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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: Kaiser on April 02, 2010, 02:04:15 AM

Title: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: Kaiser on April 02, 2010, 02:04:15 AM
Once again I'm doing a lot of reading about mashing and after 20+ pages of various decoction mashing schedules I'm starting to think that it is still more widely used in Germany than I had been thinking. In particular in Bavaria I expect many breweries to still use it especially for dark beers. Being from the brewing school Weihenstephan, the authors have a strong background in Bavarian brewing practices and may have an bias to that style of brewing.

One interesting point that was brought up is that triple decoction mashes can lead to an excessive protein degradation when lighter malts are used but that dark malts, like Munich, don't have this problem since their enzymes are already severely weakened from the kilning process. Though the decoction weakens the enzymes even more this effect is compensated by the better gelatinization of the starches which makes them more accessible to the enzymes.

It also states that a triple decoction may not really be necessary but that, especially for dark beers, it is justified from a beer quality or flavor point of view.

For the decoction form of the Hochkurz mash (dough-in at 140-145 F) the SNR of the malt should be above 40% which is in line with the common wisdom that those malts don't need a protein rest.

Another interesting point was that the decoctions themselves don't need to be boiled. It is sufficient to heat them close to boiling temperatures and hold them there. Many breweries seem to do exactly that. This confirms my intuition of leaving the lid on the boiling decoction and thus being able to turn the burner so low that I get just a simmer. In home brewing, this reduces the risk of scorching the mash significantly and eliminates the need of constant stirring.

This shows that decoctions are more widely used in Germany than I initially thought although I know that neither Bittburger or Warsteiner use them. Nor do I think that they are the cause of the "German flavor" but it illustrates that German brewers strongly believe that a large part of a beers character comes from mashing.

I thought I'd share that.

Kai



Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: tom on April 02, 2010, 02:13:11 AM
If you don't need to keep the decoction boiling, that would make them a lot easier to do. No constant stirring for 20 minutes?
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: Hokerer on April 02, 2010, 02:17:14 AM
If you don't need to keep the decoction boiling, that would make them a lot easier to do. No constant stirring for 20 minutes?

And another interesting idea is in the latest issue of Zymurgy.  That is Jeff Renner's article on doing your decoction in a pressure cooker.  No stirring at all necessary.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: Kaiser on April 02, 2010, 02:50:57 AM
doing your decoction in a pressure cooker.

That too found a brief mention. Some breweries used decoction under pressure in order to improve not the quality but the quantity (i.e. efficiency). The practice however has been abandoned because it lead to "hard" and "broad" tasting beers. In some cases even to a straw like taste. I don't exactly know how to paraphrase "hard" and "broad" properly but it is used in the context of beeing the opposite to mild and balanced.

When it comes to the comparison with infusion mashes the author makes a reference to the urge to mash very well modified malts with overly short mashes which can lead to "green" tasting beers with an unsatisfactory quality of the bitterness. In some cases, especially for maltier light colored lagers and Export styles, dough-in at at lower temperature corrected that problem. This meant that instead of doughing in at 62 C the dough in happens at 50 C with an immediate heating to 62 C (1 C/min is common) .

I found that an interesting statement. Nothing is mentioned about the addition of specialty malts to "emulate" decoction flavor in an infusion mash beer. However, that was mentioned in another book by the same author. Given that decoction has little impact on color in light beers I can understand that specialty malts may not be an option in many cases where a brewery wants to move to an infusion mash w/o loosing the character of their brand of beer.

There is also a reference to experiments where decoction and equivalent infusion mashes were compared. In these cases no differences in beer quality were found.

None of this is really conclusive but it does seem to support the findings of some home brewers who compared beers brewed w/ and w/o protein rests and found that the protein rest did give the beer more character.

Kai
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: MrNate on April 02, 2010, 03:25:53 AM
You, Sir, remain a gentleman and a scholar. This no-boil decoction interests me.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: Kaiser on April 02, 2010, 03:42:20 AM
You, Sir, remain a gentleman and a scholar. This no-boil decoction interests me.

