Author Topic: Problems with Single Decoction mash  (Read 3716 times)

Offline trivittbrew

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Problems with Single Decoction mash
« on: March 25, 2012, 10:39:22 PM »
I tried for a second time brewing an authentic hefe utilizing a single decoction mash. I am consistently a 75-80% efficiency brewer whenever utilizing a single infusion (I use Beer Smith to design recipes and make calculations). Anyway, this past Saturday, I tried pulling a much thicker part of the mash, but unfortunately ended up scorching part of the grains during the grain boil and I had the problem I had the first time, which was a much lower efficiency than what I should have gotten. According to Beer Smith, I am only in the low 60s for overall efficiency percentage.

I have always thought decoction was supposed to yield better efficiency, but I am having the consistent problem of low efficiency and whenever I add the deocoted part back, not hitting my target scarification temp.

I heat the strike water up to 137 to do a 130 protein rest, which holds fine. Then, I pull about 5.3 quarts of the thickest part of the mash for the decoction (again, I use Beer Smith). Before boiling the decoction, I always rest for about 15 minutes at 158 or so. Then, which I add it back, I am lucky to be in the low 140s, which is about 10 degrees short of what I am aiming for. Even when I pull more to boil, I still come up short on efficiency.

So, three questions---
-is my batch of hefe ruined since I scorched some grains?
-any clues as to what is causing my decoction efficiency issues?
-is a decoction even necessary to get the malty mouthfeel in a hefe?

Offline tygo

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2012, 03:43:47 AM »
-any clues as to what is causing my decoction efficiency issues?

Are you mashing longer at the lower temps that you're hitting?  If not it could be that you're not getting full conversion. 

On the subject of missing the rest temps, my experience with Beersmith is that it underestimates the amount that you need to pull for a decoction to get from Temp A to temp B (at least in a cooler mash tun).  I usually bump it up the amount 50% or so from what beersmith is telling me.  Also, I don't bother anymore to try to go from a protein rest to sacc rest using a decoction.  Just too big of a temperature increase needed.  I'll infuse from 131 to 148 and then decoct once or twice to step up to an alpha and/or mash out temp.

-is a decoction even necessary to get the malty mouthfeel in a hefe?

There will be a wide variety of opinions on this.  My opinion is that decoction does add complexity to the flavor of malty beers.  That's a gut feeling on my part which is not based off any triple blind side by side taste tests.  But I also think you can probably make a very good hefe without doing it.
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Offline jmcamerlengo

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2012, 06:56:32 AM »
Can you tell us about your brew system and process?

I do single decoction on hefe but my system may warrant different advice than from what you're doing.

Also what are you decocting in and what are you heating it with. Stove? Propane Burner?


As general advice, I agree above that raising from protein rest to sach temps can be difficult and beer smith usually underestimates.  I also add some water(the same water Im brewing with) to the decoction to help with scorching issues, just enough to loosen it up.

Edit...I also think a decoction, while not necessary, does add some character to a hefe that I prefer.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2012, 04:30:43 PM »
FWIW Denny spearheaded a big decoction showdown a while ago. IIRC, when using well-modified malts, most people couldn't tell the difference between the decocted and infused beers. Beer scientists in Germany arrived at the same conclusions years ago, which is why Germans use multi-step infusions now, except for a few old-school brewers. 

The biggest problem that I saw with Denny's experiment was that it wasn't comparing the most appropriate use of decoction (undermodified malts) with an appropriate alternative to decoction (like adding some amount of melanoidin malt).

My wheat malt is poorly modified, so I'll usually do decoctions when using it.
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Offline denny

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2012, 09:10:25 AM »
The biggest problem that I saw with Denny's experiment was that it wasn't comparing the most appropriate use of decoction (undermodified malts) with an appropriate alternative to decoction (like adding some amount of melanoidin malt).

That would presuppose that decoction makes a flavor difference.  I wanted to use decocted vs. nondecocted versions of the same recipe to evaluate if there really is a difference.  If there was, then your experiment suggestion could be used next.  The total of votes for nondecocted plus no preference was greater than the number who preferred the decocted versions.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2012, 09:30:37 AM »
I'm not trying to be a Monday morning quarterback. I completely agree that a decoction mash isn't necessary when using well-modified malts. I'm just drawing a comparison to using a protein rest with a grain that doesn't need it, like Maris Otter. In that case, it's actually deleterious. So using a decoction mash with a grain that doesn't need it may also be deleterious.

I don't really understand the chemistry behind boiling the decoction, so this is just conjecture, but in the process of liberating starches, maybe proteins are degraded excessively? Maybe the flavor compounds develop differently? I don't know enough about malting to know how the flavor compounds change during malting, and how well-modified malt might taste different than under-modified malt.

