Mash / Sparge Hopping and No Boil Beers of All Kinds

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Brewing is a great hobby but it can be hard to carve out a six to eight hour block of time to set up, brew, and take it all down again. With that in mind I have been experimenting with a faster, lower energy way of brewing that makes the most out of mash hopping and no chilling. An eight-hour brew session for me now takes three. But it is not about brewing faster, really, it's about being able to brew more often.
To accomplish this I rely on a few methods that are not commonly applied: mash hopping, sparge hopping, and 'no boil' beer.
Mash Hopping
So we're avoiding a boil (more on that later), how do we get bitterness and hop flavor to balance out the malt?
For low IBU beers you can mash hop to get some of it. Keep in mind that the lower temperature means less isomerization to produce bitterness. In a 1.050 5.5G boil, you'll get 37 IBU from a 60 minute boil of 1oz of 10AA% hops but only 7.4 from a 60 minute mash (via Beersmith). Ending the duration of the mash to 90-120 minutes won't get you much more. Since the hops are mixed into the grain bed and mashing out occurs at or above mash temperatures then I add an extra 30 minutes or so to the hop mashing time in the Beersmith entry.
This will do for sours, session ales, and malt forward beers. To get the most bitterness per ounce it's obvious to go for a high AA% variety.
Cost-wise you'll use and pay for more hops but excluding the boil altogether saves on propane. Brewing electric or via natural gas will not have the same tradeoff but propane, with an estimate of $5 per session, can be traded for more hops which run less than $1/oz in bulk.
I have used up to 3-4 oz of hops in the mash to achieve the right bitterness with mash hopping alone. The Beersmith calculations appear to be reliable enough. The impact on flavor/aroma is on par with a mid-addition hopping. Weighed against the ease, the boil time, and the cost of propane I decided mash hopping was acceptable.
Sparge Hopping
If this doesn't cut it for you then you're alternative is to add hops to the sparge water. To hit higher IBUs (15 - 50), I put up to an ounce of hops into 4 - 5 gallons of sparge water and boil for 30 minutes to mash out with.
Inverse to the poor economics of mash hopping, this has the added benefit of more efficient hop isomerization. Our 1 oz of 10AA% hops examples gives 37 IBU in 1.050 wort but 45 in 1.025 and 54 in plain water.
This does add a boil back to our 'no boil' beer but we're putting a little more energy/fuel in to accomplish a lot more. Since the sparge is heated during the mash we are not adding any extra time to the process and the 15 - 30 minute intervals of stirring the mash and adding hops to the boil work well if you time the sparge boil to start at the 30 minute mark.
Whether you mash hop or sparge hop, make sure the sparge water reaches a boil. We'll need to mash out hot in the next step.

Decoction mash
Side Note: Decoction Hopping
Once or twice I have snuck an ounce of hops into a decoction. The higher gravity will lower the conversion but it is sufficient. Keep the hops bagged and on top of the decoction; it seems they have a tendency to get pulled to the bottom and stick to the pot. It is also difficult to predict exactly what IBU you can expect to get.
No Boil / No Chill
There are 'no boil' extract kits out there but in this case we're avoiding waiting on a boil.
The boil does many things to wort but what it most critical for a drinkable beer is that is kills all the bugs that might otherwise foul it. By mashing out hot at 180F+ the wort will not sour. My run of the famous Deception Cream Stout, a Belgian tripel, and a Belgian dubbel have all sat for three months from 60F to 75F without so much as a pellicle.
What is interesting, however, is that the hot mash pasteurizes the wort but doesn't necessarily do the same for the grain. If you want to quickly top off the collection bucket with some water it has to be hot water. Otherwise, using your standard 65F tap water will produce a run-off that will spontaneous ferment. This was the case in trying to save some extra wort for starters. Examining the discarded grain beds after a few days, I have noticed that the grain beds which were maintained at mashout temperatures longer took a longer time to go bad.


