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Old 10-12-2010, 06:23 PM   #1
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Default Step Mashing? With today's highly modified malts?

I've heard a lot of differing opinions on this recently. So I thought I would bring it up here.

The owner of my LHBS is a transplanted professional brewer. He earned a brewing degree from UC Davis so I tend to put at least some stock in the advice he gives me.

I am returning to lager brewing (had not brewed one in more than 10 years) and was picking his brain for some tips the other day. I asked him about a protein rest. "Don't worry about it" was his answer. His reasoning was that with the highly modified malts available on the market today, a protein rest is not needed.

Time will tell. I just made a light-bodied pilsner over the weekend that was primarily pilsner malt (with a little flaked rice added in since I am serving it at a party to a bunch of BudMilloors drinkers). I used a single step sacc mash at 151F until conversion was complete. I do still throw in a mash out step in the 160s just to shut down starch conversion for 10 min or so after I have had a successful iodine test.

So what are some of the prevailing thoughts on multi-step mashes? Is there some complexity of flavor, body, etc., by going all single step infusion mash? I have gone with the single step mash most of my brewing life because it's easier. I mash with a converted beverage cooler and until I picked up some tips from a BYO all grain article awhile back, I'd had enough trouble hitting one temperature, let alone stepping it up 2 or 3 times.

Until I plunk down the cash to buy or build something like the Brutus 10 that allows me tighter control of temperature steps, what am I missing out on by going with one sacc temp, mash out, then batch sparge?

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Old 10-12-2010, 07:33 PM   #2
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I can't really tell a difference, but I just love doing a decoction mash when I'm doing a Hefe or a Lager. Makes me feel like I'm doing it the 'right' or 'traditional' way. Having said that, when I've been lazy and simply did the single infusion/batch I can't tell the difference. Maybe it's just me and my lazy palliate.

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Old 10-13-2010, 03:23 PM   #3
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I say it is up to you. For probably 80% of my beers I'll use a step mash. For probably 50% of my beers I do a protein rest (I use a lot of Pilsner malt). With my rig, this is VERY easy for me to accomplish.

Absolutely step mashing is not needed, but that doesn't mean there is no benefit. Granted, this benefit might not be large, but it could be the difference between a making a really good beer and a fantastic one.

In doing a single infusion, this means that you are simply taking what the malster has made and are using it as is for all of the beers you make with that malt. Simple and easy.

Now I personally don't feel that the maltster has the system down to perfection such that every batch of say pale malt has exactly the perfect level of conversion for ALL beer styles that use pale malt. Frankly I don't think this is realistic. It certainly will do the job (and this can be very good), but I think there is room for improvement.

Of course one way to tweak what you get out of your malt is the use of specialty malts. These obviously have a profound affect on the flavors and mouth feel. However this is not the only way to tweak the flavors, and especially the mouth feel. I can add carapils for more head and body, or I can tweak my mash schedule to do the same. This is what large breweries do. Specialty grains are more expensive than base malt so they like to get as much as they can from base malts. Of course as homebrewers this really isn't an issue.

Many of us like to experiment and like to tweak procedures to try to maximize various traits we can get from malt. To me, that is one of the more fun aspects of brewing. I can use a bunch of different mash schedules and create different beers from the same grain bill. My Helles and German Pils have the same grain bill, but are very different tasting beers (not just the hops either)

Then again, for lots of folks it's, meh. (step-mashers are in the minority I believe)

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Old 10-13-2010, 03:37 PM   #4
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Absolutely step mashing is not needed, but that doesn't mean there is no benefit. Granted, this benefit might not be large, but it could be the difference between a making a really good beer and a fantastic one.
Exactly...

Making fantastic beers is really why we brew right? I mean, if you plan on making run-of-the-mill beers just go to the store and buy something off the shelf.
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Old 10-13-2010, 05:37 PM   #5
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So back to fundamentals then. A protein rest is essentially used to break up large protein chains and minimize chill haze. I'm not sure what additional modification is done to malts these days. But if that is the primary reason behind a protein rest, and a lot of sources are saying protein rests are no longer necessary, then what does that step do that would push a beer from "really good" to "fantastic".

