Originally Posted by MDB
Ok totally stupid question: what is the difference? And let me say I have been brewing kits from 2 different LHBS and the process is a little different, does the process by each represent the differences? LHBS1 has me put the specialty grains in a cooler with water at 150-160 for 45 minutes or so, then pour through a strainer into my wort kettle and then rinse the grains with water (I forget temp but heated) Is that "sparging"? LHBS2 has me steeping the grains in a muslin bag in the wort kettle with water 150-160 then letting the bag dripout into the wort, kinda tea bag method.
Is one method partial mash and the other just stepping? What's the practical difference on the beer?
I suspect both kits are steeping specialty grains. That is you are soaking crystal malts and/or roasted malts to extract colors, flavors and already created sugars contained in the crystal malts. Mashing would have similar mechanics but would utilize base grains, that is malts with mostly starch that is converted to sugars by the malt's enzymes during the hot water soak. Mashing temperatures and times while similar are usually stricter and more specific than steeping. Grains like pale malt, pilsner malt, Munich malt, etc are base malts and require mashing as do unmalted, starchy grains like the flaked products of maize, wheat, barley and oats. Rinsing of the grains after the soaking or mashing process is sparging, a word of German origin meaning rinse.
This and many other novice questions are more thoroughly answered and explained in a good homebrewing book like Palmer's "How to Brew". While answers to such questions can be done quick & dirty on forums like this one, owning and reading such a book will greatly enhance your understanding of the brewing process.