To collect the wort I use a standard fermenting bucket. A plastic or glass carboy will either deform and possibly shatter so avoid those. The bucket is sealed with a lid/airlock and allowed to cool overnight. Not chilling the wort with a heat exchanger is common in areas where the use of water is controlled due to drought.
If you do not actively chill the wort then the hot mash out becomes more important since it ensures the enzymes have been destroyed and will not risk acting on the wort as it cools down into the alpha/beta amylase ranges again.
After work the next day I will pitch the yeast and put the fermenter into a temperature-controlled chamber. You have the option of using the collection bucket as the fermenter or dumping it into your fermenter of choice which provides the added benefit of aeration and separating out whatever has precipitated during the chill.
I need to crunch more numbers on how to make the most of mash hopping but it does seem as though eliminating the boil on all-grain beers could provide a big benefit to commercial brews by cutting out the cost of bringing at 15bbl+ batch to a boil as well as all the equipment to make that happen.

1-week Grain-to-Glass Blonde Ale
Sidenote: Wort Limitations
Without a boil you cannot concentrate the wort for bigger beers. It is a limit of this system. I have gotten away with a Belgian tripel at 9.5% via the 15% sugar addition. Partigyle or first running beers are still an option though.
This article was prompted way back when Owly055 started a discussion on time-saving methods. Overall, this method cuts my usual eight-hour full brewday to three hours.
And the effect has not been to cheapen the experience or rush but to brew more often than ever before. For the last six months - over twenty brews - I've used this new method to make things from sours to blondes, stouts, and Belgians. I've given the beer to friends and family and even debuted much of it at an Xmas party with good praise. The ultimate validation would be to try and compete.
Not in any position to comment on the article except to say that I am planning on experimenting with a number of no boil beers in the next few months. But is there a reason why brewers do not use K-meta to kill the "bugs that might otherwise foul" the wort? K-meta in solution will produce SO2 and SO2 is a good bactericide. Wine makers use it all the time to kill wild yeast, bacteria, fungi, and other unwanted life forms before they pitch their yeast. If K-meta is effective with grains and wort then the problem the author raises of the "spontaneous fermentation" that will result with the use of tap water disappears...
An eight hour estimate for a brew days seems rather long to me. Even when I mess around too much and am not efficient with my time I can have a 5 gallon, all grain batch done in 5 hrs.
I have two questions. Keep in mind I am still in my novice stage of homebrewing.
1) To concentrate your wort, couldn't you add more grain? Thus resulting in more fermentable sugar/oz of wort?
2) If tradition recipe says to add ingredients at 15 min, would I add those to the sparge water, or would placing it at the bottom of the collection/primary fermentation bucket be sufficient?
This is an awesome idea/method. This also eliminates the possibility of contaminates from wort chiller, boiling bucket, aerating device, etc. Cheers!
I would be wary of pitching into my beer that late in the process. Also, you don't discuss off flavors. Do you have any problems with DMS? How about chill haze since you aren't getting all of those Showing results for maillard reactions in the boil and aren't dropping out a lot of excess proteins.
I might have missed it as I was reading, but I would think that not boiling an AG wort (as opposed to extract) would create potential problems with DMS. How does one address this if it is not done by boiling?
EDIT: Hopper5000 beat me to it!
How's about the probability of DMS. Can't really fix that without a boil can you? Is your beer cream corny? Have you gotten any feedback from BJCP judges or other qualified "beer people"? I love the idea of shortening my brew day for sure. Just a bit skeptical of off flavors. Thanks for the write-up!
Edit: I guess I had not refreshed. Question already pondered above. Cheers!
I've experimented with very short boil (10 minutes) followed by no chill. I do first wort and no-chill hopping and have no limitations on getting bitterness. If I add to that a no-sparge mash (just start with all volume + boil-off + grain absoprtion + dead-space in the MLT), its a pretty fast brew day. I haven't clocked it, but I'll try to remember to take some notes this weekend.
its funny that the word "decoction" is even mentioned in an article about how to save time!
