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Old 09-23-2013, 10:55 PM   #1
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Default Water for steeping grains

Hello all,

Most recipes I've come across that use steeping grains simply say to steep at <170F for x minutes (usually 30 or 45 min) with no mention of the amount of water to steep in.

However recently in looking up a good Nut Brown Ale recipe, I've seen a couple that say to steep in certain amounts of water (usually 1 to 3 gal) then after steeping, add water and continue like normal.

Does anyone know if the amount of water you steep in can affect the wort?

The only thing I can imagine is that if you use too little water, it'll become saturated and not take any more sugars from the steeping grain. If this is the case, then using a full 6 gal to steep shouldn't be a problem?

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Old 09-23-2013, 11:05 PM   #2
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Generally, the recipes that have a prescribed amount of liquid for a steep are partial mash recipes- that is, using some grains that must be mashed to make up some of the fermentables.

Sometimes, though, recipes just assuming you're boiling XX gallons of liquid, and give generic directions.

The best way to know for sure is to look at the grains in the recipe, and if they are grains that must be mashed, then that would explain the prescribed volume of water. Mashing means holding the grains at a prescribed temperature in a prescribed volume for a prescribed amount of time, as opposed to steeping which is just for color and flavor and can be done in as little as 20 minutes or so.

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Old 09-23-2013, 11:05 PM   #3
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I am thinking that it depends to some degree on the equipment you have to cool the wort. If you do not have a wort cooler then I am thinking 2-3 gallons so its a little easier too cool, such as an ice bath and another few gallons of cold water once you are ready to pitch the yeast at a cooler temp.

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Old 09-23-2013, 11:23 PM   #4
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The Brewmaster at Apocalypse Ale Works here in Lynchburg showed me how to brew my first partial mash batch. At that demonstration, he told me that for a 5 gallon batch to use 2.5 gallons (give or take) for steeping my grains. I trust his 25+ years of experience, so it's the rule I use for all my brews.

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Old 09-24-2013, 02:25 PM   #5
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I was searching for the wrong terms before posting. It seems to be discussed in a bit of length elsewhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnsma22 View Post
A lot of people will tell you that it is OK and that you will never notice any astringency from the extraction of excessive tannins from the grain husks.

Having said that, if you look at it from a purely chemical stand point, it is hard to argue against the fact that a pound or two of specialty grains is not capable of lowering the pH of a full volume boil sufficiently enough to avoid the extraction of tannins.

I also do full volume boils, but while the water in the main boil kettle is heating up, I am steeping in a smaller pot on the stove with the proper 2-3 qt of water per pound of specialty grains. The grain tea is added to the main boil kettle, and I sparge the spent grains with a little hot water from the boil kettle.

I have never done a dilute steep so I can't tell you definitively what will happen. I can tell you that I trust what I know about chemistry, and I also trust the brewers from the local club here that don't dilute steep either.
Basically, it seems that from a chemical standpoint a couple pounds of grain can't lower pH of a full boil and tannins may be extracted.
From a practical standpoint, there are a lot who post that they do a full boil steep and don't notice a difference (I'd be one of those, I can't tell any astringency from my full boil steeps).
I've found people quoting using anywhere from 2 quarts (1/2 gal) to 1 gallon per pound of steeping grain.
Never hurts to be on the safe side though! I'll probably start steeping at about 1 gal per pound (that's easier to remember than 2 or 3 qts per pound).
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Old 09-24-2013, 02:46 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrphillips View Post
The Brewmaster at Apocalypse Ale Works here in Lynchburg showed me how to brew my first partial mash batch. At that demonstration, he told me that for a 5 gallon batch to use 2.5 gallons (give or take) for steeping my grains. I trust his 25+ years of experience, so it's the rule I use for all my brews.
That might work if you always have, say 5 pounds of grain, but if he doesn't know how many pounds of grain you are using then the "always use 2.5 gallons for mashing" doesn't work.

Of course, if you're steeping (not mashing), it isn't nearly as important.

In general, for conversion and good pH in a mash, use 1-2 quarts of water per pound of grain.
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Old 09-24-2013, 09:00 PM   #7
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What I've started to do is measure out about 1.5 quarts per pound of grain, even for steeping. I'll warm that water up on my stovetop, and once it hits the right temp I'll throw my grains in there to steep (you could do a small mash as well, though you'd have to pay more attention to the temps than I do). I set my timer for 30 min and turn on my propane burner outside, heating the bulk of my water. Usually it gets to boil right around when I pull my grains out of the smaller pot. I then put my "steeped" water in with the boiling water and then add my DME and follow the recipes hop additions.

Saves me some time, instead of heating 6+ gallons of water, holding it, then having to heat it up to boiling from there.

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Old 09-25-2013, 01:20 AM   #8
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Good advice Yooper. Thanks. Funny enough, most of my batches do use between 5-6 pounds.

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