Do Higher Mash Efficiencies Affect Malt Flavor?

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evandena

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I’ve brewed 8 batches so far, and they’ve all been pretty good. The first couple I did not correct for high efficiency, so I ended up with 7% ABV.
I’ve since honed my practices and better learned my equipment, and I’m now scaling for 85% efficiency in BeerSmith by cutting back on all the grains.
My past couple brews have been an amber and a Scottish 80. While delicious, I’m just not getting much of the malt flavor I expect. They almost taste a bit watery.

This leads to my question, one which I cannot find an answer for… only speculative guessing and baseless assertions. I’m hoping someone with good reasoning can confirm this for me. Has anyone run any experiments on this?
Does a high mash efficiency, say 85-90% affect the final flavor?
What part of the grain derives malt flavors?

I am currently treating my water with slacked lime, 5.2, gypsum, and calcium chloride. I batch sparge for two equal amounts and let rest for 15 minutes (too long?). I slowly drain the MLT to the BK, possibly upping my efficiency here.

Thanks guys
 

thargrav

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Yes, because you have higher than expected extraction & more fermentals. More fermentables = more active fermentation and more alcohol and both affect flavor.
 
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evandena

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Yes, because you have higher than expected extraction & more fermentals. More fermentables = more active fermentation and more alcohol and both affect flavor.
I'm scaling my recipe, so the fermentables and alcohol are the same, just using less grain.
 

thargrav

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If you scale the entire grain bill including the adjunct malts the flavor will change because the flavors pulled from the adjuncts will be less. If you only scale your base malts you should be OK.
 

texasbrewer73

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If you scale the entire grain bill including the adjunct malts the flavor will change because the flavors pulled from the adjuncts will be less. If you only scale your base malts you should be OK.
This. Also, while a pain, decoction mashing or doing a protein rest would help add some maltiness.
 

corax

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All else being equal, high efficiency per se does not affect malt flavor. But certain means of attaining that efficiency can -- namely, over-sparging. I don't know if it's universally accepted, but lots of people who strive for a really rich, high-quality malt flavor will use just the first-runnings and accept a huge hit in efficiency.
 

Denny

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This. Also, while a pain, decoction mashing or doing a protein rest would help add some maltiness.
I don't understand how a protein rest can add maltiness. In fact, with most malts it can be detrimental. And my own experiments with decoction mashing lead me to believe that it has little to no effect on flavor.
 

texasbrewer73

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Not sure of your decoction method, but I have done a side by side comparison with an enhanced double decoction before (I tried it as the Kaiser did), and maltiness is more prevalent in this vs. a standard mash. Others can explain the chemistry behind it better than I can, but my taste buds don't lie. Not sure why I put protein rest in there. I don't know about being detrimental, but you are correct in that it wouldn't enhance maltiness. Sorry for the confusion on that...
 

Denny

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corax

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My experiment was with a single decoction, so I'm not surprised at the different results. There were 5 different beers form 4 brewers. Exact same recipe decocted and not decocted. Blind tasting by experienced brewers, BJCP judges, and commercial brewers. You can read about it here, starting on pg. 25. http://www.ahaconference.org/wp-content/uploads/presentations/2008/DennyConn.pdf
I have two beefs with this type of experiment.

(1) We pick 5 people off the street and have them perform brain surgery. 5 patients die. Do we conclude that brain surgery doesn't work? That's grossly hyperbolic, and I apologize, but it drives home the point. Decoction mashing is an advanced technique. How do I know that the brewers involved were doing it as well as it can be done? Clone Kai Troester 4 times and have all 5 of them repeat the experiment, and I'll believe the results.

(2) Perception of malt flavor seems to be highly variable -- more so than other beer flavors. There is something I call "real German malt flavor". I know it's a maillard product, and I think of it as "pure malt" flavor, but it's otherwise difficult to describe. I almost never encounter it in American-made German styles (maybe I would more if I didn't live on the West Coast). People who really love fresh, authentic examples of Helles, Maerzen or Bock tend to get what I'm talking about, but many others -- including some really good brewers and beer experts -- do not. I don't know if that's due to lack of familiarity or a true perceptual difference, but there it is. The point is, it is exactly this flavor that decoction mashing is supposed to promote. How do we know everyone on the tasting panel is even sensitive to it?

Now, if the only goal is to determine whether decoction mashing makes a difference to the AVERAGE brewer or the AVERAGE palate, then the experiment is totally valid. But it says little about the advanced brewer aiming at the palate of the "pure malt" lover.
 