Thanks. If you think about it, none of the changes in the decoction, which we consider a benefit of the decoction process, require evaporation or constant movement of the mash. Maillard reactions depend on temp, pH and concentration of reducing sugars and amino acids. They should be unaffected by agitation. The same is the case for extracting tannins from the husks and gelatization of the starches. Movement is beneficial for the formation of protein break but not the denaturation of the proteins itself. Evaporation drives off DMS, but if that doesn't happen it will happen during the wort boil.

Kai
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: MrNate on April 02, 2010, 04:49:32 AM
So based on this, is there a decoction mash schedule that you might suggest trying for a helles? If you dough in at 50c, would you immediately pull a decoction and use that to raise to the next step? Would you then do a second decoction?

I think what interests me the most is that I've always wondered in the back of my mind if an electric heating element directly in the bottom of the mash tun might be used to a similar effect as actually pulling a decoction, i.e. a maillard reaction on part of the mash;  it's the question of concentration that makes me think it wouldn't work. At least not exactly the same.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: Kaiser on April 02, 2010, 01:10:17 PM
Here is one that I may even try myself when I brew a Helles this weekend. Initially I was thinking about a shorter mash but I was also planning to brew some evening this week.

(http://braukaiser.com/images/misc_forum/Narziss_Back_Zweimaischverfahren.gif)
Technologie der Wuerzebereitung (http://books.google.de/books?id=rlcwl7aS8KYC&lpg=PP1&dq=technologie%20der%20Wuerzebereitung&pg=PA341#v=onepage&q=die%20zweite%20maische&f=false)
translation:
Dickmaische - thick mash. 1:2 - 1.25 means that it has a thickness of about 1 - 1.25 qt/lb
Maischpfanne - mask kettle, this is vessel for boiling the mash
Maischebottich - mash tun.

I'd pull the first decoction after 10 min, rest it at 70 C for 20 min and simmer it for 15 min. Then return to get 65 C and pull the 2nd decoction after just 10 min. heat to 70 C, rest for 20 min, simmer for 15 min and return too get to 74-76 C. Lauter once the mash is iodine negative. Interesting is the rest of just 10 min after returning the decoction. I haven't done that like this before. But I don't think that this is key for a successful decoction though.

Kai

Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: bluesman on April 02, 2010, 01:56:51 PM
I'm very interested to understand your findings. I recently made a Dusseldorf Altbier using your enhanced double decoction. I kegged and cold crashed and will force carb and let you know the results. Although I don't have anything to compare it with I can get an idea of the effects of the decoction method. As you know I am very interested in discovering the cause of the German "distinct taste" or flavor. Maybe your efforts will shed some light on this issue.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: narvin on April 02, 2010, 02:39:56 PM
Kai -- why the protein rest for the Helles?  I was thinking of doing a decoction Hochkurz mash (145 - 158) for a German Pilsner next weekend since I figured that a) long boiling of the decoction wasn't necessary and b) the protein rest would be unnecessary and maybe even detrimental.  What do you think about this?
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: Kaiser on April 02, 2010, 02:49:27 PM
Kai -- why the protein rest for the Helles?  I was thinking of doing a decoction Hochkurz mash (145 - 158) for a German Pilsner next weekend since I figured that a) long boiling of the decoction wasn't necessary and b) the protein rest would be unnecessary and maybe even detrimental.  What do you think about this?

The more I read about this the more am I torn between being pro or con protein rest. I brought up the Hochkurz mash as an elegant way of doing decoctions w/o protein rests. However, I haven't done experiments yet where I evaluated the impact of a protein rest. A few reputable brewers have and some of them reported the the protein rest yielded a better beer. This is in contrast to the brewers who report the opposite which report the opposite. At this point I just use it on some beers and not on others w/o having a strong position on its usefulness.

