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Old 08-01-2007, 04:52 PM   #1
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Default Direct Heat Multi-step vs. Decoction

I'm planning to brew a Munich Helles and wanted to get some input from people who know more than I here (a good many!)... I've been studying up on decoction mashing and was working out a way to incorporate this into my set-up (3-tier, 3-keg, 3-burner). When I learned exactly what decoction does for the end beer flavor, I wondered if step-mashing with a burner would actually produce similar results. I say this because if one can find a good medium between stirring enough to prevent scorching (plus using an SS false bottom) and not stirring too much so that the grain near the bottom of the keg would get near boiling while the burner is on to bring up the temp to the next step, couldn't one turn off the burner at the right time to stir it all together to get up to the next temperature in the mash schedule? This last part may be difficult to get just right, but I guess I'm just trying to figure out if decoction is really worth it compared to step mashing for this type of beer and with my brewing set-up.

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Old 08-01-2007, 05:11 PM   #2
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It's going to be different. Decoction mashing involves bringing a portion of the mash to a boil for an extended period of time (often as much as 40% of the mash), which kills the enzymes in that portion. There's a difference between boiling and getting the mash at the bottom really hot - it's not going to be the same.

Moreover, there's no way to keep the "top" part of the mash from getting too hot(denaturing enzymes), especially since the enzynes are so water-soluable. Decoctions tend to be done for at least ten or fifteen minutes, so I don't see how your approach would be able to keep the whole mash from getting pretty close to the boiling point when all was said and done.

Now, one can argue whether you really NEED to be able to decoct, but I don't see how doing a step mash in the manner you propose would be a substitute.

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Old 08-01-2007, 05:19 PM   #3
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Thanks, Bird. That was very inciteful. Looks like I might try the decoction, just to see how it affects the flavor.

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Old 08-01-2007, 05:31 PM   #4
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A few years ago, I did a triple decoction Bohemian Pilsner. Turned out really nice.

Did the same beer, but did a step infusion (protein - saccrification). HUGE difference.

Without the decoction, the beer tasted plain, and almost starchy. Both beers clarified well though.

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Old 08-01-2007, 07:36 PM   #5
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Would doing a 2-step decoction create a higher efficiency requiring me to reduce the amount of grain from what is indicated on brewing software (to achieve the estimated OG)? Part of the reason I'm asking is for the decoction, but the other reason I'm asking is because I've done two batches with this set-up (one multi-step and one single infusion) and both have had a higher OG than anticipated(about 5-6 points). To my knowledge, both of those batches had no obvious mistakes to create a significantly higher OG. I'm trying to stay lower on the style OG range on my next one.

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Old 08-01-2007, 07:39 PM   #6
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Decoction mashing can improve efficiency (and often does), but I think you'll have to do a couple batches to see what your processes and system results in. So, the answer is probably "yes," but the magnitude is tough to do more than ballpark.

If your efficiency is running a bit high (lucky bastard!), I doubt it'll DROP if you do a decoction.

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