Originally Posted by Nickhouse80
I'm new and having a hard time with the difference between mashing and steeping. I've actually looked them both up in a "homebrew glossary" and still don't know the difference.
It's confusing because the techniques are very similar. The differences are what's actually happening inside the liquid and grain as it sits.
In steeping, you use malts that have already had their starches converted to sugars. In grains like black patent, crystal malt, chocolate malt, you're getting color and flavor from the steep. Kind of like making tea.
In mashing, you are taking grains in a mix with some "basemalt" that has NOT already had its sugars converted for you. You use a ratio of water and grain with the correct pH and the correct temperature to cause a chemical reaction. That's what makes the starch in the grain turn into sugars that you can ferment. For some grains, this MUST be done to use them. Otherwise, all you get out of them is starch, not fermentable sugar.
Most extract brewers use steeping grains like crystal malt to give some flavor and color to their beers. This works great, and provides a better beer.