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Decoction... WHY???

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fastricky

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OK, did a fairly exhaustive search here. Watched Kai's videos (repeatedly, lots to absorb, pardon the pun...) I get why it originated back in the day (no thermometers, grain quality).

So... why do it today? I can see that it'd be cool having that experience as more grist for the mill for a brewer (another pun!) And it is the traditional method for German brewing.

But what are the benefits as opposed to multiple step infusion?

All I could gather is a stronger malt character and better clarity.

Is that it? :drunk:
 

SpanishCastleAle

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If it was about 'having beer' we could just go to the store. For me it's about 'brewing beer'. I obv don't do this to save time or money or because it's easier.:)

But you got the main reasons I tried it. Mainly the history, the malt flavor/aroma, and the 'grist for the brewing-process mill' so to speak. Smell a decoction pre-boil and then smell it at the end of the decoction boil...awesome malt aroma!
 

the_bird

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It produces a deep, rich malty character that's key to a lot of classic German beers. You can replicate this through the recipe (using melanoidin malt, for example), but it's a lot of fun to do it old-school. It's a matter of some controversy whether you can get exactly match the flavor profile, but you can certainly get close through the recipe design.

It's also a technique that lets you do a multi-step mash if your mash tun isn't large enough to handle multiple infusions.

Mostly, though, it's just fun.
 

the_bird

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These are all from Kaiser, one of the best brewers I've met. Kickin' it OLD SCHOOL, baby!

 
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bull8042

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It is also a very valuable technique to use when you totally miss your mash temp and don't want to thin your mash too much by just adding more hot water. (Not that I have ever had that happen to me or anything! Just read about it here...... No, really.)
 

the_bird

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Damn, just watching these videos... I am JONESING for Kai's Marzenfest! It's been way too long since I brewed, decoction or otherwise.
 

menschmaschine

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I posted this before, but it's worth doing again here. It's Greg Noonan's reasoning for decoction mashing:
Regardless of the diastatic power of the malt, unconverted starch is invariably entrapped within poorly solubilized malt particles. As the decoction is heated above 167 degrees F, the particles burst, and their contents are absorbed into the liquid extract. This makes them accessible to alpha-amylase activity during the diastatic-enzyme rest of the main mash. This otherwise lost extract increases both the quality and the quantity of the extract yield.
There is plenty of debate as to whether a decoction gives a noticeable difference in beer flavor. I think if the right rest temperatures are used for the malt, it can. It's more a debate of how much and is it worth it. I think it is in some beer styles (most German beers) where malt is show-cased.
 
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fastricky

fastricky

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"Regardless of the diastatic power of the malt, unconverted starch is invariably entrapped within poorly solubilized malt particles. As the decoction is heated above 167 degrees F, the particles burst, and their contents are absorbed into the liquid extract. This makes them accessible to alpha-amylase activity during the diastatic-enzyme rest of the main mash. This otherwise lost extract increases both the quality and the quantity of the extract yield."

IF someone could translate this to english for me I'd be grateful!:mug: :p
 

Shay

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"Regardless of the diastatic power of the malt, unconverted starch is invariably entrapped within poorly solubilized malt particles. As the decoction is heated above 167 degrees F, the particles burst, and their contents are absorbed into the liquid extract. This makes them accessible to alpha-amylase activity during the diastatic-enzyme rest of the main mash. This otherwise lost extract increases both the quality and the quantity of the extract yield."

IF someone could translate this to english for me I'd be grateful!:mug: :p
I think what he is saying, that even highly-modified malts will benefit from decoting since it is bursting the starches which lets the enzymes convert more of it.
 

PhlyanPan

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That's the first time I've seen those videos. I'm aching to try a decoction now. Plus, I feel like the German accent lends so much credibility to his expertise. I'd say 1 German accent = about 10 years of brewing experience.
 
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fastricky

fastricky

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I posted this before, but it's worth doing again here. It's Greg Noonan's reasoning for decoction mashing:

There is plenty of debate as to whether a decoction gives a noticeable difference in beer flavor. I think if the right rest temperatures are used for the malt, it can. It's more a debate of how much and is it worth it. I think it is in some beer styles (most German beers) where malt is show-cased.
BTW, I DO appreciate the technical explanation... Just need to ramp up to understanding it fluently. :mug:
 

SpanishCastleAle

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That's the first time I've seen those videos. I'm aching to try a decoction now. Plus, I feel like the German accent lends so much credibility to his expertise. I'd say 1 German accent = about 10 years of brewing experience.
And he still says 'saccharification' better than I do...I swear I can never say that word right the first time.
 

