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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: gmac on April 20, 2011, 04:51:17 PM

Title: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: gmac on April 20, 2011, 04:51:17 PM
So, I've been reading a lot about decoction mashing and although I'm still not 100% if it actually makes any difference, I'm thinking about trying one with my next lager.  All I have to work with is a pot and a cooler.  Here's what I'm thinking of trying, please tell me if this is a waste of time.
I'm going to be using regular 2-row barley, Wyeast Bavarian Pilsner harvested from an existing batch that is in primary and Hallertau and Tettnanger hops (on order), volumes to be determined.

Mashing Proposal: 5 gal batch.

Add 1.2 quarts of water per lb of grain (probably 11 lbs total) to cooler at 145 degrees.  Add grain and adjust water temp to hit mash temp of 133F.  Leave for 20 mins. 
Add boiling water to raise temp to 144-146.  Close cooler for 30 mins. 
After 30 mins,remove thick mash and transfer to kettle.  Boil thick mash 10-15 mins and add back to mash to raise temp to 155-158.  Close cooler.
After 45 mins, drain off a volume of wort and boil, return to cooler to reach mashout temps.  Batch sparge as per usual.

Thoughts?
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: hopfenundmalz on April 20, 2011, 05:02:16 PM
A good friend in the club, who has multiple National medals, brews this way.

When you pull the thick part, make sure to do the rest at 158 to 160F, on your way to the boil.  You are talking about the Hochkurz (high-short) decoction schedule, which is on Kai's page.

http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php/Decoction_Mashing

Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: denny on April 20, 2011, 05:03:48 PM
Well, I'm one of those who hasn't found a lot of benefit to a decoction.  I'd recommend that if you're going to do one, you skip the 133 protein rest.  IIRC, you're using pale malt and it will not benefit from that rest and it might even be detrimental.  Mash in at your beta rest, then decoct to an alpha rest.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: richardt on April 20, 2011, 05:06:42 PM
If you're trying to make a low SRM color beer (e.g., Pilsner), be sure to keep the stove top burner (or propane burner, as your case may be) on a lower heat setting (not full-blast) and stir the thick mash constantly to avoid scorching/darkening of the decoction.  To be safe, I tend to add a little wort in the decoction to help with stirring and tempering the heat transfer to the grains.

Nonetheless, given the extra work involved, I almost never perform a decoction.  If I want the extra "maltiness", I just add aromatic/melanoidin or other specialty malts to get the "complexity" while batch sparging.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: gmac on April 20, 2011, 05:23:35 PM
Well, I'm one of those who hasn't found a lot of benefit to a decoction.  I'd recommend that if you're going to do one, you skip the 133 protein rest.  IIRC, you're using pale malt and it will not benefit from that rest and it might even be detrimental.  Mash in at your beta rest, then decoct to an alpha rest.

OK, that makes it easier if I don't do the protein rest.  
See, this is the problem, I don't know if it's worth the effort or not and from what I can tell on the forum, there are some great brewers who swear by it, and some great brewers who swear at it.  Not sure.  I guess I just feel like it's one of those things that I should try at least once so I can say I did it.  Plus, I have too much time to think about new things to try and not enough time/room/yeast to actually brew anything right now.  
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: denny on April 20, 2011, 05:56:20 PM
OK, that makes it easier if I don't do the protein rest.  
See, this is the problem, I don't know if it's worth the effort or not and from what I can tell on the forum, there are some great brewers who swear by it, and some great brewers who swear at it.  Not sure.  I guess I just feel like it's one of those things that I should try at least once so I can say I did it.  Plus, I have too much time to think about new things to try and not enough time/room/yeast to actually brew anything right now.  

I completely agree that you should try it and decide for yourself.  I still do one every once in a while to see if my opinion will change.  The best way to decide is to do one batch decocted, then another exactly the same but with no decoction.  Then do a blind triangle test.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: maxieboy on April 20, 2011, 06:47:15 PM
Wow! A couple AG batches in and considering decoction mashing. You go, son! I really don't have an interest in brewing lagers, so it really hasn't crossed my mind. I'm pretty sure if I did, it still wouldn't cross my mind!  ;)
Let us know how it goes!
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: gmac on April 20, 2011, 08:01:51 PM
Wow! A couple AG batches in and considering decoction mashing. You go, son! I really don't have an interest in brewing lagers, so it really hasn't crossed my mind. I'm pretty sure if I did, it still wouldn't cross my mind!  ;)
Let us know how it goes!
Hmmm...maybe you're making a subtle point here.  Maybe I should get some more experience before I start complicating things.  I used to want to try AG but I was intimidated to do it.  But, Denny and everyone on here made it so darn easy that I need to complicate things. The way things are going, I expect to be malting my own barley by fall...

