Old 03-28-2008, 09:48 PM   #10
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I have been doing this on all my recent Belgium beers. My Trippel got 86% Attenuation, doing a 90 min mash.. My Belgian IPA I did a two hour mash on, we shall see how dry I can get it. My next attempt at a saison I will be doing an overnight mash.

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