Steeping grains in wort vs. water: extraction efficiency vs. tannins

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

frankvw

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2011
Messages
219
Reaction score
68
Location
Johannesburg
After having had several bad results (strong tannin flavors and harsh bitterness) with steeping grains in our local tap water, I've tried to steep in wort instead. While I'm now not getting any tannin flavors and nasty bitter notes anymore, I'm also not getting a decent extraction efficiency. I've steeped 500 grams (a pound and a bit for those who use Church-of-England measurements) of specialty grains in 6 liters of wort at normal mashing temperatures (around 65C / 150F). According to Palmer's grain steeping table I should have gotten up to 10 gravity points of it, but I've gotten 2 at best.

For a variety of reasons I am using uncorrected tap water and the gravity of my steeping wort is about 1.027. Palmer recommends 1.020 and states that steeping in wort means a small reduction in extraction but not enough to matter.

So I'm curious what other brewers' experiences are with steeping grains in wort rather than water. Does it significantly improve the flavor of the beer and how does it affect your steeping extraction efficiency?
 

Miraculix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2017
Messages
3,272
Reaction score
1,836
Location
Bremen
After having had several bad results (strong tannin flavors and harsh bitterness) with steeping grains in our local tap water, I've tried to steep in wort instead. While I'm now not getting any tannin flavors and nasty bitter notes anymore, I'm also not getting a decent extraction efficiency. I've steeped 500 grams (a pound and a bit for those who use Church-of-England measurements) of specialty grains in 6 liters of wort at normal mashing temperatures (around 65C / 150F). According to Palmer's grain steeping table I should have gotten up to 10 gravity points of it, but I've gotten 2 at best.

For a variety of reasons I am using uncorrected tap water and the gravity of my steeping wort is about 1.027. Palmer recommends 1.020 and states that steeping in wort means a small reduction in extraction but not enough to matter.

So I'm curious what other brewers' experiences are with steeping grains in wort rather than water. Does it significantly improve the flavor of the beer and how does it affect your steeping extraction efficiency?
What have you steeped exactly?
 
OP
frankvw

frankvw

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2011
Messages
219
Reaction score
68
Location
Johannesburg
What have you steeped exactly?
I used 100 grams of dextrin malt and 400 grams of light crystal malt (10-15 Lovibond). I believe my crush is good; I'm always hitting my OG when mashing. The grains were not tightly packed in the grain bag; there was plenty of space in the grist for water to circulate through. I swirled and stirred it a few times during steeping and let the bag drain properly when I lifted it out of the brew pot.
 

Miraculix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2017
Messages
3,272
Reaction score
1,836
Location
Bremen
I used 100 grams of dextrin malt and 400 grams of light crystal malt (10-15 Lovibond). I believe my crush is good; I'm always hitting my OG when mashing. The grains were not tightly packed in the grain bag; there was plenty of space in the grist for water to circulate through. I swirled and stirred it a few times during steeping and let the bag drain properly when I lifted it out of the brew pot.
The lighter the crystal malt, the higher the chance that it actually is not fully converted into sugar, the remaining starches won't be extracted.

Dextrin malt has to be mashed, to my knowledge and therefore doesn't contribute much when being steeped.

I had the same thing once with a very light crystal, if you crack some open, you can actually see the White parts which are unconverted starches.
 
OP
frankvw

frankvw

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2011
Messages
219
Reaction score
68
Location
Johannesburg
I'm going to do a few small scale test batches this afternoon using different types of malt. I'll post the results here.
 

CascadesBrewer

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2013
Messages
1,009
Reaction score
608
Location
VA, USA
Dextrin malt has to be mashed, to my knowledge and therefore doesn't contribute much when being steeped.
I recall seeing some info that adding Dextrin Malt/Carapils to the mash does not actually add much in the way of dextrines to the resulting wort, but that steeping does. I have been curious about trying this myself...though it also makes me wonder why I don't just add some maltodextrin instead. I still will occasionally throw some Carapils into a mash and tell myself that it adds something.
 
