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Old 12-20-2009, 04:49 AM   #1
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Default Difference between mashing and steeping

This question arises from a post I made about
recipes converted in BeerSmith from AG to PM.

What, really, is the difference between steeping and mashing, aside from the amount of fermentables released by the grains? Seems to me that you could steep just about any grains at the right temp for the right time and still get a decent wort. If you use a fairly loose bag, you could even do a quasi-sparging by rinsing the grain in the bag with sparge water, then adding to the main pot.

Isn't that essentially doing a mash, just in a somewhat confined container (a loose bag)?

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Old 12-20-2009, 05:02 AM   #2
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Seems to me that you could steep just about any grains at the right temp for the right time and still get a decent wort.
Lots of grains (e.g., crystal) won't produce significant fermentables, so you won't get a decent wort.

The loose bag/container thing isn't the difference. You can mash in a bag just as you can steep in a bag. It's having the right grains (2-row, Munich, etc.) and 'steeping' them at the right time and right temp that makes it it's a mash.
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Old 12-20-2009, 08:45 AM   #3
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To put it in as simple terms as I can: A steep is used to extract color and some flavor from the grain whereas mashing goes a step further and also converts the starches to fermentable sugars.

The main difference is the length of time the grains are in the water.

Sparging is sparging (rinsing)...in the bag out or of the bag it's no difference.

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Old 12-20-2009, 09:08 AM   #4
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To put it in as simple terms as I can: A steep is used to extract color and some flavor from the grain whereas mashing goes a step further and also converts the starches to fermentable sugars.
Word.

You can replace some or all of the appropriate extract in your recipes with base malts (Pilsener, 2 Row, Vienna etc) that are mashed (held at conversion temp until the starch changes to sugar).

While you're at it, it is convenient to add the steeping grains (chocolate, crystal, etc), but they're not really adding much fermentable sugar. They're adding flavor and color just like in your extract and steeping grain recipes.
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Old 12-20-2009, 02:21 PM   #5
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Grains without starch content (specialty grains like crystal malts and roasted grain) can be steeped to release sugars, colors and flavors. Grains with unconverted starch (bases grains like pale, pilsner, Munich etc, and certain specialty grains such as CaraFoam and some CaraPils; also unmalted grains such as flake corn, barley, oats) require mashing to convert their starch content to fermentable sugars. Mashing utilizes the enzymes present in base malts to carry out this starch conversion process.
Steepable grains are just soaked in hot water, mashing uses specific temperatures and water quantities to create optimum conditions for starch conversion.

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Old 12-20-2009, 02:53 PM   #6
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Grains without starch content (specialty grains like crystal malts and roasted grain) can be steeped to release sugars, colors and flavors. Grains with unconverted starch (bases grains like pale, pilsner, Munich etc, and certain specialty grains such as CaraFoam and some CaraPils; also unmalted grains such as flake corn, barley, oats) require mashing to convert their starch content to fermentable sugars. Mashing utilizes the enzymes present in base malts to carry out this starch conversion process.
Steepable grains are just soaked in hot water, mashing uses specific temperatures and water quantities to create optimum conditions for starch conversion.
Exactly- you can mash crystal malt for hours, but not get more out of it than with a 20 minute steep/mash. But if you use grains that require mashing, you must meet certain requirements. It has to do with pH, and temperature. Volume of water is important in mashing, for example. You want to take the starches present in the grain and convert it to fermentable sugars. You must use diastastic malt for that purpose.

So, it's the type of malt as well.
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Old 12-20-2009, 02:57 PM   #7
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So here's the follow-up:

To do a simple extraction mash, could I do the following procedure?

1. Heat water to 160° (an appropriate amount for the amount of grain to be mashed + enough to sparge with)
2. Put the grains to be mashed in a large loose grain bag (like, the size of a pillow case)
3. Pour the mash water into a cooler, reserving the sparge water
4. drop in the bag
5. move the bag around occasionally for 45 min to an hour
6. drain the cooler into the boil pot
7. sparge by holding the bag open and sprinkling sparge water over the grains in the bag while it's still in the cooler
8. add the sparge to the boil pot and brew

If that will work, I would be eliminating a lot of equipment, mess, and expense. Anyone could do that.

This would only be for base malts. Specialties would steep as usual in the original mash-off while sparging is taking place.

