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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: skyler on August 10, 2010, 09:15:53 PM

Title: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: skyler on August 10, 2010, 09:15:53 PM
Since I am moving by a buddy who also brews, and has a nice keggle, I thought we could probably use my 8 gal brew pot as a mash tun. This would allow us to do a step mash fairly easily, I think (we each have a burner). Is there anything more to it than just heating and stirring gently until I get to the target temp, then turning the burner off when the temp is right, waiting, and heating to the next step? Should I still use about half the water in the mash and the other half as sparge water? What styles would benefit from this? My guess is that this would be most beneficial for a lager or a wheat beer. Does anyone have any tips for brewing this way? I have previously just done the denny-tun method of brewing.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: richardt on August 10, 2010, 11:47:32 PM
Stir the whole time!  Scorched grains don't taste good (ask me how I know)--unless you really like "Quesadilla" Beer.  Also, it is possible that your SRM's may bump up a little higher (especially if you're doing a light colored beer).  I just brewed a wheat beer this way that should have been around 5.5 SRM, but ended up around 7.5-8.0 SRM.

Have fun brewing with your buddy--it is much more fun to brew in groups.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: hopfenundmalz on August 11, 2010, 12:13:44 AM
My converted kegs have false bottoms.  The grain is not in contact with the bottom,  You should recirculate when the fire is on, to distribute the heat, and if any small grains bits get through they don't get scorched.  A pump is really a good thing to have for hte recirculation.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: babalu87 on August 11, 2010, 09:23:29 PM
+1 stir when the heat is on.
Be gentle with the heat too.
Mash in fairly thin too

All this will help you.

We're doing one Thursday with this method
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: narcout on August 11, 2010, 10:20:09 PM
I've found that it's a good idea to turn the heat off when you are still a few degrees below your target temperature. Otherwise, it is very easy to overshoot (at least that has been my experience).
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: babalu87 on August 11, 2010, 10:40:39 PM
I've found that it's a good idea to turn the heat off when you are still a few degrees below your target temperature. Otherwise, it is very easy to overshoot (at least that has been my experience).

Yes, it certainly is

Easy to put heat to it again if need be
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: MDixon on August 12, 2010, 11:25:03 AM
I mash everything over a direct fired kettle/tun. I've used mine enough to know if I set the flame very low and barely kissing the bottom of the tun and stir diligently as soon as the temp I need is reached I need to turn off the flame immediately, but still stir for another couple of minutes. The suggestion to stop a few degrees early the first time out is sound, once you know how your setup behaves you can tweak your procedures.

As far as water, go with at least 1.5 qts/lb to make stirring easier, or if you batch, you could do the half thing. I drain my first runnings and then fly the remainder, but you can do it any way you please.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: mthogan1997 on August 14, 2010, 11:40:44 AM
Unless you want an exhausting upper body workout, make a mix-masher, use a heavy duty drill with a paint mixer, or recirculate with a pump. I've done all three and the mix-masher is the easiest.

http://schmidling.com/mix.htm
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: gordonstrong on August 14, 2010, 03:07:33 PM
I think what method you use depends on whether you have a false bottom in the pot or not. 

If you do have a false bottom, keeping the heat on low and recirculating is a very even way of heating.  It's sort of like a manual RIMS except the heat is applied to the mash tun rather than the recirculating loop, but the effect is pretty much the same. You still have to stir to get the even heating, and it helps to have a more liquid mash. The downside is that stirring the mash can make it harder to recirculate, so be careful about disturbing the grain bed too close to the false bottom.

If you don't have a false bottom, you're essentially doing a decoction. So you definitely have to stir, and you will likely get some color development. A thinner mash is better, since it will keep it from scorching. Use a metal spoon so you can feel the bottom of the kettle for any build-up, which can scorch. A scorched mash tastes like an old ashtray.

German mashes tend to be thinner than English mashes since they often pump them around. It might just be easier for you to start thick and just use boiling water infusions.

If you are going to step mash in one pot without a false bottom and with direct heat, I'd use a relatively thin mash, maybe add some rice hulls, add the heat slowly, and stir constantly. It's important to get the heat evenly distributed, so you'll have to be stirring in a way that mixes the layers (think about making the grain on the top coming into contact with the bottom of the pot). Try to avoid whipping excessive air into it while you're doing this. Keep stirring after you kill the heat; the bottom will still be hotter, and the temperature will continue to rise (like carry-over cooking with meat).
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: timmyr on August 15, 2010, 01:34:06 PM
I direct-fire my mash tun (started last year).  A pump is handy so you can recirculate AND stir.  I started by using a 1-gallon pitcher, but found that I needed to recirculate more than I initially expected and needed to be really patient.  My first batch I was not pulling the liquid off fast enough and supe-heated the wort under the grain bed..nothing scorched, but I wound up with a less fermentable wort than desired. 

