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brewing without a thermometer?

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bracconiere

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anyone else stop and wonder how the hell people brewed beer without a thermometer?

i've thought about it a lot...wondering, would you just slowly heat the mash till got sweet or what?
 

Robert65

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You can actually find a lot of information on this. Basically, thay did have methods of approximating temperatures, developed by trial and error and dialed in by how the beer turned out. There are old brewing books, like The London and Country Brewer and others from the 17th and 18th centuries, that are worth checking out. Some estimates were based on, for example, how opaque the layer of steam on the surface of liquid looked (and considering that brewing was often a seasonal, annual event, air temperature was probably somewhat constant from brew to brew, which might make this more reliable.) Of course decoction, starting with a room temperature dough in and boiling measured portions, would get fairly predictable step ups. But in the end, they just didn't have really great consistency or accuracy. And results would have been haphazard. But they also couldn't have determined that, since they had no way of measuring gravity or alcohol content. That's why much of our modern science, and instruments like hydrometers and thermometers, were invented by or at least early adopted by brewers. Getting good beer was a crapshoot. Improving quality and consistency was a lucrative opportunity. It is fascinating to think about.
 
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bracconiere

bracconiere

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It is fascinating to think about.
you brought up a lot of good thinking points....still a wonder to me, people have been brewing beer for a long time, with none of the fancy gadgets we use today...

They stuck their finger in it.
i hope it was a clean sanitized finger! lol
 

Zuljin

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you brought up a lot of good thinking points....still a wonder to me, people have been brewing beer for a long time, with none of the fancy gadgets we use today...
And still do. I've been watching YouTube videos on how people homebrew in various African countries. Sure, they have a lot of what we do in some places, very modern, commercial breweries even, but there are still villages brewing on mud stoves and in clay pots they make on site. I started down this rabbit hole looking at brewing with sorghum and millet. I plan to grow my own beer in 2020.

Here’s a good video on how it’s done in Burkina Faso.


Here’s a good one on how the South Sotho do it.


i hope it was a clean sanitized finger! lol
The boiling water takes care of that. :drunk:
 

davidabcd

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Works the same way with stoves of old. You put your hand a certain distance away and counted. 3 seconds was one temp, two another, etc. The faster you had to take away your hand the hotter it was. Does it really matter within a few degrees?
 

RPh_Guy

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Here's an example of a primitive beer being brewed:
Http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/394.html

"When we arrived, they had gotten the fire going, and were heating the brew liquor. Outside, in the yard, they'd set up the mashtun, and were getting ready to start mashing.

Vytautas poured a sack of pale malts from Viking Malts in Panevežys into the tun, then added buckets of boiling hot water while his son Ignas stirred the mash. They were using water, not juniper infusion, because this was Lithuania, not Norway. Vytautas kept adding water, and eventually started lifting the mash paddle, staring intently at the drops running off it. Then he would add some more water, then repeat. Finally, he was satisfied. Now they could pack up the mashtun and let it stand.

But I'd seen no thermometer, so how could he know this was the right mash temperature? I went over to check with my own thermometer. It showed 65C. Simonas saw my surprise and explained to me what was going on. Since Vytautas was using boiling water the temperature of the water was always the same. So if he could hit the right ratio of water to malts, the temperature of the mix would also be roughly right. And this is what Vytautas was doing when he was staring at the paddle: he was judging the ratio of water to malts."

As mentioned, step mashing can also be done without a thermometer with the use of decoction or infusions. A step mash helps increase extraction and fermentability from under-modified malt.

:mug:

Edit: If historical farmhouse brewing interests you, you can pre-order Lars Garshol's upcoming book:
https://www.amazon.com/Historical-Brewing-Techniques-Lost-Farmhouse/dp/1938469550/
 
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applescrap

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I don't know if you were fishing for this but the answer, imo, is that mash temp within reason does not matter. To me this is all but common knowledge at this point. Two key thoughts are within reason and I am talking about real taste not scientific data. I am aware of differences that can be found With scientific tools. I have had people on this forum tell me they can tell 1゚ mash difference in taste. This has happened maybe 10 times or so in these discussions over the years.


I saw you post an Ethiopian video of some kind. I didnt see it yet, but I am going to go off topic for 2nd, but a little on topic. See women were the main brewers on every country on the planet until the industrialized revolution, iirc. To which my wife responded correctly, of course they were. But when us men took over, Well h*** now you can get a college degree in brewing science. I'm not so sure it varies much from any other science endeavor in college.

The other answer to your question is that I have seen a recipe, i think it was Washington's small beer that called for adding the grains when the stean made it impossible to see your face in the water.

No need to start some huge argument here. I know that I am in the minority of this thinking. I have seen your rigs and how they can control mash temp to exact numbers. I know that you make better beer than me because of that and all the rest of your insults. I think a simple I disagree would be enough. I Have seen some really long step mashes schedules that I believe might be new and interesting. And that might be a place for another discussion.
 
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kh54s10

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There is a brew where the village people chew leaves and spit into a container. Then they let it ferment........
 

applescrap

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Not one village, thousands of them iiac. All across the south pacific. I think it is called kava or something. The drink is like a numming drug iirc, and with modern times is beginning to be made without the chewing and spitting ritual. It is interesting and would be worth a google.

Edit here is a little history to wet the whistle (pun intended).

https://kava.com/articles/history/


There is a brew where the village people chew leaves and spit into a container. Then they let it ferment........
 

Qhrumphf

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There is a brew where the village people chew leaves and spit into a container. Then they let it ferment........
Thought it was corn (chicha). And enzymes from saliva made up for a lack of malting. But these days the corn is now malted and the chewing practice isn't common any more. At least that's my recollection.
 

Zuljin

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Do the village people make this brew at the YMCA?
Drunk man, there's a place you can brew
I said drunk man, where you can mash in your dough
You can brew there, and I'm sure you will find
Man-ny ways to sparge a good tun
It's fun to brew at the Y.M.C.A.
It's fun to brew at the Y.M.C.A.
:ban:
 

monkeymakoy

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Sorry to bump this thread, as I'm having the exact problem today. My thermometer just gave up on me, and I'm not willing to re-schedule brew day....

I'm planning to boil some water (therefore reaching a known temp of 100C), then adding in some room temp water (~22C where I'm at). I guess I can calculate the strike temp from knowing the volume of each liquid.........

Google gave me this:
T(final) = [(mass of liquid 1 * T_liquid 1) + (mass of liquid 2 * T_liquid 2) / (mass 1 + mass 2)]
 
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bracconiere

bracconiere

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Sorry to bump this thread,

how do you mash, and do you have a hydrometer? if i was trying to brew a brew with my cooler. i'd get the strike water warmish/hot after a second or two hot. dump my grain in. then take a gravity of the runoff, start doing decoctions till the gravity was increasing the most between tests. then let rest and then sparge. and i'd do hops by smell.

and Welcome! :mug:

and be sure to post that in the https://www.homebrewtalk.com/threads/how-did-you-find-us.11455/page-98#post-9002456 thread

"

Google gave me this:
T(final) = [(mass of liquid 1 * T_liquid 1) + (mass of liquid 2 * T_liquid 2) / (mass 1 + mass 2)]


"

that'd be the best ever! ;) are you hitting on @doug293cz ?
 
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