OP
frankvw

frankvw

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2011
Messages
219
Reaction score
68
Location
Johannesburg
I recall seeing some info that adding Dextrin Malt/Carapils to the mash does not actually add much in the way of dextrines to the resulting wort, but that steeping does. I have been curious about trying this myself...though it also makes me wonder why I don't just add some maltodextrin instead. I still will occasionally throw some Carapils into a mash and tell myself that it adds something.
It is my understanding that both dextrin malt and dextrins are a bit of a "gray" area, sort of halfway between basemalts and crystal malts. Whether that means they're both or they're neither I couldn't tell you. Technically dextrin malt is a crystal malt, but one that contains dextrins rather than sugars. Dextrins are sort of halfway between starches and sugars and are, to all intents and purposes, unfermentable which means they stay in the beer and contribute body, mouthfeel and a little sweetness.

But that's only half of it. Dextrin malt is also known for improving head formation and retention. This comes from the medium length proteins that dextrin malt is rich in. Liberating these proteins does not require mashing, as far as I know, just extraction. So theoretically steeping dextrin malt should have some good effect.
 

Miraculix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2017
Messages
3,272
Reaction score
1,836
Location
Bremen
It is my understanding that both dextrin malt and dextrins are a bit of a "gray" area, sort of halfway between basemalts and crystal malts. Whether that means they're both or they're neither I couldn't tell you. Technically dextrin malt is a crystal malt, but one that contains dextrins rather than sugars. Dextrins are sort of halfway between starches and sugars and are, to all intents and purposes, unfermentable which means they stay in the beer and contribute body, mouthfeel and a little sweetness.

But that's only half of it. Dextrin malt is also known for improving head formation and retention. This comes from the medium length proteins that dextrin malt is rich in. Liberating these proteins does not require mashing, as far as I know, just extraction. So theoretically steeping dextrin malt should have some good effect.
Plus the unconverted starches that might cloud your beer of course.
 

deeve007

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
346
Reaction score
178
Location
Aussie in Buenos Aires
Excuse my ignorance, but isn't wort what results from steeping grains in water?? Obviously from the above I'm missing something here, and google hasn't been able to clarify my misunderstanding, apologies...
 

Miraculix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2017
Messages
3,272
Reaction score
1,836
Location
Bremen
Excuse my ignorance, but isn't wort what results from steeping grains in water?? Obviously from the above I'm missing something here, and google hasn't been able to clarify my misunderstanding, apologies...
You are missing the mashing process where enzymes from the malt chop the starches into sugars.
 

kh54s10

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Aug 6, 2011
Messages
18,656
Reaction score
5,415
Location
Edgewater
I think that it takes a combination of high temperatures AND pH to extract Tannins. Levels that you are unlikely to achieve in a homebrew setting.
I was under the impression that steeping grains contributed to flavor and color and usually is not considered highly in the level of gravity of the brew.
I never looked into the contribution when designing extract recipes in Beersmith. I have just looked at the total results. So attempting to get something fermentable out of the steeping grains might be something to look into. I never have. I do hit the numbers predicted by Beersmith when steeping in water.

Uncorrected tap water? Does it contain chlorine or chloramines? If so and you are not treating for that it might be the source of the off flavors.

Lately I have seen discussions that Dextrin malt/carapils does not add much if anything to a recipe and it is now debated whether it does anything to aid head retention, which is the usual purpose for adding it.
 

deeve007

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
346
Reaction score
178
Location
Aussie in Buenos Aires
Good to know if I ever try a partial mash/extract brew :)

(and hope peeps don't mind my questions, cramming my head full of as much brewing learning/info as possible! ;) )
 

Miraculix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2017
Messages
3,272
Reaction score
1,836
Location
Bremen
Good to know if I ever try a partial mash/extract brew :)

(and hope peeps don't mind my questions, cramming my head full of as much brewing learning/info as possible! ;) )
No problem mate, that's what the forum is there for!
 

CascadesBrewer

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2013
Messages
1,009
Reaction score
608
Location
VA, USA
It is my understanding that both dextrin malt and dextrins are a bit of a "gray" area, sort of halfway between basemalts and crystal malts. Whether that means they're both or they're neither I couldn't tell you. Technically dextrin malt is a crystal malt, but one that contains dextrins rather than sugars. Dextrins are sort of halfway between starches and sugars and are, to all intents and purposes, unfermentable which means they stay in the beer and contribute body, mouthfeel and a little sweetness.

