« on: January 06, 2016, 09:13:05 AM »
Hey Jim,Matt I'll sure keep that in mind. My water is too high for these styles to be done right. I'm switching to building water for these and have a plan in place. More on this when the next round results are available.
Before you give up on the 3-step mash, you might give the grain-in temp of 148F a try. I have been exploring lagers as well, but also using the hochkurz styled step mash for a while with saisons. I have settled somewhere around this schedule: (1) grain-in at 148F, hold for 45 minutes, (2) step to 160F, hold for 20-30 minutes, (3) step to mash out at 170F for 10 minutes. I am finding repeatable results with good foam creation and retention, as well as a repeatable low to medium body. For saisons I target 5.2 mash pH and for light lagers I target 5.4 and have not found the need to lower the kettle pH - in both cases the boil naturally drops to below 5.1, indicated by large fluffy hot break formation.
The goal (in my case) was to eliminate specialty malts, such as carapils and melanoiden, and match their needs with technique and base malt adjustments - based on some highly nit-picky but trusted feedback. Your testing and feedback has gone WAY further than mine, but I can say that (me, anecdotal, personal confirmation bias accepted) I prefer the 'naked' recipe with the step schedule above to the same recipe infusion mashed at 152 or 154F, even with the additional time it added to the brew day. I compared these with saisons, and I should do the same with a lager. I have absolutely nothing against cara-xyz nor melanoiden.
I didn't see or missed discussion on water chemistry, and wonder if some of the issues are with liquor alkalinity. The requirement of 7 mil of 88% lactic acid suggests your water alkalinity may be excessive. Have you tried this cutting with RO? How much lactic in the mash?
These kinds of discussion really make me want a Zymatic to simplify batch to batch testing.
Are you accomplishing your steps by decoction, addition, or direct heat? I used direct heat w/recirculation to avoid scorching.