 
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Offline nateo

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2012, 07:33:32 PM »
Here's another decoction experiment: http://www.wahomebrewers.org/clinics/242-decoction-clinic-notes

A quote from hopfenunmaltz over at beeradvocate: "I tasted those beers at the 2009 NHC. There was no doubt in my mind that the tripple decocted beer was the one, and the best of the lot. It remeinded me of Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel. Michael Fergason said that all he had to do was to look at the clarity of the beer. The tripple decocted beer was brilliant, the others - not so much."
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Offline denny

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Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2012, 07:50:30 PM »
Here's another decoction experiment: http://www.wahomebrewers.org/clinics/242-decoction-clinic-notes

A quote from hopfenunmaltz over at beeradvocate: "I tasted those beers at the 2009 NHC. There was no doubt in my mind that the tripple decocted beer was the one, and the best of the lot. It remeinded me of Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel. Michael Fergason said that all he had to do was to look at the clarity of the beer. The tripple decocted beer was brilliant, the others - not so much."

 Triple decocted is the key here.  All of the beers in my experiment were single decocted.  I put no restrictions on the experiment in terms of number of decoctions because I was interested in what the "typical" homebrewer might do.  Every brewer who participated chose to do a single decoction, and I've found that's normal for most homebrewers who do decoctions.  I don't doubt that a triple decoction might have different effects than a single.  The conclusion I reached was that a single decoction might very well not make enough impact on flavor to be worth the effort.


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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2012, 11:44:09 PM »
The problem with the WAHA NHC beers was that there were other variables too, including the brewing equipment and brewers.  It was still a good experiment, but not as tightly controlled as I would like.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2012, 08:32:12 AM »
Mash techniques are just tools you can use to make beer. Sure a claw hammer might work the same as a ball-peen for most applications. Decoction mashing with well-modified malts seems to me like using a ball-peen for driving nails. Once the nails are in, you probably couldn't tell which hammer drove them. Denny's findings seem to support this line of reasoning.

I came to the same conclusion, after doing maybe a dozen or so decoction batches with well-modified malts (I finally wised up, but I used to be one of those people saying "Yeah, this ball-peen just drives nails so much better than those stupid claw hammers everyone else is using.")

It's a clumsy analogy, but there are situations when a ball-peen isn't interchangeable with a claw hammer. I'm curious if a triple decoction with undermodified malts makes a "better" beer than a single infusion with well-modified malt + melanoidin. But that's completely subjective.     
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Offline nateo

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2012, 07:25:37 PM »
Well, I'm starting to come around to Denny's way of thinking. I've been trying to find commercial malts suitable for decoction mashing, and can't find any. The wheat malt I have has 15% protein and a 34% SNR ratio, but it's from a small maltster and not available outside of Colorado. So realistically hardly anyone has access to appropriate malt.

I'd have to conclude that Denny is right, don't bother using decoctions.
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Offline denny

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Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2012, 07:49:23 PM »


I'd have to conclude that Denny is right, don't bother using decoctions.

I don't want to go quite that far.  Let's say "Don't be surprised if you don't get the effects you expect from a decoction".


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Offline nateo

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2012, 05:54:35 PM »
I don't want to go quite that far.  Let's say "Don't be surprised if you don't get the effects you expect from a decoction".

This discussion has got me really interested in decoction mashing. I went back and listened to Kai's interview on Basic Brewing. Kai said that decoction mashing can draw out tannins. In something like a Marzen the tannins might give the beer some nice structure. In a light lager like a pilsner, you wouldn't want excess tannin extraction.

It seems to me that instead of triple decoction, pilsner-type beers would actually be better suited to no-sparge single infusion. Is that crazy? Does anyone brew their light beers like that?
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Offline Alewyfe

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2012, 11:28:19 AM »
I don't want to go quite that far.  Let's say "Don't be surprised if you don't get the effects you expect from a decoction".

This discussion has got me really interested in decoction mashing. I went back and listened to Kai's interview on Basic Brewing. Kai said that decoction mashing can draw out tannins. In something like a Marzen the tannins might give the beer some nice structure. In a light lager like a pilsner, you wouldn't want excess tannin extraction.

It seems to me that instead of triple decoction, pilsner-type beers would actually be better suited to no-sparge single infusion. Is that crazy? Does anyone brew their light beers like that?

Hmmmmm. I'm going to try that.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Problems with Single Decoction mash
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2012, 11:47:22 AM »
Hmmmmm. I'm going to try that.

I'd be interested to hear your feedback on that. I have a Helles planned that I'm going to try it on. Probably won't be for a couple/few weeks though.
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