I still have found that patience and low heat are critical to not over-heating the mash.  Over the course of the last year I've upgraded my mash tun and now use a pump connected to an AutoSparge for my recirculation.  I am pretty happy with that set-up as it worked out on my last batch.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: witsok on August 15, 2010, 04:37:56 PM
It might just be easier for you to start thick and just use boiling water infusions.

This would be my recommendation.  In my opinion, it is easier to hit your temperatures using infusions.  The only direct heating I do is for mashout.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: MDixon on August 16, 2010, 12:47:17 AM
I disagree entirely with you wit...I can hit my temp each and every time exactly regardless of whether I am mashing a 5 gallon batch or a 10 gallon batch a low gravity or a high gravity. I could NEVER get it that exact with infusions...YMMV
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: witsok on August 16, 2010, 01:50:58 AM
Go ahead disagree.  To me it is still easier to add the infusion and stir for a short bit than to sit over the mash tun, stir and or circulating, watching the thermometer.  I have my system well calibrated and know what my end temperature for each mash step is so I can calculate the exact amount of water to add.  People have been very surprised how accurately I hit my temps.  Like you said YMMV.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: MDixon on August 16, 2010, 11:53:22 AM
Go ahead disagree.  

I did, see above  ;)

Perhaps someone of experience can do it, but far too often I see posts like this
http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=3303.0
and the subject of this thread is "info for first-timer"...
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: denny on August 16, 2010, 03:53:20 PM
I disagree entirely with you wit...I can hit my temp each and every time exactly regardless of whether I am mashing a 5 gallon batch or a 10 gallon batch a low gravity or a high gravity. I could NEVER get it that exact with infusions...YMMV

MMDV....My mileage does vary!  I can hit really exact temps with careful infusions of boiling water.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: skyler on August 16, 2010, 04:18:38 PM
I have found it very perilous to hit various steps with infusions. It often ends up using way more water than I had planned on, and is very time-consuming. Now, I rarely ever use anything but a single infusion, so the problem is generally moot, but I thought direct heat would be worth a try since, by combining our supplies, my friend and I can accomplish it fairly easily.

I do not have a false bottom, but I have a kettle screen (like a bazooka) on my kettle (which, in this case, would be the mash tun). So I guess I will have to mash super-thin, and use a lb or so of rice hulls. I suppose I will go for a wheat beer or a lager when I brew this one, since I can't really think of what else would particularly benefit from steps (maybe an altbier? a dubbel?). I mostly brew American and British styles, so I just do single infusons (I don't even bother with a mashout).
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: majorvices on August 16, 2010, 08:14:10 PM
I disagree entirely with you wit...I can hit my temp each and every time exactly regardless of whether I am mashing a 5 gallon batch or a 10 gallon batch a low gravity or a high gravity. I could NEVER get it that exact with infusions...YMMV

MMDV....My mileage does vary!  I can hit really exact temps with careful infusions of boiling water.

+1 - in fact I am usually spot on and never varying more than a degree or two. I would also ask myself whether or not a step mash is going to be really necessary. For most beers a single infusion is perfectly adequate. I single infuse my alt and dubbel with great results.

Well, that's not entirely true, I add a portion of boiling water to the alt to raise the temp to 158 for 20 minutes.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: bluesman on August 16, 2010, 09:28:18 PM
I'm building a RIMS system and all of the research that I've done indicates keeping the grain off the bottom of the pot using a false bottom and recirculating the wort is the most practical and consistent means of mashing if using direct fire. YMMV.

I have been a batch sparger for many years using a single infusion in a cooler and will continue to use it as needed,  I really like the simplicity of batch sparging but I want to automate my process so I am using a RIMS.  I am in the process of finishing my Brutus stand.

Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: gruversm on August 16, 2010, 11:49:29 PM
If you can possibly buy a false bottom for your pot, I would do it right away.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: MDixon on August 17, 2010, 12:17:11 AM
+1 - in fact I am usually spot on and never varying more than a degree or two.

Well, which is it? Spot on or varying a few degrees, sounds like the latter which is certainly not spot on. I can hit it dead on every single time and probably could get it to a half degree if I cared to. In reality it really doesn't matter that much, most brewing came from places using Celcium and a single degree Celcius is a couple of degrees Fahrenheit, but I hate it when someone speaks of being precise when in reality they are not.  ;)
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: witsok on August 17, 2010, 12:33:52 AM
For most beers a single infusion is perfectly adequate.

Very true.  For the most part I only use step mashes for Belgians.  For American and British ales, I stick with single infusions.  The VOM I doing later this week will be a single infusion.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: majorvices on August 17, 2010, 12:35:22 AM
+1 - in fact I am usually spot on and never varying more than a degree or two.