Or are you talking about other temperature steps in the mash process? I'm a firm believer in you only do something if you know why you're doing it. What are you accomplishing with the multiple temperature rests that is not accomplished with a single sacc step?

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Old 10-13-2010, 05:55 PM   #6
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For one, different temps for optimal beta vs alpha amylase performance.

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Old 10-13-2010, 06:03 PM   #7
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I recently did an experiment. My mashing schedule that I am used for very successful beers has been a step mash with 122F, 148F, and a mash out of 170F using a single decoction for reaching the 148F. I just finished a lager and I did an infusion at 150F and a decoction mash out.

My findings:

1. All of my beers with a protein rest have excellent head retention. I have to wash the head out of the glass when I finish the beer.

2. Excellent clarity. No chill haze at all.

3. The beer that I did not perform a protein rest has poor head retention, it dissipates quickly and the chill haze took 2 weeks at 32F to get it to clear.

I love head, so for me I will always incorporate a protein rest. Clarity for me is very important as well as I focus on light (color) lagers.

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Old 10-13-2010, 06:45 PM   #8
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What sort of system do you use Mateo, and how long are you staying at protein vs. sacc temps? Do you see any trouble with body or mouthfeel doing all of your rests at 148F or below?

As I mentioned above, in the past I have a rough time consistently hitting temps when I do a single step, let alone multiple steps. And decoction scares the bejeezus out of me. I've done some reading in the basic brewing texts (Palmer, Papazian) about decoction, but I still don't feel confident that I would be able to do consistently well.

I'm primarily an ale brewer but would like to work the occasional lager and/or, lighter bodied ale into my rotation. I've not had a lot of success stepping to a particular temp and holding it, so I would be interested in finding out what others are doing to hit their temps regularly. For now, I have stuck with single step mashes because it's something straightforward that I can hit with consistency.

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Old 10-13-2010, 07:09 PM   #9
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I use the following schedule for the mash:

Protein Rest 122F for 30-45 min. I pull the decoction almost at the on set and get it boiling. Once its at a boil I boil it for about 10 min. Then I slowly return it to the mash. I keep cool water on hand to adjust the mash temp after returning the decoction. I also often leave some to cool in the decoction kettle if I reach my sacc. temp prior to returning all of it to the mash tun.

My mash tun is a Igloo 5 Gal. Water cooler with a braided hose.

Once I am at sacc. temps I leave it there for about 60 to 90 minutes.

All of my beers have a full mouth feel (vollmundig) and the body is excellent. I guarantee this with Carapils.

Here is my basic grist:

90% Pils
10% Carapils

Sometimes I will adjust a little less Carapils if I am brewing a beer for non-beer drinkers (BMCers).

So two tips for hitting and holding temps.

1. Have cold water on hand to adjust the temp if you overshoot, undershooting you need to look at your calculations. I try to always overshoot and adjust back if needed.

2. Insulate your mash. If you do not have a method of constant temp then get an igloo water cooler.

Since winter is coming its an easy time to brew a Kölsch with fine results. This is a great introduction into lager beers for an Ale brewer.
m.

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Old 10-13-2010, 07:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by winvarin View Post
As I mentioned above, in the past I have a rough time consistently hitting temps when I do a single step, let alone multiple steps. And decoction scares the bejeezus out of me. I've done some reading in the basic brewing texts (Palmer, Papazian) about decoction, but I still don't feel confident that I would be able to do consistently well.
Generally my advice is if it scares you, then don't do it. However there is something to be said for going for it. Seconding Mateo's comments, to me the biggest contributions are better head, and more importantly (to me), a real nice body to the beer. People always talk about large dextrins (from mashing high) for body, but most are unaware of the role the proteins play in body - They are VERY important.

You can always do a "dry" run with just water, or heck just toss a towel(s) in to provide some mass to mimic the grain. Mash 8 lbs of towels (or something) and then try to do a step and see how it goes. Practice until you get it right.

I never to do more than a 20 min. p-rest with pilsner malt (actually haven't tried longer, too many other experiments to try first). If I want more body in a beer I'll hold it at 146-49 for no more than 20 min. and then ramp it up to 158 or so for another 20 min. at least. If I want less body, I'll do 30 min. at the first saccharification step (after p-rest)
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