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Old 04-27-2011, 02:23 AM   #1
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Default steeping vs mashing base grains

I have brewed a handful of recipes from seemingly reputable sources that call for the steeping of 2-row. In each case I steeped the grain in 4 gallons of water between 152 and 156 degrees for 45 minutes.

I am having a hard time understanding the difference between this method and actually mashing the grains. My original question stems from the use of Beersmith which places a "!" next to the grain when I select Extract as opposed to selecting Partial or All Grain. The resulting numbers are also significantly different.

Why would these numbers vary? Assuming time and temperature is constant, wouldn't steeping 2-row in 4 gallons of water produce the same fermentable sugars as mashing?

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Old 04-27-2011, 02:27 AM   #2
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With those temps you just mashed your 2-row.

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Old 04-27-2011, 02:31 AM   #3
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What you are doing is mashing, not steeping. Steeping is where you soak the grain that already has the sugar converted for you. Mashing is where you take the enzymes from the grain, and turn starches to sugars. While mashing and steeping are done exactly the same way, it's how you end up with sugar at the end that determines what you are doing. For example, your crystal malts have all of the sugars already converted for you. They are steeped. Pale Malt 2 row doesn't and they have the enzymes, they are mashed.

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Old 04-27-2011, 02:34 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwrags View Post
Why would these numbers vary? Assuming time and temperature is constant, wouldn't steeping 2-row in 4 gallons of water produce the same fermentable sugars as mashing?

Yes and no. Yes if you don't want to get nitpicky about it. But if you want to be technical about it, no. Actual mashing is going to get you to extract better and differently. The enzymes are going to be less concentrated in your steeping sack and give you technically different results. But, basically, yes you are doing the same thing as mashing them.

Beersmith probably just calculates steeping differently. Usually when you are doing an extract batch with some steeping, you aren't concerned so much about efficiency and it probably doesn't even take it into account. I would guess that the most appropriate mode for you would be "Partial Mash".
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Old 04-27-2011, 04:28 AM   #5
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Thank you for the replies.

Everything you folks have stated seems so reasonable yet it varies from the many threads I have read on this very subject. A few opinions I have read include:

"Steeping base malts is pointless"
"Steeping 2-row will only get you unconverted startch"
"2-row really needs to be mashed"
"If you are steeping you need to select "Extract""

Is it possible that there is some impact on the ability of the enzyme to convert sugars in large volumes of water? Why else would Beersmith not contribute any sugars from 2-row to a wort when "Extract" is selected?

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Old 04-27-2011, 05:04 AM   #6
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is there a reason to steep grains when doing all grain batches? I thought you would just throw it in with the mash.

Never thought about it until I read your last line in quotation marks.

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Old 04-27-2011, 11:28 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwrags View Post
Is it possible that there is some impact on the ability of the enzyme to convert sugars in large volumes of water? Why else would Beersmith not contribute any sugars from 2-row to a wort when "Extract" is selected?
That's precisely right. Conversion not only depends on a certain temperature range, but on a certain volume of liquor to grain. Too little or too much, and conversion will not occur.

1-1.5 quarts per pound of grain will ensure conversion.

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Old 04-27-2011, 03:21 PM   #8
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Old 04-27-2011, 03:28 PM   #9
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Really what it comes down to is steeping is just for flavor. If you get some conversion on your steeped grains that's great, but that's not the intent of it. That's why most people will tell you not to steep pale malt.

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Old 04-27-2011, 03:30 PM   #10
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Mashing and steeping are very different processes chemically, but procedurally they are very similar. From the brewer's perspective, mashing is like steeping at a more controlled temperature, water-to-grist ratio and pH. And many, but not all all-grain brewers use somewhat different equipment, such as a dedicated mash tun, which may be a cooler with a false bottom, slotted manifold or stainless mesh hose, or a direct-fired insulated kettle.

In all-grain brewing, steeping grains can either be added to the mash tun along with the base malt (most common), added late during the mash (when astringency from roasted malts is a concern), or steeped separately. It really doesn't matter. If you add any malt extract to the boil, then you are doing a partial mash, aka mini-mash.

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