But that's only half of it. Dextrin malt is also known for improving head formation and retention. This comes from the medium length proteins that dextrin malt is rich in. Liberating these proteins does not require mashing, as far as I know, just extraction. So theoretically steeping dextrin malt should have some good effect.
Here is the primary article by Scott Janish where he had a beer brewed with 50% Briess Carapils analyzed. It did not seem like the Carapils was adding much body or dextrins, though he does mention a better head. I am not sure where I got the info about steeping Carapils.

http://scottjanish.com/dextrins-and-mouthfeel/
 

CascadesBrewer

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2013
Messages
1,009
Reaction score
608
Location
VA, USA
I recall reading through that Crystal thread. I have been interested about what exactly (from more of a chemical side) Crystal malt adds to a beer. Crystal (mostly Briess) seems to make its way into most of my beers. I come to expect some contribution of sweetness and body from Crystal (with some dark fruit flavors from Dark Crystal).

Also, as I understand it, Crystal Malt is a Caramel Malt made using high heat (drum roasters?) that crystallize the sugars. It sounds like Crystal Malt (like Briess) is a bit sweeter than Caramel Malt. Is there a specific maltster that makes a less sweet Caramel Malt? The descriptions I read all make them sound similar.
 

camonick

Mediocre brewer... Expert drinker
Joined
Oct 25, 2018
Messages
1,696
Reaction score
6,022
Location
CO
I was under the impression that steeping grains contributed to flavor and color and usually is not considered highly in the level of gravity of the brew.
That’s how I understand them to be used. With all the extract kits I ever used, the OG was determined by the amount of LME or DME provided with the kit while the specialty grains were meant to be steeped for approximately 1/2 hour at 150° before the addition of the extract. They are usually a little sticky when they are removed, but I can’t imagine they contribute much to the OG and certainly wouldn’t be expected to make up a portion of that OG. My guess is that the off flavors are coming from the “uncorrected tap water”.
 
OP
frankvw

frankvw

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2011
Messages
219
Reaction score
68
Location
Johannesburg
Steeping tests: my results vs. John Palmer's

OK. I've done some tests. I steeped 120 grams of crushed Caramunich III) in one litre of water at 70 degrees C / 158F, which replicates what Palmer used to obtain his well-known table of malt steeping yields. Procedure:

  1. Put 1 litre of water into a 2 litre pot;
  2. Crush malt (ensuring you've got a good crush);
  3. Add crushed malt to the water (not using a grain bag);
  4. Heat up to 70 degrees C (158F) stirring all the while to prevent malt scorching;
  5. Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally;
  6. After 30 minutes stir once more;
  7. Pour wort through strainer cloth, let cool to room temperature and take hydrometer reading.
The results are surprising. Palmer predicts 18 gravity points (i.e. the wort should have a specific gravity of 1.018). I got five points, i.e. 1.005.

Now I realize that Palmer says "Your results may vary" but by this much? [Scratches head]
 

BrewnWKopperKat

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
1,440
Reaction score
791
Also, as I understand it, Crystal Malt is a Caramel Malt made using high heat (drum roasters?) that crystallize the sugars. It sounds like Crystal Malt (like Briess) is a bit sweeter than Caramel Malt. Is there a specific maltster that makes a less sweet Caramel Malt? The descriptions I read all make them sound similar.
I don't have a direct answer to your question (maltster that makes a less sweet Caramel Malt?).

Are you aware that there are some 'specialty' malts (like Opal 44) that have crystal/caramel-ish flavors, a higher L, have DP, but must be mashed?
 
OP
frankvw

frankvw

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2011
Messages
219
Reaction score
68
Location
Johannesburg
I just did a second test, steeping 1 pound of properly crushed CaraMunich III (C60) in 1 gallon of water, loose (not in a grain bag), stirring well. The results stubbornly refuse to change: where Palmer predicts a steeping yield of 18PPG, in practice I get 5PPG every time. Interestingly, steeping the same grain in the same volume of wort pre-made from DME (gravity 1.027) gives the same increase in gravity (5 points) which means that the wort gravity does not have any effect on steeping yield (as opposed to what Palmer predicts).

[head scratching continues]
 

BrewnWKopperKat

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
1,440
Reaction score
791
John Palmer, "How to Brew", 4th edition, p. 57. An early version is available online as well.
It's possible that your "CaraMunich III" and the table's "CaraMunich" are malts from different maltsters.