Well, which is it? Spot on or varying a few degrees, sounds like the latter which is certainly not spot on. I can hit it dead on every single time and probably could get it to a half degree if I cared to. In reality it really doesn't matter that much, most brewing came from places using Celcium and a single degree Celcius is a couple of degrees Fahrenheit, but I hate it when someone speaks of being precise when in reality they are not.  ;)

1 or 2 degrees is not going to make a big enough difference for me to stress about. Now, that said, YMMV indeed, Mike.  ;)
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: gordonstrong on August 17, 2010, 12:45:58 AM
I love talks about accuracy and precision.  Like using a digital thermometer is better because it shows you more decimal places.  It could be totally wrong, but boy it looks like it knows what it's talking about.

For those who worry about very specific (accurate and precise) temperatures in their mashes, I just have one question: do you have a consistent temperature reading throughout your mash? 

Try moving an instant-read thermometer around in your mash (preferably one with a long probe so you can test various depths).  If you do get a consistent reading, how long does it take you to get there?  What do you think is happening to the mash while the temperature is stabilizing? Different zones are getting different levels of enzymatic activity. If you're doing a short rest, how long do you think you're actually resting at that temperature?

If you see how the temperature varies throughout your mash during the entire mash schedule, I think you'll interpret this thread in a new light.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: witsok on August 17, 2010, 12:52:15 AM
I can hit my temp each and every time exactly

Well, which is it? Spot on or varying a few degrees, sounds like the latter which is certainly not spot on. I can hit it dead on every single time and probably could get it to a half degree if I cared to.

Yes, which is it?  Couldn't resist.  ;D

Precise, accurate, horse shoes or hand granades...  Before the advent of the thermometer, people were making beer.  The more you brew and gain proficiency on your system, the closer to your targets you should be able to achieve.  I don't believe there is one right way to mash.  We may very well do things differently, but the key is to enjoy the hobby.  It's suppose to be fun.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: gordonstrong on August 17, 2010, 12:54:13 AM
Quote
We may very well do things differently, but the key is to enjoy the hobby.  It's suppose to be fun.

1st kit tag, Denny-level wisdom
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: bluesman on August 17, 2010, 01:31:35 AM
Being in the QC business, one of the first questions I'll ask someone who is learning the ropes is what is the difference between precision and accuracy.

For example, if I have a digital thermometer that consistently reads 210F in boiling water, I can say that the thermometer is very precise.

However is it accurate?  The answer is no because water boils at 212F.

I always recommend calibrating your digital thermometer with a calibrated lab thermometer to assure accuracy when measuring your mash temps..
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: bluesman on August 17, 2010, 01:33:25 AM
Quote
We may very well do things differently, but the key is to enjoy the hobby.  It's suppose to be fun.

1st kit tag, Denny-level wisdom

I couldn't agree more with Denny's wisdom there.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: tschmidlin on August 17, 2010, 01:36:16 AM
For those who worry about very specific (accurate and precise) temperatures in their mashes, I just have one question: do you have a consistent temperature reading throughout your mash? 

Great point Gordon.  I've done it and it's not pretty.  I mash in a direct fired tun.  I know my malt temp and how much water I'm using.  I calculate what temp the water needs to be to hit my mash temp, then heat the water to that.  I stir really well to make sure the water is well mixed, then add my malt and mix as best I can.

For a batch or two I was stressing because the temp in the tun was off, so I fiddled with it - more heat, cold water, whatever to try to get the temp.  I made some beer that was not so great.

Now I just trust physics - once I mix in the malt I don't pay too much attention to the temp.  The last batch I brewed was 6 degrees under when I put the lid on the tun, but I left it alone.  Trying to stir my mash with a thermometer sticking 1/3 of the way into the tun and a false bottom with more than a gallon of water under it just doesn't work that well.  Physics works though, I stick with that.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: MDixon on August 17, 2010, 01:58:00 AM
As far as temp readings, I'm stirring to ensure it's homogeneous.

Wit - sorry, I should have been more precise  ::)
I'm going for the even temp, not the decimal places. Gordon is correct of course it all depends upon your thermometer's accuracy. I forgot my digital is only good (accuracy) to +/-0.5F. Of course that's better than those folks using Celcius  :P ;D ;)
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: bonjour on August 17, 2010, 02:05:08 AM
I check my mash at 1-15 minutes to see if I'm grossly off and then at the end of the mash just before I sparge.  Like several others I'm always close except for when I misread the thermometer.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: majorvices on August 17, 2010, 02:13:14 AM
One of the easiest ways to get a more even and consistent temp throughout the grain bed is to vorlauf for 10-15 minutes or so.
Title: Re: Direct heat step mash - info for first-timer.
Post by: freddy2 on August 17, 2010, 03:12:35 AM
Consistent mash temperature = stir like hell.