73Drvr

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I'm scaling my recipe, so the fermentables and alcohol are the same, just using less grain.
You said it yourself. You are "using less grain." If you shoot for a slightly lower efficiency you will need to use more grain for a given OG. More grain = more malt flavor. Theoretically that is. I haven't done any experiments.

This was covered in a recent BYO on no sparge brewing. The author found that the lower efficiency of no sparge was getting him more malt flavor. Theory was that the added grain to offset the lower efficiency was the culprit.
 

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I don't understand how a protein rest can add maltiness. In fact, with most malts it can be detrimental. And my own experiments with decoction mashing lead me to believe that it has little to no effect on flavor.

Same here Denny what a waste of my time doing a triple Decoction. Well at least I can say I tried one but in my case I did not see any benefit.
 

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High mash efficiency can cause graininess and astringency. I can see how it could dilute the malt flavor. Instead of scaling your grain back, look at how to bring your eff% back down towards 70%.
 

seminoleAle

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Would your mash temp have an effect on your efficiency? Maybe higher temp, more dextrins, more malt flavor and less alcohol.
 

jeepinjeepin

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seminoleAle said:
Would your mash temp have an effect on your efficiency? Maybe higher temp, more dextrins, more malt flavor and less alcohol.
Mash temp affects attenuation. It also affects speed of mash conversion and ease of runoff, but not so much efficiency. The second part=very yes if a low mash temp is the problem.
 

Denny

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I have two beefs with this type of experiment.

(1) We pick 5 people off the street and have them perform brain surgery. 5 patients die. Do we conclude that brain surgery doesn't work? That's grossly hyperbolic, and I apologize, but it drives home the point. Decoction mashing is an advanced technique. How do I know that the brewers involved were doing it as well as it can be done? Clone Kai Troester 4 times and have all 5 of them repeat the experiment, and I'll believe the results.

(2) Perception of malt flavor seems to be highly variable -- more so than other beer flavors. There is something I call "real German malt flavor". I know it's a maillard product, and I think of it as "pure malt" flavor, but it's otherwise difficult to describe. I almost never encounter it in American-made German styles (maybe I would more if I didn't live on the West Coast). People who really love fresh, authentic examples of Helles, Maerzen or Bock tend to get what I'm talking about, but many others -- including some really good brewers and beer experts -- do not. I don't know if that's due to lack of familiarity or a true perceptual difference, but there it is. The point is, it is exactly this flavor that decoction mashing is supposed to promote. How do we know everyone on the tasting panel is even sensitive to it?

Now, if the only goal is to determine whether decoction mashing makes a difference to the AVERAGE brewer or the AVERAGE palate, then the experiment is totally valid. But it says little about the advanced brewer aiming at the palate of the "pure malt" lover.
1.) I can attest to the brewing skills of all 4 brewers. I myself brewed 2 of the batches and a pro brewer homebrewed another one. The other 2 were brewers who have had yeasr of experience and awards to their credit

2.) while the goal of the experiment was to determine the effects of the decoction procedure that any homebrewer might do, the tasters (at least in the group of 12 I put together) were all experienced and knew how to taste and what to taste for.

While I would never say this experiment was definitive, I think you give it short shrift. In the end, if decoction doesn't produce a beer that more tasters prefer, what's the point of doing it?
 

Denny

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High mash efficiency can cause graininess and astringency. I can see how it could dilute the malt flavor. Instead of scaling your grain back, look at how to bring your eff% back down towards 70%.
I just have never seen that to be true. I average 85% efficiency and my beers are definitely not lacking in malt flavor. Have you found this to be true in your own beers?
 

jeepinjeepin

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Denny said:
I just have never seen that to be true. I average 85% efficiency and my beers are definitely not lacking in malt flavor. Have you found this to be true in your own beers?
No, just going from what I've read. I've not calibrated my system and thus have not calculated my efficiency. I consistently overshoot OG by a couple of points but that could be mash or brew house.
 

Denny

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No, just going from what I've read. I've not calibrated my system and thus have not calculated my efficiency. I consistently overshoot OG by a couple of points but that could be mash or brew house.
It would be great if people would say that they're not speaking from their own experience when they post something. Not everything you read applies to real life!
 

JeffersonJ

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Denny said:
I just have never seen that to be true. I average 85% efficiency and my beers are definitely not lacking in malt flavor. Have you found this to be true in your own beers?
Agreed. I get 85% on average ( BIAB with dunk sparge). It takes some adjusting of base grains vs. specialty grains, but it's definitely possible to get big malt flavor.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but most commercial breweries have upwards of 80% mash efficiency. Obviously, they don't have issues with malt flavor.
 