Kai

Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: denny on April 02, 2010, 04:13:24 PM
Very interesting info, Kai, especially to a decoction heretic like myself.  Do you know how the conclusions about beer quality were reached?  Is it just the author's opinion?  Is it based on the number of breweries doing decoctions?  Is it based on blind tasting panels?
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: Kaiser on April 02, 2010, 04:32:51 PM
Do you know how the conclusions about beer quality were reached?  Is it just the author's opinion?

Many of these statements (though not all) have references to publications. But I don't have access to any of them even tough I'd love to read them myself. The statements w/o references might reflect the experience and position of the authors.

In the past I had the chance to ask German brewers about decoction mashing and the taste difference and the conclusion so far is that the differences are rather small. It is still unclear to me to what extend modern decoction mashing is done for tradition, out of technical necessity or for beer quality reasons. To me the decoction debate lives on and I encourage interested brewers to take a look at practical mashing options and try some of them. Though single infusion works in most cases I don't want the home brewing community to get stuck in the idea that there is a one-size-fits all mash schedule.

It should not be forgotten that compared to fermentation, the mash schedule has a much smaller impact on the final beer quality and that you cannot make up for poor beer fermentation with any of the things you do in the brewhouse.

Kai

Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: denny on April 02, 2010, 04:37:29 PM
To me the decoction debate lives on and I encourage interested brewers to take a look at practical mashing options and try some of them. Though single infusion works in most cases I don't want the home brewing community to get stuck in the idea that there is a one-size-fits all mash schedule.

In spite of my skepticism about decoction, I completely agree with this.  I think every homebrewer who's interested in the subject should try a number of different mash schedules and decide for themselves.  The one "fly in the ointment" I've found is that too many people don't make an objective decision based on repeated blind tasting.  Even better is to do that with a number of tasters.  But if someone enjoys doing decoctions, far be it from me to tell them not to!
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: bluesman on April 02, 2010, 04:48:05 PM
To me the decoction debate lives on and I encourage interested brewers to take a look at practical mashing options and try some of them. Though single infusion works in most cases I don't want the home brewing community to get stuck in the idea that there is a one-size-fits all mash schedule.

In spite of my skepticism about decoction, I completely agree with this.  I think every homebrewer who's interested in the subject should try a number of different mash schedules and decide for themselves.  The one "fly in the ointment" I've found is that too many people don't make an objective decision based on repeated blind tasting.  Even better is to do that with a number of tasters.  But if someone enjoys doing decoctions, far be it from me to tell them not to!

+1

Keeping an open mind is key to making improvements in any process and "The proof is in the pudding". Until the process has been tested through repeated blind tasting...the jury is still out. I am not convinced one way or the other on the effects of decoction mashing, but I have a real interest in finding out the truth.

The truth lies in the finished product.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: Kaiser on April 02, 2010, 04:51:30 PM
I've found is that too many people don't make an objective decision based on repeated blind tasting.  Even better is to do that with a number of tasters. 

When this is done, it is important that it is done in a setting that allows the tasters to concentrate on the beers. I found that casual tasting in a club meeting doesn't produce reliable results. In those meetings the ambient noise is generally too high and participants may have had other, stronger tasting, beers before.

Kai
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: denny on April 02, 2010, 05:18:59 PM
I've found is that too many people don't make an objective decision based on repeated blind tasting.  Even better is to do that with a number of tasters. 

When this is done, it is important that it is done in a setting that allows the tasters to concentrate on the beers. I found that casual tasting in a club meeting doesn't produce reliable results. In those meetings the ambient noise is generally too high and participants may have had other, stronger tasting, beers before.

Kai

Indeed.  every one of my tasting experiments has been done in a controlled environment outside of club meetings.  You also want to make sure your tasters haven't been drinking first.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: bluesman on April 02, 2010, 06:21:09 PM
The questions that should be asked regarding decoction mashing:

Does boiling extract maximal flavor from the malt?

Does boiling the mash destroy the grain cell walls, releasing additional enzymes for conversion and resulting in a higher extract conversion rate than infusion mashing?