If Amazon ever gets around to delivering Gordon's book, maybe there will be something more complicated in there that I can try  ;)

I'll let you know if I give it a try.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: hopfenundmalz on April 20, 2011, 08:04:36 PM
Decoction mashing is not that hard.  Just takes some time and lots of stirring.  It helps if your wife co-brewer can stir while you do other stuff.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: denny on April 20, 2011, 08:09:18 PM
It helps if your wife co-brewer can stir while you do other stuff.

Fat chance of that happening around here.  As much as my wife encourages my brewing and enjoys the beer, she has no time for or interest in actually doing it.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: gmac on April 20, 2011, 08:19:19 PM
Decoction mashing is not that hard.  Just takes some time and lots of stirring.  It helps if your wife co-brewer can stir while you do other stuff.
I don't play well with others so my co-brewer usually leaves me alone.  She may hold a strainer but that's about it. Apparently she can't read my mind...
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: smoga on April 20, 2011, 09:17:45 PM
It helps if your wife co-brewer can stir while you do other stuff.

Fat chance of that happening around here.  As much as my wife encourages my brewing and enjoys the beer, she has no time for or interest in actually doing it.

+1 on that. When we were young and in love, she would help out. Since the arrival of the children, no such luck.

The problem I found with Decoctions was the time factor. My usual efficient 5 - 5 1/2 hour brew session turns into a grueling 9 hour marathon, and I really have a hard time justifying those extra 4 hours. All the more power to you if you can get away with it....
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: hopfenundmalz on April 21, 2011, 12:54:55 AM
It helps if your wife co-brewer can stir while you do other stuff.

Fat chance of that happening around here.  As much as my wife encourages my brewing and enjoys the beer, she has no time for or interest in actually doing it.

The problem I found with Decoctions was the time factor. My usual efficient 5 - 5 1/2 hour brew session turns into a grueling 9 hour marathon, and I really have a hard time justifying those extra 4 hours. All the more power to you if you can get away with it....
I did a long 10.5 hour day for a Bo-Pils, mostly by myself (wife works part time).  It was a Hochkurz double decoction, with a 2.25 hour boil, and it was chilled down to 40F to pitch the yeast.  I like the beer I am drinking now, but was it the Moravian malt, decoction, long boil, or the yeast (the PU yeast I had not used before)?

One advantage of retirement is that you can spend that amount of time on a homebrew.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: maxieboy on April 21, 2011, 02:18:32 AM
Hmmm...maybe you're making a subtle point here.  Maybe I should get some more experience before I start complicating things.  I used to want to try AG but I was intimidated to do it. 

 Everyone's got a different level of learning, ability, and risk tolerance. IMO, reasonably limiting variables when starting out is wise.
 For me, the investment vs. return thing would hang me up.
 Intimidation? Nah, it's just beer...  ;)
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: anthony on April 21, 2011, 07:21:59 AM
While I am well aware of the various stances on decoction... and I think it is commendable that it is being recommended that individual brewers try it for themselves... but then in the same breath, the recommendation becomes, "Well try it, but don't bother following any of the sort of industry standard or traditional ways of doing this."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to try and become a champion of decoction here... for one thing, I've seen what happens to all of those folks over the years  :P (search for mashweasel and decoction on the Northern Brewer forums for instance).. but I will say this, if you're going to try and objectively evaluate decoction versus a specialty malt recipe, do yourself a favor and evaluate a classic recipe using the classic process versus a new recipe (with specialty malts). A protein rest at above 125F but below 140F (i.e. a proteinase rest) will not negatively impact the head retention or the resulting beer's body... and I believe for a simple, single malt beer, even with a "well modified" malt, the proteinase rest is crucial to getting the right mouthfeel/body. During triple decoctions, I've left the majority of the mash at a 135F rest for 30+ minutes with no resulting issues. And if you're getting significant color development from your decoction, then you need to do thinner pulls.

