Decoction mashing

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Thejiro

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How many homebrewers out there use the decoction technique for brewering lagers? I was just wondering because my setup is rigged for an indirect heating infusion mash. Would trying to do a decoction mash be more beneficial for my overall quality of my lager beer or would the infusion mash technique produce comparable results?

Ken
 

menschmaschine

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You'll get a lot of different opinions on this. Mine is that the step-mashing (infusion or direct heat) will produce comparible results (based on my own experience doing decoction and step for the same beer recipe). In theory, decoction mashing can produce a higher quality wort, but in practice the apparent benefits may not outweigh the extra effort. You will, however, most likely get a higher efficiency with decoction mashing.

Whether infusion mashing or decoction mashing for lagers, one must still be careful of the step temperatures with modern malts. Protein rests are usually right out, unless done for a very short duration or at the temperature range that straddles proteolytic enzymes and beta amylase. The best thing to do is to know and understand the malt analysis, if available.
 
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Thejiro

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BY step mash you mean the process of keeping the mash at 40C 60C then 70C for 30 minutes each during the mashing process? And in your experience this has given comparable results to the decoction mashing?

Ken
 

menschmaschine

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BY step mash you mean the process of keeping the mash at 40C 60C then 70C for 30 minutes each during the mashing process? And in your experience this has given comparable results to the decoction mashing?

Ken
Step-mashing is a generic term for any schedule of mash temps and times. 40°C/60°C/70°C is a good schedule for lagers. But I've found the acid rest (40°C) to be unnecessary unless your mash pH requires it. For most Pilsner malts (and most base malts for lagers in general), I think maybe 62°C for 45 min., 70°C for 30 min. and 76°C for 10 min. mashout is a good schedule.

As far as being comparible to decoction mashing... there are subtle differences, but the end beer taste is usually similar enough not to be worth the trouble of decoction mashing. But decoction mashing is fun to do once in a while.
 

remilard

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Decoction is required for enzymatically weak mashes, eg all dark munich mashes. If you are not performing an enzymatically weak mash, I think the supposed flavor or body benefits are overstated.
 
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Thejiro

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remilard thanks for your insight. I've been doing a little research in to decoction mashing and was wondering if the benefits were that substantial for the lighter lager styles.

Ken
 

remilard

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You should try it both ways yourself since you'll hear different opinions from reasonable people. I use a small amount of braumalt (eg Weyermann Melanoidin) in light lagers (including American) and weizen and I'm happy with the result. I've had excellent decocted beers. I was once pretty sure a czech pilsner I judged was made via the traditional intensive decoction method because it was spot on. That beer won the extract best of show award and then I felt stupid (I didn't write anything about decoction on the scoresheet as I do not assume techniques or ingredients, so it was at least a private stupid moment). I think the flavor effects are subtle and similar flavors can be achieved via different means.

If I ever did a decoction in the future it will be for bohemian pilsner or a dark bock because I want to use traditional techniques. Outside of tradition my personal opinion is to avoid needing to use decoction and to not use it if I don't need to.
 

Malticulous

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I do it for many beers. I've made a lot of weiss beers and the best are always triple decocted with rests at 100, 122, and 153. I use a decoction to mash out if I don't have space in my MLT for an infusion. I also do two of three for most of my German lagers. It adds color and flavor.

Does it make better beer? I think so--for some styles.
 
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Thejiro

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Thanks for all the good info. I will deffinately try both methods, but mainly stick to infusions as that is what I am set up for with my HERMS system.
 

Bernie Brewer

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As far as being comparible to decoction mashing... there are subtle differences, but the end beer taste is usually similar enough not to be worth the trouble of decoction mashing.
Disagree. My bock beers improved dramatically when I started decocting them. I am not smart enough to know why, but they were soooo much better decocted, that I will always decoct from now on when brewing that style.
 

menschmaschine

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Disagree. My bock beers improved dramatically when I started decocting them. I am not smart enough to know why, but they were soooo much better decocted, that I will always decoct from now on when brewing that style.
Good point, Bernie. I can only speak for comparison with lighter (colored) lagers. I can see how a bock, with longer decoction boiling times could make a more noticeable difference.
 
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