Does boiling the wort carmelize a portion of it, again enhancing the malty flavor of the beer?

Do proteins in the mash tend to coagulate during the boil and get filtered out during lauter resulting in better beer clarity?

I believe the answer is "Yes" for all.

But to what degree and how significant are the effects compared to a single infusion mash?  This is the real question.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: denny on April 02, 2010, 06:22:43 PM
To me, the only real question about any brewing technique is "Does it make better beer?  Do you prefer the beer made like this to beer made another way?".  After all, isn't that the point?
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: bluesman on April 02, 2010, 06:25:44 PM
To me, the only real question about any brewing technique is "Does it make better beer?  Do you prefer the beer made like this to beer made another way?".  After all, isn't that the point?

Precisely my point Denny.

Are the effects of decoction mashing significant enough to warrant the use of it over a single infusion mash.

Proving it is the task at hand.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: Kaiser on April 02, 2010, 06:38:31 PM
Whether or not it makes better beer depends on the style and the consumer. This is more debatable than the simple question of "Does it make a difference?" And if it doesn't make a difference is it because it cannot be tasted by everybody or because the worts produced between by the two mashing schemes were nearly identical to begin with.

I also don't think it is not fair to compare decoction mashing and single infusion mashing unless the decoction is a mash-out decoction. You'd always have to compare it to an equivalent step infusion mash if you want to pin the difference to the decoction.

Kai
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: MrNate on April 02, 2010, 06:38:56 PM
To me the decoction debate lives on and I encourage interested brewers to take a look at practical mashing options and try some of them. Though single infusion works in most cases I don't want the home brewing community to get stuck in the idea that there is a one-size-fits all mash schedule.

In spite of my skepticism about decoction, I completely agree with this.  I think every homebrewer who's interested in the subject should try a number of different mash schedules and decide for themselves.  The one "fly in the ointment" I've found is that too many people don't make an objective decision based on repeated blind tasting.  Even better is to do that with a number of tasters.  But if someone enjoys doing decoctions, far be it from me to tell them not to!

Completely agree. I've always been of the mind that decoction mashing was simply too much of a PITA to bother with it. On the other hand, producing a good, simple Helles has always been one of my founding desires as a homebrewer. As a result, I feel compelled to give decoction a try and let my tastebuds be my guide. If I feel it made an improvement, then my next goal would be replicating the improvement while reducing complexity.

I'm certainly not a decoction skeptic, nor is it out of my norm to do things the old-fashioned, more complex way for the sake of being a more old-fashioned, complex person. But there is a threshold for me as to when the effort expended is worth the tangible and intangible benefit. So we shall see.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: denny on April 02, 2010, 07:29:17 PM
nor is it out of my norm to do things the old-fashioned, more complex way for the sake of being a more old-fashioned, complex person. But there is a threshold for me as to when the effort expended is worth the tangible and intangible benefit. So we shall see.

Boy, you've expressed my philosophy exactly!
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: narvin on April 02, 2010, 08:43:42 PM
Kai -- why the protein rest for the Helles?  I was thinking of doing a decoction Hochkurz mash (145 - 158) for a German Pilsner next weekend since I figured that a) long boiling of the decoction wasn't necessary and b) the protein rest would be unnecessary and maybe even detrimental.  What do you think about this?

The more I read about this the more am I torn between being pro or con protein rest. I brought up the Hochkurz mash as an elegant way of doing decoctions w/o protein rests. However, I haven't done experiments yet where I evaluated the impact of a protein rest. A few reputable brewers have and some of them reported the the protein rest yielded a better beer. This is in contrast to the brewers who report the opposite which report the opposite. At this point I just use it on some beers and not on others w/o having a strong position on its usefulness.


Kai



So these are real (122) protein rests, and not the quasi protein/peptonization/whatever people call it rest at 131 - 135?

Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: narcout on April 02, 2010, 08:46:39 PM
I read the chapter in Brewing with Wheat on the weiss beers of Southern Germany yesterday, and I was surprised to learn how many of the breweries use a decoction mash for their hefeweizens. I didn't realize that was traditional.