Seriously though, I think another time savings would be in clean up. I know we don't have to get our boil kettles to a sterile level of cleanliness, but personally, I do have to do some scrubbing to clean my BK after an hour long boil. draining into a SS fermenter straight from the MT (igloo cooler) would mean I'd only have to drain and store my BK (which I also use as a HLT for the MT).
obviously the OP hasn't had any issues, but I still don't see how a typical fly sparge with 180*F water would get a strong enough knock-down of spoilage bacteria. In this setup, the early runnings into the fermenter/collection bucket would be in the 150-160+ range, right? perhaps a BIAB direct fire ramp-up to 180 mashout? Erik--what is your mash set up? further thoughts on this?
My All grain 90 minute boil brew days take me 4.5-5 hours start to finish. I am all about saving time and I clean as I go and do multiple steps at a time always but I won't cut corners if the results will suffer. DMS, and Not getting a good cold break etc.. all important things. Innovative and new Technics are great but some of the process steps cannot be skipped in my opinion.
In my experience, the people who believe mash or sparge hopping makes a difference are those who have never done a blind tasting of beers made that way. I have and found both to be pretty much useless.
Devil's advocate here, but maybe the 8 hour brew day figure is from stove top brewing? Just a guess as the first pic is on the stove. That would also be a huge motivator to go no boil.
It takes me about 5 hours to brew 6 gallons and about 8 to brew 12 on an eherms. And that is in my garage where everything has to be moved into place, cleaned, then put back so both cars can go back in at night.
yeah, i think everyone replying about the 8 hour brew day thing is totally right. i take my time and including wait times/cleanup max is 6 hours, including 60-90 min boils.
also you can't really take this kind of shortcut for many beers. i aim for 90 minute boils and have a 120 min boil planned (with decoctions) because i like melanoidins. in my experience a decoction (and i'll have to assume the standard hour plus boil time) create flavours and body that malts cant duplicate.
however it might be nice for historically styled beers (medieval ales) and sours
@TheNobleBrewer: I think that if you add more grain (upping the prospective gravity) then that would throw off your mash volume. Changing your mash volume, as i understand, would then change the fermentability (fermentable/non-fermentable) sugar levels. Which would then change the body.
Hi everybody, OP here. I was expecting more torches and pitchforks for what I'm working on here.
@bernardsmith: I've never used K-Meta for sterilizing the wort. The closest I get is treating my brewing water with half a campden tablet while heating up the strike water due to city water. And it looks like campden is K-meta (potassium metabisulfite). As far as I was aware it doesn't kill off the bugs but slows them down.
@Peruvian802: Eight hours was back in the old apartment when I stored my brewing equipment on the second floor and had to drag everything outside and back again. I've never really been in a hurry to finish brewing but all this came about since I work six days a week and needed more time in a Sunday.
@TheNobleBrewer/ColeVet67: 1) Yes, more grain will work up to a point. Then you need more sparge water to collect all that sugar and it'll come back around to boiling down the wort. 2) Adding to the sparge water would be better. Once it's in the fermenter it can be harder to get it back. Things like hops or spice might continue to infuse and overinfuse.
@Hopper5000/JordanKnudson: Chill haze is an issue. Gelatin finings worked pretty well on a blonde ale while I've been doing a lot of very dark beers or high ABV Belgians that need to sit for 2-3 months.
For DMS: Last night, I sat down with a can of creamed corn and a pint of a schwarzbier I made. There has been a sulfury smell/taste in my two more recent beers: Blue Moon clone and this schwarzbier. But it doesn't taste like DMS - it's a straight up fire and brimstone sulfur smell/taste that is fading over time. When I took apart my mash tun I found that the bulkhead was leaking into the insulation and there was some funky stuff in there. Now I use my old SS boil kettle as a direct fire mash tun. That's said to get some Maillard reactions. I do decoct and step mash for styles.