It's possible that there is a typing mistake in the table in the 4th edition. Table comparison details (watch out for typing miistakes ;)):
  • Over the decades (and 4 editions), the table has been updated.
  • The online version (initially published in 1999) of "Table of Typical Malt Yields" does not contain CaraMunich III. I will assume that the online version is the same as the printed version.
  • The 3rd edition (eBook, p 139) contains an different version of the table
    • just "Malt Type" and "PPG Steep" columns,
    • there are some additions to the table,
    • some malts appear to have been renamed (for example "2 Row Lager Malt" vs "Two-row base malt"),
    • but the order of the malts appears to be unchanged.
  • The 4th edition (eBook & printed, p 57) contains a different version of the table
    • with new or renamed columns ("PPG", "PKL") vs the table in the 3rd edition
    • new malts (for example "Caramunich" with a PPG yield of 18),
    • and a reordering of some malts (for example "Brown malt").
It's possible that there are other possible explanations for the differences.
 

CascadesBrewer

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2013
Messages
1,009
Reaction score
608
Location
VA, USA
It is an interesting experiment, and I would be interested in seeing results for some other grains.

CaraMunich III, not a grain I recall using, seems to be a "drum roasted caramel malt" in the 55L range so I would guess that would put it near the "Medium Crystal (60 - 75L)" category...though I don't know if it is a "true" Crystal malt (where the sugars have been crystalized) or if there is a different in extraction from steeping Crystal vs Caramel malts.
 
OP
frankvw

frankvw

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2011
Messages
219
Reaction score
68
Location
Johannesburg
It's possible that your "CaraMunich III" and the table's "CaraMunich" are malts from different maltsters.
Of course. Almost all the malts I'm using are from Weyermann. This weekend I tried steeping 5 different malts. I got somewhere around 2-3PPG out of them. Palmer predicts much more. I'll see if I can get some malts from other maltings. Unfortunately I can't get anything from Briess here. That said, CaraMunich III is simply C60 under a trademarkable brand name. And while there will be differences between German, English and American malts, I can't see them being that dramatic.

As a matter of interest, has anyone tried to replicate Palmer's steeping tests?

It's possible that there is a typing mistake in the table in the 4th edition. [...]It's possible that there are other possible explanations for the differences.
Typo's notwithstanding, most data in the 4th edition table is in line with the first version (online) and what is widely used in home brewing. If there is anything in the book that would explain the discrepancies I'm seeing in my own tests, I haven't spotted them.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
1,440
Reaction score
791
Is "glassy vs mealy" a factor here? Would 'mashing' the malt with just added enzymes, rather than 'steeping', offer any insights?

CaraMunich III is simply C60 under a trademarkable brand name
When making ingredient substitutions in recipes, the idea that caramel/crystal malts of the same *L are generally inter-changable has "worked for me" - in that I get a good beer out of the converted recipe. Over time, advice from more experienced brewers has lead me to conclude that it's good (for me anyway) to treat each malt as unique. Categories are helpful as a guide, but there are times when "the map is not the territory".
 

Silver_Is_Money

Larry Sayre, Developer of 'Mash Made Easy'
Joined
Dec 31, 2016
Messages
4,788
Reaction score
1,405
Location
N/E Ohio
Precisely why are you steeping your grains instead of mashing them?

Does your water supply have chlorine and/or chloramines, and if so, how are you treating your water to eliminate these anti-microbials?

Does your tap water have high alkalinity?
 
OP
frankvw

frankvw

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2011
Messages
219
Reaction score
68
Location
Johannesburg
Precisely why are you steeping your grains instead of mashing them?
Does your water supply have chlorine and/or chloramines, and if so, how are you treating your water to eliminate these anti-microbials?
Does your tap water have high alkalinity?
Many home brewers in our area use borehole water from a dolomite layer, which has a ridiculously high alkalinity. Many have also limited equipment. Extract-with-steeped-grains just works for many people here and I'm trying to formulate a bunch of quick-and-easy recipes for that particular audience. I usually brew full grain beers myself and properly treat my brewing water based on the water report and the desired water profile for that particular beer, but not everyone is able to do that. Hence the steeping experiments. :)
 
Top