Also interesting was the fact that Spaten abandoned decoction mashing in favor of a single infusion at 144F for their Fransizkaner Hefeweissbier. According to the head of brewing operations (Dr. Jorg Lehmann), they did a series of blind taste tastes in which participants couldn't tell the difference. By way of explanation, he is also quoted as saying "The malt quality has improved very much."

I do plan to try a decoction mash on my next hefeweizen.

Another thing I found interesting (which has nothing to do with decoction mashing but rather it reminded me of Kai's experiments with skimming) is that many of the brewers interviewed for the book talked about skimming the yeast and protein material from the top of the beer during fermentation. One of them notes specifically that this has to do with furthering the smoothness of the beer and is not just for yeast propagation purposes.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: denny on April 02, 2010, 08:56:44 PM
I looked briefly back through some of the info I've collected on decoction mashing and thought I'd post a couple quotes.  Boldface is mine...

"> This excerpt from an article by Charlie Bamforth, Ph.D. of UC Davis in
> the "Brewers Guardian" sums things up nicely:
> "Imagine if you will that this is not a publication devoted to beer,
> but rather one focussed on transportation. Consider, then, your
> response to an article that espoused the merits of the ox-drawn cart
> or the Penny-Farthing bicycle as superior modes of transport to the
> Jaguar, the Ferrari or the Challenger space shuttle. You would think
> the writer an idiot. Just as likely, by suggesting (as I will now)
> that the matter of beer style is blown out of all proportion, there
> will be plenty amongst you that will believe me to have taken complete
> leave of my senses.
> Don't misinterpret me. The thesis I wish to convey is that it is the
> duty of every brewer to generate beers of excellence to delight the
> customer. They do not need to conform to a stereotype, far less must
> they somehow adhere to outmoded concepts of brewing and of style which
> should long-since have passed into folklore or historic curiosity.
> Let me illustrate. The original lager-style beers were brewed using
> decoction techniques, on account of the fact that the malt was poor
> and needed low temperature mashing-in to complete the degradation of
> cell wall material. The only recourse the early lager brewers had to
> subsequently raise the temperature was by boiling part of the goods
> and shoving it back in to the main mash. There is not one smidgen of
> experimental data to justify the belief that decoction mashing leads
> to better lager-style beers, but this doesn't stop the protestations
> of the obdurate artisan, convinced that the only way to brew is to
> adhere to time honoured traditions, that decoction approaches is the
> one true route to lager excellence.
If it helps preserve the technique
> as a marketing ploy then go for it. Otherwise, go with the times."

Excerpt from   HBD 2395 (posted by Louis K. Bonham)

On the decoction thread, Dr. Fix recently sent me a copy
of an article with lots of very interesting data on a
number of points that Dr. Pivo (sorry about that earlier
misspelling, BTW), Steve A., and other have raised.
Check it out:

G. Sommer, "Trials for the Optimisation of Mashing Procedure,"
Brauwelt International 1986 (1), p. 23.

This article details Henninger-Brau AG's evaluation of
infusion v. decoction mashing, both in laboratory and
brewhouse conditions.  (It concludes that the qualitative
differences in beers produced with decoction vs. infusion
mashes were "extradinordinally small," and that, "based on a
large number of tasting trials it could be confirmed that the
taste was not changed" by converting from decoction to infusion
mashing.


This article contains lots of good info on other aspects of
mashing, incluing the 50-60-70 schedule and data that
contradicts the notion that thick mashes contribute
anything *except* in the rare case where you need to do
a protein rest.  Well worth reading.

Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: a10t2 on April 02, 2010, 09:27:21 PM
Does boiling the wort carmelize a portion of it, again enhancing the malty flavor of the beer?

The answer to that one, at least, should be no. If you meant Maillard browning, then yes, but caramelization requires both high temperature (at least 110°C) and low moisture.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: denny on April 02, 2010, 09:31:56 PM
Does boiling the wort carmelize a portion of it, again enhancing the malty flavor of the beer?