MOSFET

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Samuel Adams Boston Lager uses decoction. That says a lot to me. And other than consuming more time, I agree that it's simply fun to do.

Side note, maybe (surely) it's been discussed, but conventional wisdom has us stir the decoction frequently. Wouldn't stirring less frequently encourage caramelization-sweetness better?
 

AnonyBrew

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"Regardless of the diastatic power of the malt, unconverted starch is invariably entrapped within poorly solubilized malt particles. As the decoction is heated above 167 degrees F, the particles burst, and their contents are absorbed into the liquid extract. This makes them accessible to alpha-amylase activity during the diastatic-enzyme rest of the main mash. This otherwise lost extract increases both the quality and the quantity of the extract yield."

IF someone could translate this to english for me I'd be grateful!:mug: :p
Ha! I'm glad I'm not the only one that has a hard time understanding Noonan. I've read his book 3 times & still have trouble following him.
 

SpanishCastleAle

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Side note, maybe (surely) it's been discussed, but conventional wisdom has us stir the decoction frequently. Wouldn't stirring less frequently encourage caramelization-sweetness better?
In my limited experience, and I think Kaiser mentions this in his video, you need to stir it when doing the sacc rest to evenly distribute the temperature. But once that is complete there shouldn't be the need to stir much. During the boil I only stir a couple of times and I think I could get away with not stirring it at all during the boil.

I think what Noonan is saying is that the enzymes can't get to all the starch unless you cook the **** out of it...then all those starches become available for the enzymes to convert. The difference between this and not getting full conversion is that there are still unconverted (yet 'available') starches in the mash when not fully converted. So your wort would have unconverted starches. But by not doing a decoction...those starches are never even available to the enzymes so you don't have unconverted starches in the wort (they're still 'stuck' in the grain)...you just have slightly less efficiency.
 

the_bird

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You have to remember, though, that if you're pulling a thick mash to decoct it's really easy to scorch it. Think - stirring a risoto. You are really only pulling enough liquid to make it "boilable," and in my experience that liquid tends to boil off pretty fast.
 

menschmaschine

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If you heat it gently, you can stir less frequently. I scorched my first decoction by putting the burner on full blast and not stirring enough. This would have been an awesome Altbier otherwise. Instead, the scorched grain makes it barely drinkable. I brewed this 1.5 years ago and still can't bring myself to dump the last case (out of 4). Scorching is something you definitely don't want to do.
 

z987k

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I don't know if anyone mentioned it, but caramelizing sugars and the formation of more melanoidins changes the flavor.
 
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fastricky

fastricky

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Really? Sam Adams is brewed with decoction?? I'm even MORE impressed with that brand if that's the case...
 

Saccharomyces

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While decoctions definitely improve yield, in my limited experience infusion step mashes do as well. Decoctions are more beneficial for the production of melanoidins than anything else. In a single infusion mash you can add melanoidins using a bit of honey or melanoidin malt, 2-5% of the grist.
 

z987k

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you can add melanoidins using a bit of honey
Aside from the fact that sugar will somewhat undergo the maillard reaction with heat and amino acids, how does honey promote melanoidins formation like that of decocting?
 

menschmaschine

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Aside from the fact that sugar will somewhat undergo the maillard reaction with heat and amino acids, how does honey promote melanoidins formation like that of decocting?
I believe he meant "honey malt" as opposed to actual honey.;)
 

Kaiser

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Most of the beers you get from Germany aren't decocted these days, because decoction takes much longer than the standard Hochkurz mash (63->70->76C) and wouldn't fit into the tight time restrictions in modern brew houses. And the malt doesn't need it either. But many smaller breweries (especially in Bavaria) still swear by it.

There is much debate if decoction actually makes a taste difference. I have done a few side-by sides myself and can tell you that the differences are very subtle and not what you would expect from the boiling part of the grain.

All that being said, there are ways of using decoction with modern malts that don't do more harm than good (I'm talking about excessive protein degradation that can hurt body and head retention). And I recommend that you try decoction mashing yourself and even brew a recipe w/ and w/o decoction to see for yourself.

Kai
 

Kaiser

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Denny has done some work on this as well and the findings of his study were that hardly anyone was able to tell a decocted beer from a non-decoded beer. Obviuously he had talken gotten quite some beating for that, but in the end I'm with him in that the difference between the beers are not as obvious as you would expect. But I think it is still worth my time for many beers that I brew.

But you should not look to decoction for getting this authentic German taste as this taste is present even in non decocted beers from Germany.

Kai
 
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