I think a reasonable test is a pilsner only, triple decocted Helles versus a pilsner+munich+melanoidin single infusion Helles... choose for yourself which you like best.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: gmac on April 21, 2011, 05:10:44 PM
I know I'm treading on sacred ground here but why is it always lagers?  Can you do a decoction with an ale?  I'm planning on a cream ale as soon as my yeast gets here, could I give that a go at decoction?  What would it do to the flavour?  This will be my first beer with flaked corn to lighten the body slightly.  Looking for a lighter, session beer to have on tap over the summer and two of my regular store bought beers are cream ales.
So, what would happen if I decocted an ale?
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: tygo on April 21, 2011, 05:29:10 PM
So, what would happen if I decocted an ale?

The sky will rip open and the earth will end in a torrent of fire. 

 ;)

Give it a shot.  Sounds tasty.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: ccarlson on April 21, 2011, 05:31:25 PM
I decoct some of my ales. Am I not supposed to?
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: gordonstrong on April 21, 2011, 05:31:28 PM
So, what would happen if I decocted an ale?

It would be darker in color and taste maltier or richer.  And take longer to make.  Just like a lager.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: Hokerer on April 21, 2011, 06:06:00 PM
And if you consider German Wheat beers ales, then you're good to go as they're traditionally often decocted.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: hopfenundmalz on April 21, 2011, 06:15:54 PM
Yes, you can do a decoction for an ale.  In addition to the effects above, you also might get a few more points out of the malt, due to the small starch granuales being burst by the boiling. 

With NA malts it is a little overkill.

Fred might chime in on this one, as he sometimes does decoction for his big beers, trying to get everything out of the malt and to make a fermentable wort..
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: anthony on April 21, 2011, 07:43:24 PM
Decocting ales works too... but again try and use a simple, deliberate malt bill, using the decoction to add additional complexity... like an all British base malt English Barleywine... or a Wheat+Pilsner+Dark Munich Weizenbock... or Wheat+Pils Weizen.

I think in a lot of those examples, a decoction can smooth out sharp spots that will eventually smooth out with age.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: gmac on April 21, 2011, 08:00:32 PM
So, what would happen if I decocted an ale?

It would be darker in color and taste maltier or richer.  And take longer to make.  Just like a lager.
And Gordon, can I come up with my own name for the decocted ale style?  Canadian Hordeum Hootch or something?  Or maybe PCDA (pale cascadian Canadian dark ale)
I need to go brew something and stop spending so much time thinking about beer.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: gordonstrong on April 21, 2011, 08:41:02 PM
I need to go brew something and stop spending so much time thinking about beer.

I think that's the best advice I've read all day on the forum.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: tomsawyer on April 23, 2011, 11:31:14 AM
Decocting ales works too... but again try and use a simple, deliberate malt bill, using the decoction to add additional complexity... like an all British base malt English Barleywine... or a Wheat+Pilsner+Dark Munich Weizenbock... or Wheat+Pils Weizen.

I think in a lot of those examples, a decoction can smooth out sharp spots that will eventually smooth out with age.

I'd never really thought of decoction as a way to replace specialty malts as a source of melanoidins and the slightly darker/breadier flavor components, that makes some sense.  And using the specialty grains in your bill then decocting, I could see where that would be tougher to taste a difference since the specialty grains are probably more pronounced in their contribution, to the point where they might be a little over the top even.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: malzig on April 23, 2011, 09:31:46 PM
I agree.  Adding a bunch of specialty malts to a German Pilsner is just going to taste wrong.  According to Weyermann, some of their commercial customers use a small amount of CaraHell, but you really need to keep any of these additions at or just below the taste threshold in a Pilsner.