The answer to that one, at least, should be no. If you meant Maillard browning, then yes, but caramelization requires both high temperature (at least 110°C) and low moisture.

I completely agree with you.....
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: MrNate on April 02, 2010, 10:19:21 PM
"> This excerpt from an article by Charlie Bamforth, Ph.D. of UC Davis

> ...Consider, then, your
> response to an article that espoused the merits of the ox-drawn cart
> or the Penny-Farthing bicycle as superior modes of transport to the
> Jaguar, the Ferrari or the Challenger space shuttle.

I point this out only to illustrate that, in retrospect, we sometimes find the old ways wise for reasons we could not have predicted at the time.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: babalu87 on April 03, 2010, 02:04:10 AM
I read the chapter in Brewing with Wheat on the weiss beers of Southern Germany yesterday, and I was surprised to learn how many of the breweries use a decoction mash for their hefeweizens. I didn't realize that was traditional

For my tastes there is a BIG difference between a decoction mash and an infusion mash with regards to Hefe/Dunkelweizen

If I dont have the time to do a decoction mash for a German Weiss beer I'll simply brew something else because it just isnt worth the time.
I'll add that if I dont have a Weiss beer on draft at home its because I fell behind.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: Hokerer on April 03, 2010, 02:12:18 AM
non-decoction mash vs. an infusion mash

???
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: babalu87 on April 03, 2010, 02:18:02 AM
non-decoction mash vs. an infusion mash

???

Yeah thats a typo/brain fart
....................
Off to fix that mess

Bottom line
Decoction makes a better weiss beer than an infusion mash at least to me and some buddies
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: seajellie on April 03, 2010, 02:06:26 PM
Great thread and info! Thanks.

When I started to homebrew, I was under the tutelage of two pros both of whom were Siebel Institute grads, one of which had been home brewing for 20 years before that. They told me double decoction was the way to go, and so I went, no questions asked, always on German lagers and wheat beers (rarely if ever on ales). My third brew day was a double decoction, which turned out fine.

Well, somewhere around brew day #75 I got tired of the work and time. Tried an infusion mash on a German lager. Dang it. At least as good, if not better, than all the decoctions!

Anytime I feel like an argument, I now know how to start one and with whom. Similar to the HSA stuff. Some pros may think some techniques make a difference, and my first guess this is due to transportation and equipment issues they have to deal with. On the home brew side, I gotta say that I just don't see it. I rarely do decoctions anymore except for wheat beers.

K.I.S.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: denny on April 03, 2010, 04:04:45 PM
Whether or not it makes better beer depends on the style and the consumer. This is more debatable than the simple question of "Does it make a difference?" And if it doesn't make a difference is it because it cannot be tasted by everybody or because the worts produced between by the two mashing schemes were nearly identical to begin with.

The more I thought about this statement, the more interested I was in the concept that maybe some tasters aren't "sophisticated" enough to taste the difference.  I think Kris England made the same point years back in a discussion of the same topic.  To my way of thinking, if you have to be an experienced taster to notice the difference, is it really worth it?  But it also reminded me of some info I'd gotten from a well known beer writer when I asked him for comments about the difference between decocted and non decocted beers.  Here's an excerpt from an email he sent me....

"On that press trip to Bavaria I took in December, we got a lecture on the subject at Weihenstephan; he studied differences between decoction and infusion. My notes (I was really tired, and it was a dark, warm room): "Decoction breaks down more fatty acids. Decoction was done to cook 'cattle feed malt. It wasn't so good.' The taste panel said no noticeable difference. BUT. It depends on the brewery, the engineering. 'I say, without decoction, our beer does not taste the same.'" He essentially didn't think the tasting panel was sophisticated enough."