DMS, if it truly becomes a problem for me, has been scrubbed with a long CO2 purge. That will also take out hop aroma though.
@GrizBrew: I haven't taken my beer on the road to BJCP yet. There's a few good clubs out here in OH. One of my Xmas 4-packs I put together is going to a local brewer so we'll see what he thinks. Unless that sulfur problem is DMS I don't taste creamed corn.
@itinerantbrewer: My mash tun was a 68qt Coleman Extreme. I brew on a 5G scale and batch sparge with very hot (boiling) water. Small beers (<5%) are done as no sparge with good efficiency while bigger ones get up to a double sparge. Due to the cooler leaking (see @Hopper5000) last brew was done with a 68qt Bayou Classic pot that I converted from BK to mash tun. From past experience it seems like you can lose 10 degrees just in pouring from one container to another so I wouldn't doubt it gets down to 150-160 in the bucket. The big thing (from the grain bed spoilage speed after the fact) seems to be that as long as the run-off remains at mash temps then it's sitting around long enough to 'pasteurize'. The grain bed itself seems to be still active with bugs which can be picked up after a hot sparge with a colder sparge though. Looking into pasteurization guidelines, temperatures lower than boiling can still be effective but require longer time. There hasn't been a pellicle on the beer.
@Denny: You've been on Beersmith Radio about this before. I'm not trying to make a difference but run with the rest of the pack as far as flavor and IBU. Deception Cream Stout and Mosher's Saffron Tripel had enough bitterness to hold up the malt/ABV. The difference between other sparge/mash hopping cases, IMO, is there's no boil to drive off whatever intangible hop qualities that might occur.
@Setesh/amcclai7/fredthecat: Brew time probably comes down to how organized you are. I use a propane burner outside which heats pretty quickly. There's been short days and long days for me. I can't confidently sneak a full AG brew session in after work without going to sleep before 12 even if it takes five hours. Eight hours was the figure I had in my head from doing a Scottish Ale with a separate reduction of first runnings down to one pint (a two hour operation in itself on stovetop). Significant others, pets, kids, and distractions can factor into the equation too. :p
Thanks for the response Arrheinous. I think it's really interesting what you are doing and I am glad it has worked out for you. It's cool to see people try different variations on "traditional" brewing. My brew days are about 6 hours and I make pretty good beer so I am personally not inclined to change what I am doing and my life isn't so busy and crazy that I can't block that amount of time for brewing. I would personally be wary of pitching my yeast multiple hours after the wort got below pasteurizing temps but if it's working for you that is great. As far as DMS that is good you aren't getting any issues with it. I know there are various no-chill methods where people don't have DMS issues. For your chill haze issues you could try an enzyme that white labs uses called clarity ferm which helps break down chill haze proteins. I know gelatin can strip out hop flavors so I personally don't use that. You also make an interesting point about the FWH and MH in that the wort isn't boiled so some of the hop character actually stays.
From what I've read, wort has been boiled since the beginning of time. You can find boiling as part of the process in the books written in the 1800's available on Google Books. Even clay tablets dated 6,000 years before Christ, found from the people of Sumr (Northern Iraq) have recorded making beer, although not exactly like current beer, but was boiled. However, I'm intrigued.
I've read the responses and agree that DMS is an issue. Also, sparging with 180F water may cause an acrid, or astringent off flavor from the husk of the grain. However, that said, I like the thought of working through a non-boil process. Maybe you have something, if you don't mind the off-flavors and it doesn't spoil. I say go for it.
I would suggest having a judge taste it and see if everything I've read about DMS is true. Maybe it's all BS and your right, no boil is the way to go. I'll have to test your theory on a small batch.
Thanks for the article.
You rwplied but missed my main point against this: that this wouldnt work for all beer types like you say. I am certain you can not make a doppelbock, dunkel, and likely other malty/melanoidin focused beers without at minimum a normal boil time.
This could work for some beer types. Wheat ales, things covered up with hops, sours etc