Will it work?

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Old 12-20-2009, 03:06 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by prrriiide View Post
So here's the follow-up:

To do a simple extraction mash, could I do the following procedure?

1. Heat water to 160° (an appropriate amount for the amount of grain to be mashed + enough to sparge with)
2. Put the grains to be mashed in a large loose grain bag (like, the size of a pillow case)
3. Pour the mash water into a cooler, reserving the sparge water
4. drop in the bag
5. move the bag around occasionally for 45 min to an hour
6. drain the cooler into the boil pot
7. sparge by holding the bag open and sprinkling sparge water over the grains in the bag while it's still in the cooler
8. add the sparge to the boil pot and brew

If that will work, I would be eliminating a lot of equipment, mess, and expense. Anyone could do that.

This would only be for base malts. Specialties would steep as usual in the original mash-off while sparging is taking place.

Will it work?
It'll work. But you can make it much easier! First, mash all the specialty grains and the basemalts together. No reason to do it separately, and you will get a wee bit more out of the specialty grains in a mash.

Don't bother holding the bag open- just put it in a big strainer and pour the sparge water over it. Or, use a second pot of water (where you're heating the sparge water) and dunk the bag in it thoroughly, then throw the grains away and combine the resulting liquid with the first runnings. If it were me, I'd do it like this:

1. Combine all the grains in a bag. Tie very loosely, so the grain is not packed tight. Use two bags, if you need to, rather than packing them tightly.

2. Add 1.5 quarts of 165 degree water per pound of grain. Stir very, very well (like it's your job!) to thouroughly wet the grains and keep them loose in there. Check the temperature throughout, and stir until it's equalized throughout too. You want to be in the 150-155 degree range, but a bit over or under is fine.

3. Wait one hour, longer if you're using oats.

4. Sparge by draining off the liquid in the mashing vessel (if it's a cooler, open the spigot and drain off, or in a pot, take the grains out). Pour 170 degree water over the grains to "rinse" them if you've lifted the grains out, or add the water to the cooler if using a cooler. Or, put the grain bags in a pot of water. It doesn't matter how you do it, really. You just want to get all of the sticky sugars off the grain. You can go up to .5 gallons of sparge water per pound of grain, or up to your boil volume.

5. Combine the resulting runnings.
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Old 12-20-2009, 03:42 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by YooperBrew View Post
It'll work. But you can make it much easier! First, mash all the specialty grains and the basemalts together. No reason to do it separately, and you will get a wee bit more out of the specialty grains in a mash.

Don't bother holding the bag open- just put it in a big strainer and pour the sparge water over it. Or, use a second pot of water (where you're heating the sparge water) and dunk the bag in it thoroughly, then throw the grains away and combine the resulting liquid with the first runnings. If it were me, I'd do it like this:

1. Combine all the grains in a bag. Tie very loosely, so the grain is not packed tight. Use two bags, if you need to, rather than packing them tightly.

2. Add 1.5 quarts of 165 degree water per pound of grain. Stir very, very well (like it's your job!) to thouroughly wet the grains and keep them loose in there. Check the temperature throughout, and stir until it's equalized throughout too. You want to be in the 150-155 degree range, but a bit over or under is fine.

3. Wait one hour, longer if you're using oats.

4. Sparge by draining off the liquid in the mashing vessel (if it's a cooler, open the spigot and drain off, or in a pot, take the grains out). Pour 170 degree water over the grains to "rinse" them if you've lifted the grains out, or add the water to the cooler if using a cooler. Or, put the grain bags in a pot of water. It doesn't matter how you do it, really. You just want to get all of the sticky sugars off the grain. You can go up to .5 gallons of sparge water per pound of grain, or up to your boil volume.

5. Combine the resulting runnings.
May I make the further suggestion to prrriiide that you should buy & read a good homebrewing book. John Palmer's "How to Brew" is probably the best starter book available. Not that there's anything wrong with asking questions on internet forums, however, with the basic information in your possesion you will be starting with a deeper understanding of the processes.
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Old 12-20-2009, 03:54 PM   #10
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thanks for this read

some great advice in these forums if your willing to search for it and read.

my first brew that is fermenting now was from extracts but i am researching an easy second brew that doesnt use extracts for my next brew and had been wondering about some of this.

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