Again, did he notice a difference because he knew there were different brewing methods?  Is he just making an excuse for why the tasting panel didn't find a difference?  I don't know, but it says to me that it's possible decoction might not make enough difference to be worth the effort to the average homebrewer.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: seajellie on April 03, 2010, 10:49:50 PM
Absolutely Denny, education (or not) of the palate is one key to this, along with our inherent, natural, genetically-based taste sensitivities. I once read that women (in general) can detect a certain substance in beer at lower thresholds than men can (in general). Wish I could remember what it was -- anyone know?

Personally, though I sense little or no diff in a decoction vs. non-decoction brew (excluding wheat or a few other particular malts), I can tell FWH in all of my brews, even at low amounts, in one sip. I don't like it, and sit there wondering what that strange lingering bitterness is, until I go and look back at my recipe. And I bet people detect diacetyl at different levels, too.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: gail on April 04, 2010, 02:20:21 AM
I once read that women (in general) can detect a certain substance in beer at lower thresholds than men can (in general). Wish I could remember what it was -- anyone know?
And I bet people detect diacetyl at different levels, too.

I have heard (so take it for what it's worth) that women are generally more sensitive to aromas in beer but I'll bet that varies by genetic ability to detect certain substances like diacetyl.  I've judged with a very well known male judge who is extremely sensitive to diacetyl.  I know I am very sensitive to phenols and have to temper my judging accordingly.  I have also heard that women are more likely to perceive acetaldehyde as tomato juice in darker beers than are men.  For me, what men perceive as vegetal = tomato juice to me in dark beers.
Wow, a long way off track from decoction mashing...but I've learned a lot in this thread.
Gail
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: Kaiser on April 04, 2010, 02:56:50 AM
I read the chapter in Brewing with Wheat on the weiss beers of Southern Germany yesterday, and I was surprised to learn how many of the breweries use a decoction mash for their hefeweizens. I didn't realize that was traditional.

Along those lines, here is some data from 2004 which comes from a survey of Weissbier breweries in Bavaria.

wheat portion of grist : ranges from 50 to 100%
SNR of malt: 35 - 43%
dough-in temperature: 30-57 C
intensity of protein rest: 45-58 C, 10-26 min
intensity of maltose rest: 59-69 Cm 10-120 min
infusion/decoction: 60% of surveyed breweries used infusion, rest used decoction
mash acidification: 18% of surveyed breweries
turbid lauter: 23% of breweries didn't lauter clear wort
boil time: 50-210 min

The data comes from this dissertation (http://deposit.d-nb.de/cgi-bin/dokserv?idn=978186087&dok_var=d1&dok_ext=pdf&filename=978186087.pdf).

The use if a 144 F single infusion mash for Franziskaner sounds interesting. But I wander what exactly is meant with that since I do assume that they at least do a mash-out. Just a 144 F rest may not be sufficient for good efficiency. I assume that this comes from Brewing With Wheat.

Admittedly, there is something about German beer and the way it tastes that is difficult to replicate for home brewers and micro brewers alike. I don't want to tie this flavor to decoction but it may well have something to do with the way beer is brewed in Germany. They certainly have some of the most technological advanced breweries in the wold yet the brewing procedures are different from what is commonly done here in the US. Or, one has to wonder if the ox drawn cart makes for a better ride than the Ferrari ;).

Kai
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: hefevice on April 04, 2010, 04:49:35 AM
Great thread!

My first all grain was a triple decocted Hefeweizen (but using non-traditional rest temperatures). The only reason for 3 decoctions was that I have no other means of increasing rest temperatures. While I would not recommend this for beginners, I learnt a hell of a lot from the process, and was able to gain a really good "feel" for the stages a mash goes through (look, texture, smell, taste) as temperature rises. I deliberately avoided resting too long and protein temps, as I was concerned about excessive protein degradation given the well modified malts of today.

As an experiment for my last batch, I decided to go with the traditional 50/60/70C (or thereabouts) schedule, but compensated by increasing the proportion of wheat malt from 50% to 60%. I managed to get the number of decoctions down to 2, using boiling water for the remaining temperature adjustments. Hydrometer samples from the fermenter are tasting pretty good so far; will be interesting to see whether head retention is affected.

