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Hazy line between extract and partial mash?

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Weezknight

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I'm getting ready to order up my first kit, and I'm having a hard time seeing the line between extract and partial mash brewing.

All of the kits (even the "beginner" kits) I see have some sort of grain being mashed prior to adding the extract. Are these partial mash or considered extract kits?

If these are partial mash, what would an actual extract kit entail? Are they the 20-minute boil kits that I also see?
 

Lil' Sparky

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If it's a partial mash kit, you have to actually mash some base grains that have the enzymes needed for starch/sugar conversion. Extract + specialty is just steeping some grains for flavor/color. Probably most beginner kits are the latter.
 

BioBeing

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Steeping is not the same as mashing.

All extract brewing, as the name suggests, just uses extract and no specialty grain. The kit makers have done all the steeping and mashing for you, concentrated it, and put it in the can.

For steeping, you are just extracting colour and flavor from the "specialty" grains, but not sugar. There are no diastatic enzymes to convert the starch. Many kits call for steeping grains, as you can get the good bits in that a plain old can-o-extract just doesn't have. But you need the extract for the sugar, which the yeast turn to alcohol.

Mashing is a more involved process where you add some grain (a so-called base malt, like 2 row) that has lots of enzymatic activity, so starch goes to sugar. During the mash, you are also steeping the grains, to get the colour and other elements out. If you do a small scale mash with a few pounds of base grain plus your same specialty grain, you are doing a mini (or partial) mash. Here the sugar you generate replaces some of the extract from the kit.

Obviously, if you replace ALL the extract with grain, you have gone to all grain.

So, there is a continuum (of sorts) from extract --> extract plus steeping --> partial mash --> all grain.
 

kaiser423

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Steeping is not the same as mashing.

All extract brewing, as the name suggests, just uses extract and no specialty grain. The kit makers have done all the steeping and mashing for you, concentrated it, and put it in the can.

For steeping, you are just extracting colour and flavor from the "specialty" grains, but not sugar. There are no diastatic enzymes to convert the starch. Many kits call for steeping grains, as you can get the good bits in that a plain old can-o-extract just doesn't have. But you need the extract for the sugar, which the yeast turn to alcohol.

Mashing is a more involved process where you add some grain (a so-called base malt, like 2 row) that has lots of enzymatic activity, so starch goes to sugar. During the mash, you are also steeping the grains, to get the colour and other elements out. If you do a small scale mash with a few pounds of base grain plus your same specialty grain, you are doing a mini (or partial) mash. Here the sugar you generate replaces some of the extract from the kit.

Obviously, if you replace ALL the extract with grain, you have gone to all grain.

So, there is a continuum (of sorts) from extract --> extract plus steeping --> partial mash --> all grain.
This little continuum is helpful. The only difference between extract+steeping and partial mash is whether the grains in your sack have base grains, like a row 2 in them.

If they do, you need to be a bit more careful about the amount of water used, correct? When steeping you can do it in the full amount of water if you're full-boiling, but if you're doing a mini-mash you need to properly control the amount of water so that you can get the proper densities of enzymes and/or whatever to get the mash to actually start, correct? You can also start adding small steps like sparging, etc that would do you no good if you're just steeping, correct?

With info like this, the Easy Partial Mash thread becomes much more clear as to what is different about it versus what we do when we steep some stuff.

Is there much of a time difference between extract+steeping and a partial-mash (aka mini-mash)? Anyone have a good comment on the difference in flavor profiles like between an AHS kit that's extract and that's mini-mash? It would be a cool experiment to get all 3 kits from AHS of the same type, from extract to mini-mash to all-grain and see what the big differences are.
 
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Weezknight

Weezknight

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Thanks for the great answers! I'm so glad I found this place.

When you look at the directions that come with the "special grain" kits, they almost make it seem the same as PM / AG. But now that you guys have kind of laid out the steps more in-depth (steeping vs. mashing), it makes sense to me now.
 

BioBeing

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I've only done one PM so far, but it seemed that the time was really no different from a steeping. You just want to control the temp as well as possible - I did the stove top method, and it seems to work (but that one is in secondary now).

Your other assumptions are, I think, all correct.

As to taste: I haven't brewed enough, so I don't know. Daniels in Designing Great Beer says that many competition winning beers can be made with at least a partial mash. He mentions (IIRC) that some winning beers may have up to 5 lbs of extract in them. With an all extract, you are at the mercy of the kit maker. You might make a good beer, but it probably won't win competitions.

PM'ing is so easy (with the aid of this thread), that if you can steep, you can PM ;)
 

Shawn Hargreaves

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Compared to steeping, mashing requires more precise control over the volume of water, temperature, and how long you wait.

Steeping is basically just dissolving sugars into water. This is a very forgiving process that will work with pretty much any amount of water, over a wide temperature range (people usually recommend 150 degrees, but even at room temperature will work if you wait long enough: higher temps just speed up the rate at which the sugars will dissolve) and it doesn't matter if you leave it for 20 minutes, an hour, a day, etc (the longer you wait, the more sugar you get out, but there are diminishing returns after around 30 minutes).

When you mash, though, you are taking advantage of a complex biochemical reaction. Or more precisely, several different overlapping reactions involving different enzymes! Get anything more than a few percent wrong, and these reactions don't work any more. Too hot, and you kill the enzymes. Too cold, and they do nothing. Even a few degrees difference will shift the balance between which enzymes do most of the conversion work, which alters the type of sugars that are produced, and thus affects the final beer. So it's really important to be accurate about your volume and temperature measurements. But on the plus side, this gives you lots of control over your beer once you understand the process. Want it a little drier? Just mash a couple of degrees cooler. etc.

Sparging actually makes sense for steeping as well as mashing: this basically just means rinsing the grains with some extra water at the end of the process to make sure you've got all the good stuff out of them.
 

kaiser423

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Shawn and Bio, thanks for the excellent advice and info :rockin:

I'm about to be up to about 100 beers bottled in the fridge and 5 gallons of Apfelwine, and now I'm jonesing to try a partial mash. I'll just tell the wife that we need to have a party to drink 'em all down, and I need to start a new brew to replenish what we'll lose!
 

david_42

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When you look at the directions that come with the "special grain" kits, they almost make it seem the same as PM / AG.
That is because the special grains are the main flavor and color contributors. The quantities and types of specialty grains would be consistent regardless of the recipe base (extract or 2-row grain).
 
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Weezknight

Weezknight

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So I knocked this up in powerpoint...



[Yeah, slow day] :mug:

Wow! BioBeing's picture FTW. I think I'm going to print this and put in my brewing area, just as a reminder. :D
 

kaiser423

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Wow! BioBeing's picture FTW. I think I'm going to print this and put in my brewing area, just as a reminder. :D
Definitely nice to have a little flow chart like that just to clear everything up some.

The big differentiator for me is that if you don't have some row #2 or row #6 in your grains, you ain't doing partial mash. If you do, then you should do a partial mash, which includes things like closely controlling the temp, amount of water, etc.
 

zanemoseley

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Just keep in mind that there are other grains with diastatic power besides #2 and #6 row. I have seen a listing of different power ratings of commonly used grain somewhere but can remember where
 
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