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MrsJones 01-24-2013 03:35 PM

Not stirring the grains
Hey everybody, I am kind of new to homebrewing and need your expertise. :)

My husband and I started our brewing venture recently, and we did so with all grain, 1 gallon batches. We discovered that 1) Our beer was delicious, really? :rockin: 2) We needed to make bigger batches so we could share more of this extraordinary hidden talent to the world. So, we decided to do a two gallon batch this time, an ESB. I feel like we didn't do it as well as we could have, though, and I wanted to ask a couple questions for people that know more of what they are doing.

We used a large grain bag and did the mashing in that. We mashed at 150 for an hour, then sparged with 170 water until we had the volume we needed. But.....we did not stir the grains within the bag during either process! :o (Had heard that squeezing them or messing with them too much would extract unwanted tannins, so I think we were a little paranoid and didn't give them enough water to flow through and get the inner grains. We did move the bag while it was mashing, though.) My question is this: How bad did we mess up by not doing this? Will our beer end up being less sweet than it should be? The other thing is, was our mash temperature too low? The more I read, the more I find that maybe the mash temperature should have maybe been 5-10 degrees higher?

Thanks so much in advance for your answers to both these questions. I appreciate this forum, been lurking for awhile and gathering info from everyone. It is cool to be able to post!!


freisste 01-24-2013 03:40 PM

Depends what you want. Maltier beer means you need higher temps. Dryer beer could be mashed even a little lower than you did. I think you will have a somewhat dry beer, but you are near the middle of the mashing range. (Maybe not the middle of the range for THAT beer, I don't know the style well, but the middle of the mashing range for beer in general).

I think you probably did fine. No worries.

MrsJones 01-24-2013 03:48 PM

Thanks for the input. You don't think not stirring the bag during the mash or the sparge will matter that much? We noticed that the grains on the inside of the bag versus the outside were slightly sweeter.

freisste 01-24-2013 03:50 PM

Ideally you would stir a bit to increase efficiency of your mash. You may have a bit lower gravity because of this. Sorry I was talking about only your mash temp. What was your expected OG and actual OG?

homebrewdad 01-24-2013 03:53 PM

You can't really stir the grains in the bag much. Don't worry about it.

However, feel free to squeeze away - the "don't queeze the bag for fear of the evil tannins" thing is a myth. Tannins come from excessive temps/bad PH, not from squeezing.

I remember a guy last year ho ran his grain bag through a fruit press. Had delicious beer.

bobbrews 01-24-2013 03:56 PM

The big thing is that the grain needs to be:

*Crushed (the homebrew store should be able to do this for you).
*Mashed (the proper crushed grains held at a specific temp. for a specific time in a specific amount of water).
*Soaked & Stirred (or in your case Prodded with a large spoon to thoroughly moisten the grain & ensure contact with the water). I would not advise squeezing the bag personally. Let it drip into a bowl and then reincorporate.
*Left Alone in a covered vessel for starch to sugar conversion (if you're really picky, you could test any remaining starch presence by collecting a small sample of wort, using an iodine strip, and then discarding that sample).
*Sparged with 170F-ish water to release any trapped sugars within the grain (you could also dip the grain bag several times in a kettle containing 170-ish water to rinse it that way).
*Discarded after the mash (or make muffins/bread with it, but never boil your grains; you're only after the liquid).

A 153-156 F mash temp. would have been nicer for the style, but mashing at 150 F will not ruin this beer. It will however give you more fermentable sugars and thus higher alcohol content while sacrificing this for less body.

So a good plan for your ESB would have been to mash say 4 total lbs. of crushed malt for a 2.75 gallon boil / 2 gallon batch for an OG of approx. 1.050 after the boil. 60 minutes total mash time in 5-6 liters of water (assuming 1.25-1.5 liters of water per lb. of grain) then sparge and proceed with the boil. Keep in mind, the sample must be cooled down to the 60s for a proper OG hydrometer reading before pitching the yeast.

freisste 01-24-2013 03:56 PM

Depending on your setup, you may or may not be able to stir in the bag. My setup allows it. If yours does as well (and you can do so while controlling temps) I would suggest stirring to increase efficiency. If you can't, it isn't the end of the world, but this could explain low mash efficiency if you are experiencing that.

MrsJones 01-24-2013 04:03 PM

You guys are great. Thank you so much! We also added about 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons of dark molasses at the beginning of the boil. I am not sure how much this will effect the flavor for a 2 gallon batch, but this beer may be kinda sweet and a little thinner than it should be, that's ok.

Freisste, the target OG was 1.060 and miraculously, it was exactly that when we tested it after the boil. This beer may turn out right on even with the lower mashing temp and not stirring it. Like I said, we did move the grain bag around in the kettle during the mash, just to make sure all of it was submerged. Should have stirred it occasionally, though, and mashed a bit higher.

unionrdr 01-24-2013 04:04 PM

Using the muslin grain bags for biab partial mash def lowered my OG a bit from getting dough balls inside the bag. I'm gunna get some large paint strainer bags for next time. They can be left open & rolled over the lip of the BK to allow for stirring the mash. This way you can make sure you get the grains evenly wetted & no dough balls. This'll raise your efficiency & thus,your OG.

freisste 01-24-2013 04:06 PM

More stirring likely would have gotten you a higher OG. Not a bad thing, its just that a certain efficiency is estimated and you would have likely been higher.

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