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evandena

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JeffersonJ said:
Agreed. I get 85% on average ( BIAB with dunk sparge). It takes some adjusting of base grains vs. specialty grains, but it's definitely possible to get big malt flavor.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but most commercial breweries have upwards of 80% mash efficiency. Obviously, they don't have issues with malt flavor.
Really only 80? I have zero to base this on, but you would think that they would invest huge efforts into maximizing efficiency.
 

JeffersonJ

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Well, most craft breweries I believe get 80-85%. Could be wrong though. I'm sure the larger ones tend to invest more towards getting that higher, especially BMC.
 

Denny

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Agreed. I get 85% on average ( BIAB with dunk sparge). It takes some adjusting of base grains vs. specialty grains, but it's definitely possible to get big malt flavor.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but most commercial breweries have upwards of 80% mash efficiency. Obviously, they don't have issues with malt flavor.
Sierra Nevada aims for 100% efficiency and gets 98-99% I'm told.
 

corax

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1.) I can attest to the brewing skills of all 4 brewers. I myself brewed 2 of the batches and a pro brewer homebrewed another one. The other 2 were brewers who have had yeasr of experience and awards to their credit
OK, but how much specific experience with decoctions did they have? I've done a couple, and helped out with a few more, but I feel far too inexperienced with them to generalize from the results.

2.) while the goal of the experiment was to determine the effects of the decoction procedure that any homebrewer might do, the tasters (at least in the group of 12 I put together) were all experienced and knew how to taste and what to taste for.
Fair enough, but given the scarcity of the flavors in question among American versions of styles that are supposed to have them, I still have to wonder. I can't count the number of Marezens and Bocks I've had that are just grainy lagers overloaded with US crystal malt.

While I would never say this experiment was definitive, I think you give it short shrift. In the end, if decoction doesn't produce a beer that more tasters prefer, what's the point of doing it?
If that's the metric, then I agree.

Also, you deserve big kudos for just pulling this off. I realize that these sorts of things are very difficult to organize and execute.
 
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I would think this comes down more to what the yeast are doing during fermentation with respect to the sugars that are readily available. Higher mash temps may aid in more malty flavors. As high attenuation results from more simple sugars.

If using more than one strain of yeast there will be greater probability for higher conversion rates

Personally i could care less what my efficiency is as long as it tastes good when finished :D
 

Denny

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OK, but how much specific experience with decoctions did they have? I've done a couple, and helped out with a few more, but I feel far too inexperienced with them to generalize from the results.



Fair enough, but given the scarcity of the flavors in question among American versions of styles that are supposed to have them, I still have to wonder. I can't count the number of Marezens and Bocks I've had that are just grainy lagers overloaded with US crystal malt.



If that's the metric, then I agree.

Also, you deserve big kudos for just pulling this off. I realize that these sorts of things are very difficult to organize and execute.
All brewers had much experience with decoctions. That's why they all agreed to participate. We all wanted to find out objectively if the work of a decoction was worth it.

You seem to be trying really hard to find a reason why the experiment wasn't valid rather than looking at the results and trying to understand them. If you look at the numbers, non decocted and decocted beers were preferred almost equally. But if you add the "no preference" to the non decocted beers, you see that there is no preference for decocted beers.
 

pjj2ba

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I’ve brewed 8 batches so far, and they’ve all been pretty good. The first couple I did not correct for high efficiency, so I ended up with 7% ABV.
I’ve since honed my practices and better learned my equipment, and I’m now scaling for 85% efficiency in BeerSmith by cutting back on all the grains.
My past couple brews have been an amber and a Scottish 80. While delicious, I’m just not getting much of the malt flavor I expect. They almost taste a bit watery.

This leads to my question, one which I cannot find an answer for… only speculative guessing and baseless assertions. I’m hoping someone with good reasoning can confirm this for me. Has anyone run any experiments on this?
Does a high mash efficiency, say 85-90% affect the final flavor?
What part of the grain derives malt flavors?

I am currently treating my water with slacked lime, 5.2, gypsum, and calcium chloride. I batch sparge for two equal amounts and let rest for 15 minutes (too long?). I slowly drain the MLT to the BK, possibly upping my efficiency here.

Thanks guys
I wonder about this and have yet come to any conclusions. A couple years ago, I changed a couple things and my brewhouse efficiency is now consistently 90-95%. I was worried about the loss of flavor, as in order to keep the ABV down where I like it, this meant cutting back on the base malts (but not so much the other grains) and I assume that less grain = less flavor. I realize this is a gross generalization but the way I think is first in terms of the flavors, body, and etc that the grains have to give me, and then there is the bonus starch conversion which leads to alcohol, but is of less importance to me.

