BLUF: what’s your budget?
I agree that a large % if not all of the conversion is complete very early in the mash relegating maintenance of a couple degree drop over an hour pretty low on the ‘it’s gonna screw up my beer’ scale (data to illustrate at bottom of post). Also, realize that a single infusion mash is a compromise between optimal enzyme conversion temps which further puts it in the ‘it’ll be OK’ camp. However, having new shiny things in the brewhaus is pretty high on the ‘cool factor’ scale. So, a couple considerations:
1. Do nothing. Cost = zero. Easy Peasy. Makes great beer.
2. If you’re gonna buy a heat stick how are you gonna control it?
A. Manually babysitting a thermometer and switching on and off a heat stick + constantly stirring while it’s firing = PITA.
B. Automatically controlling temp = much easier albeit more expensive. ...but your still gotta stir the whole time the element is firing or you run the risk of scorching your mash. Constant stirring = babysitting = PITA.
3. Do you have a pump? If not, do you want one? (It’ll stir for you)
A. Yes? Add a heat stick externally in a tube so you don’t scorch your mash. Recirculate the wort via tubing and maintain a set value automatically. (aka RIMS)
— You can do the same thing by recirculating the wort thru tubing in a temp controlled hot water bath fired with a heat stick with the added benefit of no chances of scorch the mash (aka HERMS).
B. No? See No. 1 or 2 above
* Data to help illustrate mash conversion times. If you graph it it looks like a hockey stick: sharply straight up from 0 to 20 min then a right turn flattening out after the initial 20 min to the mashout. My last brewday:
20 min (end of 1st β rest @ 62* C): 5.5 pH room temp 1.053 ~80% of SG in kettle
50 min (very near end of three 20 min β rests: 62/64/67*C): 5.48 pH room temp 1.061 ~ 91% of SG in kettle. Less ROI/time.
Mashout: 5.43 pH room temp 1.067 100% of SG in kettle
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