I can't say whether decoction makes a big difference for lager styles as I've not yet brewed one, but I believe that Hefeweizen is a style that is profoundly affected by the process. My own opinion is that it is the boiling of the grains that has the biggest effect on flavour, for reasons already stated by others in the thread.

With respect to Kai's original point about no or very low boil; this is the approach I have always taken (mainly through ignorance). I typically only stir on high flame when getting the decoction up to rest temperature or boiling (with the lid on), then throttle right back for the boil (effectively simmering). Only need to stir during ramp up, and occasionally once it is boiling. Have not had any problems with scalding or sticking as yet.

Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: bluesman on April 05, 2010, 02:18:03 AM
Does boiling the wort carmelize a portion of it, again enhancing the malty flavor of the beer?

The answer to that one, at least, should be no. If you meant Maillard browning, then yes, but caramelization requires both high temperature (at least 110°C) and low moisture.

I stand corrected on that one. It is indeed Maillard reactions not caramelization. Which leans toward decoction as a preferred method of mashing.
Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: bluesman on April 05, 2010, 02:55:51 AM
Whether or not it makes better beer depends on the style and the consumer. This is more debatable than the simple question of "Does it make a difference?" And if it doesn't make a difference is it because it cannot be tasted by everybody or because the worts produced between by the two mashing schemes were nearly identical to begin with.

The more I thought about this statement, the more interested I was in the concept that maybe some tasters aren't "sophisticated" enough to taste the difference.  I think Kris England made the same point years back in a discussion of the same topic.  To my way of thinking, if you have to be an experienced taster to notice the difference, is it really worth it?  But it also reminded me of some info I'd gotten from a well known beer writer when I asked him for comments about the difference between decocted and non decocted beers.  Here's an excerpt from an email he sent me....

"On that press trip to Bavaria I took in December, we got a lecture on the subject at Weihenstephan; he studied differences between decoction and infusion. My notes (I was really tired, and it was a dark, warm room): "Decoction breaks down more fatty acids. Decoction was done to cook 'cattle feed malt. It wasn't so good.' The taste panel said no noticeable difference. BUT. It depends on the brewery, the engineering. 'I say, without decoction, our beer does not taste the same.'" He essentially didn't think the tasting panel was sophisticated enough."

Again, did he notice a difference because he knew there were different brewing methods?  Is he just making an excuse for why the tasting panel didn't find a difference?  I don't know, but it says to me that it's possible decoction might not make enough difference to be worth the effort to the average homebrewer.

The decoction method of mashing holds an intriguing history as well as a present day allure for me. 

I found through blind tastings a "distinct taste" amongst many German beers. Many of which still use decoction mashing until this day. The question is...why?

Can commercial breweries achieve the same flavor from a single infusion?

The question remains...Does decoction mashing make a difference?

I believe there is an aquired taste or educated palate required to perceive some of the fine nuances present in various styles of beer.  Does decoction mashing fall into this category?

Is decoction mashing responsible for the "distinct taste" present in many German style beers?

These questions remain unanswered. There seems to be no consensus one way or the other. This is the reason I am on the fence with this issue.




Title: Re: I have been reading up on decoction mashing again
Post by: yugamrap on April 06, 2010, 04:03:10 PM
I always read threads on decoction with great interest.  I've tried several different decoction mash schedules from triple-decoction with protein rest, to single-infusion mashes with decoction mash-out.  Like others, I'd be hard-pressed to describe any specific characteristics that differ in the finished beer with different decoction mash schedules, and agree that fermentation is probably a much greater factor.  However, simple observations made during the mashes reveal different mash characteristics like viscosity, color, and the amount of protein teig I find in the mash.  All that said, I use some sort of decoction mash for the German styles I brew because, for me, it's part of the "spirit" of brewing those styles.  So, whether it actually makes a difference chemically, biologically, or otherwise, there's just something about that bubbling pot of boiling mash that "feels right" to me - so I do it.