I was talking with another brewer this weekend who likes to brew a lot of low ABV beers. We were trying some of his and we came to the conclusion, that with the low ABV beer (those with less base malt) any changes you make to the specialty grains are more noticeable than if you made those same changes to a much higher ABV beer. He had two beers that were basically the same (~4% ABV) except one had under 3% rye in it. The rye was very noticeable. So I guess what I'm saying is that yes, one does use less grain, which potentially means less flavors, but then the flip side is that as the ABV goes down, flavors stand out more, which then compensates for the "loss" of grain

At this point I can't really say that my flavors have suffered at all going from 80% to 90+%. I like to do step mashes as I feels that gives me very good control over the final make up of my wort. I think this helps me to control the body, and keep it from feeling thin.
 

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Does a high mash efficiency, say 85-90% affect the final flavor?
I don't think it is possible for anyone on this thread to really answer this because there are so many different ways to affect your efficiency rate and each one may or may not ultimately affect the final flavor.

In theory 5.2 is completely neutral to taste yet claims to stabalize your PH at "5.2" and therefore increasing efficiency. If using 5.2 as the only "efficiency increaser", then you can probably make the case that "no, increased efficiency doesn't affect flavor".

On the other hand, if you're sparging the everlovinfark out of the mash to get every molocule of sugar out of the mash... sure, your efficiency may be higher but the chance of you pulling all sorts of tannins out of the husks and adding astringency to the final beer is also higher... and sure, that'll absolutely affect the taste of the beer.

It depends on what methods you're talking about in what relation to all of the other methods.

Holding all things equal... on the face of it.... no, higher efficiency itself shouldn't affect flavor in any real way. All you're doing is doing a more thorough job of getting starch into sugar and that sugar out of the grain bed.... Unless.... you aren't scaling your volume to your corresponding OG. Obviously if you hit 90% efficiency and keep the same intended volume for, say, an expected 75% rate... you're going to blow through your OG and yes, then it'll be a different beer. But if you scale up volume accordingly so that you hit your originally intended OG... No, I don't think it'll make a difference.
 
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I am currently treating my water with slacked lime, 5.2, gypsum, and calcium chloride.
Just a shot in the dark here, but do you think so many additives in the brewing water could be contributing to an enhanced 'water' flavor in the beer? I was wondering that when I watched your YouTube vid on cream of three crops last night. I've never treated water like that, so it's just a guess, but I know when I was using my mineral laden tap water, my beers, especially the lighter ones, came across 'water-y' or water flavored if that makes any sense. Switching to water that didn't require treatment (spring) eliminated this problem immediately.

As far as temps affecting malt flavors, it's hard to say. My best mash eff. was ~83% and I didn't notice any enhanced malt flavors. Nor do I notice my beers with lower eff. having lower malt flavors.
 
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evandena

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NordeastBrewer77 said:
Just a shot in the dark here, but do you think so many additives in the brewing water could be contributing to an enhanced 'water' flavor in the beer? I was wondering that when I watched your YouTube vid on cream of three crops last night. I've never treated water like that, so it's just a guess, but I know when I was using my mineral laden tap water, my beers, especially the lighter ones, came across 'water-y' or water flavored if that makes any sense. Switching to water that didn't require treatment (spring) eliminated this problem immediately.

As far as temps affecting malt flavors, it's hard to say. My best mash eff. was ~83% and I didn't notice any enhanced malt flavors. Nor do I notice my beers with lower eff. having lower malt flavors.
I'll confer with my scientist brew buddy, he's in charge of the water profile.
That cream of three crop is my first correctly treated brew, and it's cold crashing now.
I might try some spring water with a brew, but I need to see what I can do with treating my tap first.

Enjoying your vids by the way.
 
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I'll confer with my scientist brew buddy, he's in charge of the water profile.
That cream of three crop is my first correctly treated brew, and it's cold crashing now.
I might try some spring water with a brew, but I need to see what I can do with treating my tap first.

Enjoying your vids by the way.
He'd definitely know better than me or you. Like I said, it was just a guess. If I remember, you're treating it with the lime to get rid of magnesium?

Enjoyed your brew day vid a lot. Really like your setup. I'll slowly get through the rest. :mug:
 
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evandena

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He'd definitely know better than me or you. Like I said, it was just a guess. If I remember, you're treating it with the lime to get rid of magnesium?

Enjoyed your brew day vid a lot. Really like your setup. I'll slowly get through the rest. :mug:
Yes, high concentration of the lime to get rid of magnesium from that water, then mix it with another equal amount water to rid the bicarbonate. Best you can do is get rid of half of the magnesium, but it's better than nothing.
 
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