I'd compare a Pilsner made with just a great Pilsner Malt to a decocted one.  If you can tell the difference in a blind tasting, and you prefer it, decide if it's worth the time.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on April 24, 2011, 12:59:37 PM
I've never done a decoction.  Now that that's out of the way, let me just say that I found it interesting in Brewing With Wheat, by Hieronymous, that some of the traditional weizen breweries in Bavaria tend to only do decoction mashes when the ingredients call for it (i.e., when using undermodified malt).  I found the takeaway point to be that while brewers can manipulate the wort profile with decoction mashing (breaking down proteins via protein rest -- when necessary, increasing wort fermentability, etc.), there are not enough flavor benefits to justify performing a decoction mash for every batch.  Of course, there are plenty of traditional weizen breweries who still seem to employ decoction mashing as a matter of course.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: sharg54 on April 25, 2011, 06:46:44 AM
Just my 2 cents and it don't account for much but this just blows me away...  Denny aren't you the one who was telling me a few months ago and anyone else who would listen about how fantastic a Decoction Mash was and basically took over the conversation???? Hummmmm......... ??? Remember when I was asking why everyone was always asking me why and making such a big deal when I said I stepped mashed and you got into how you have ran all the triple blind taste tests and such... And now you say it's not all that...
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on April 25, 2011, 12:28:52 PM
Just my 2 cents and it don't account for much but this just blows me away...  Denny aren't you the one who was telling me a few months ago and anyone else who would listen about how fantastic a Decoction Mash was and basically took over the conversation???? Hummmmm......... ??? Remember when I was asking why everyone was always asking me why and making such a big deal when I said I stepped mashed and you got into how you have ran all the triple blind taste tests and such... And now you say it's not all that...

Obviously, Denny can answer for himself, but in the six years that I've been acquainted with him online (through both the NB and AHA forums), I have never heard him espouse the virtues of decoction mashing.  I have always understood his position to be that he has found no appreciable benefit to doing a decoction mash, but that others should try it for themselves to see if their opinions differ.  In other words, his position has been completely consistent with his comments in this thread and others on the subject.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: ccarlson on April 25, 2011, 02:33:40 PM
I can't see why anyone would be against decoction. It works great, but it's a royal pain in the butt to do.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: glastctbrew on April 25, 2011, 03:25:24 PM
I can't see why anyone would be against decoction. It works great, but it's a royal pain in the butt to do.

I don't think they are against it, many just feel it doesn't give you the bang for the buck when compared to using specialty grains to accomplish similar results. 

Just my 2 cents and it don't account for much but this just blows me away...  Denny aren't you the one who was telling me a few months ago and anyone else who would listen about how fantastic a Decoction Mash was and basically took over the conversation???? Hummmmm......... ??? Remember when I was asking why everyone was always asking me why and making such a big deal when I said I stepped mashed and you got into how you have ran all the triple blind taste tests and such... And now you say it's not all that...

Obviously, Denny can answer for himself, but in the six years that I've been acquainted with him online (through both the NB and AHA forums), I have never heard him espouse the virtues of decoction mashing.  I have always understood his position to be that he has found no appreciable benefit to doing a decoction mash, but that others should try it for themselves to see if their opinions differ.  In other words, his position has been completely consistent with his comments in this thread and others on the subject.

+1  In the 2 years I've been reading posts by Denny, I've learn he is very consistent with the advise he offers.  While he has strong opinions on many topics, he will always recommend that you try things for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: denny on April 25, 2011, 03:43:39 PM
Just my 2 cents and it don't account for much but this just blows me away...  Denny aren't you the one who was telling me a few months ago and anyone else who would listen about how fantastic a Decoction Mash was and basically took over the conversation???? Hummmmm......... ??? Remember when I was asking why everyone was always asking me why and making such a big deal when I said I stepped mashed and you got into how you have ran all the triple blind taste tests and such... And now you say it's not all that...

Nope, I don't recall saying that.  I can't imagine why I would have.
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: tschmidlin on April 25, 2011, 03:56:56 PM
Nope, I don't recall saying that.  I can't imagine why I would have.
I can think of a reason you would have ;)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeYsTmIzjkw

I've never heard Denny pimping for decoction, but @sharg54 it should be easy enough for you to search the forum and find those posts . . .
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: denny on April 25, 2011, 03:59:01 PM
I can think of a reason you would have ;)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeYsTmIzjkw

Nope, never been THAT high.  ;)
Title: Re: Decoction mashing with a cooler
Post by: Mark G on April 25, 2011, 05:34:50 PM
I can think of a reason you would have ;)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeYsTmIzjkw

Nope, never been THAT high.  ;)
...or don't recall being that high anyway.  ;)