Author Topic: Thin vs. Thick Mash  (Read 1394 times)

Offline KellerBrauer

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Thin vs. Thick Mash
« on: April 14, 2019, 01:59:14 PM »
What is the difference in extract production between a thick vs. thin mash?  Which is better?  I have been mashing at 1.2 quarts per pound of grain and I’m wondering if that ratio is typical, good, bad, etc.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2019, 02:31:49 PM »
I usually use around 2 qts/lb. German Brewers use 2.5-3.0 qts/lb.

Brewin a bag? Some use all of the water for the batch in the mash. I don't brew with a BIAB set up, so someone can say what they do.
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Offline denny

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2019, 03:20:25 PM »
I found that as I increased my liquor:qrist ratio, my extract increased.
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Offline BrewBama

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2019, 03:43:57 PM »
I use 1.75 qts/lb and also found I get better extraction and lauter than I did with a thicker mash.


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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2019, 04:04:53 PM »
AFAIK, there is nothing inherently good or bad about mashing at any specific ratios.  There's nothing magical about the ratio.  However I do think the SPARGE VOLUME has something to do with efficiency.  Not the mash ratio, but the volume after mashing that you then have left to sparge with to reach your intended pre-boil volume.  Volumes matter.  But not the ratio.

For high gravity beers (more than about 1.080), I use thicker mash 0.8-1.0 qt/lb, bigger sparge, and longer boil, to maximize efficiency.  Big sparge, big volume, better efficiency.  This just ensures a very good rinse of sugars out of the grains, that's the reason I do it.  Less rinsing could be leaving behind precious sugars.  I mean.... if you were to mash 20 lbs grains at a ratio of 3 qt/lb... you might not be happy with the 13 gallons you then have to boil after that, and that's without even sparging, so you'll be leaving some sugars behind in the spent grains.  Conversely, if you mash the same 20 lbs at 0.9 qt/lb, you'll get only about 2.5 gallons out of the first runnings (assuming batch sparge though the concept isn't super different for fly sparge), but you can then sparge with another 4 or 5 gallons which is an excellent rinse that won't leave much sugar behind (assuming a post-boil 5-gallon batch size), though you might possibly run into a high pH concern if you fly sparge.

For standard to low gravity beers, I usually use anywhere from 1.3-2.0 qt/lb, and haven't noticed any real effect on efficiency from various ratios.  I just do whatever, whenever, doesn't seem to matter much.  The golden amount, in my opinion, seems to be roughly 1.5 qt/lb, plus or minus.  But I have used all sorts of ratios above and below that, and don't really much care about the exact ratio on any given batch.

I don't recall the exact ratio for a low gravity beer, like say for a Scottish ale of 1.038 OG or whatever, but in an instance like this, I'll typically plan to skip the sparge as it's just not needed, so I'll add the entire volume needed for pre-boil to the mash, based on boiloff rate and batch size, drain the mash and immediately begin heatup to the boil with no sparge.  If that ratio is 2 qt/lb or 3 qt/lb, I don't recall, and just don't care -- whatever it is, I'm not afraid to do it, as a small gravity beer really does not need a sparge so the only critical number is the volume you get out.... and I wouldn't want to put more water in than necessary so I'd run a calc and make sure I put in just the right volume so that nothing is wasted.

THAT is efficiency: Calculating things out so that you never use too much grain, not enough grain, too much water, not enough water..... for those who care about efficiency.  After 20 years, I still haven't decided if I care or not.  Meh.  As long as everything is predictable and reasonably within expected parameters, I'm pretty happy.  Which is, like, 95% of the time.

Yeah, so.......... I think mash ratio is just about the most meaningless useless thing to be concerned about..... within reason anyway.  FWIW, I feel the same about mash temperature, and have my doubts about mash pH as well........... the list goes on............   ;D  8)
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2019, 06:27:22 PM »
I've completed a large series of mashing trials that were focused on pH variation during mashing and one thing that I found surprising was that thin mashes experience greater pH variation during the course of the mashing period. It appears that thicker mashes exhibit better buffering and pH stability than thinner mashes, but all mashes tend to start out at a lower pH and then they rise consistently during the mashing period.

This is the primary reason that I no longer recommend paying much attention to the early mash pH. While it's OK to measure pH at around the 15 minute mark, the only thing you should be looking for is that the pH is BELOW your intended target mashing pH. Its not until about 45 minutes into the mash that pH tends to stabilize. In other words, DON'T PANIC IF YOUR EARLY pH IS LOWER THAN TARGETED.

The apparent phenomena where pH tends to vary more in thin mashes does give me pause. I know that Brew in a Bag (BIAB) brewers often have very thin mashes and that does incur early mash pH's that are a tenth or two lower than a thicker mash. That makes me wonder if thin BIAB mashes tend to result in less beer body due to the fact that lower mashing pH encourages more proteolysis (protein breakdown) than at higher pH??? I extend that question to any BIAB brewer that may have observed anything like this. The question might also be posed to brewers that have brewed with the identical recipe and yeast using thick and thin mashing and if their resulting beer body (or FG) was appreciably different. 

I look forward to any confident observations you may have.
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Offline goose

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2019, 07:00:42 PM »
Martin, can you comment on the fact that a lot of malsters and other sources say that most of the conversion takes place in the first 10 minutes of the mash?  Although I agree that mash pH tends to rise throughout the mash,  I have always been a bit of a stickler to assure that I within the 5.2-5.6 range (at room temperature) early on because the enzymes are happier during the time period where the bulk of the conversion takes place.
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2019, 07:18:54 PM »
Martin, can you comment on the fact that a lot of malsters and other sources say that most of the conversion takes place in the first 10 minutes of the mash?  Although I agree that mash pH tends to rise throughout the mash,  I have always been a bit of a stickler to assure that I within the 5.2-5.6 range (at room temperature) early on because the enzymes are happier during the time period where the bulk of the conversion takes place.

+1.  I typically only mash for 45 minutes, so I want the pH in the right range right away.  That time goes fast.  On other other hand.... I only measure pH about half the time or less.  Often I forget, and/or don't care.  :)
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Offline narcout

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2019, 07:23:04 PM »
Another consideration is that thicker mashes can help to slow the thermal inactivation of enzymes and may therefore increase attenuation.

That said, I have switched to no-sparge brewing and have not seen any decrease in attenuation due to the thinner mashes. 

It may be scientifically accurate but of little or no practical consequence (at least in homebrewing).
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Offline BrewBama

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2019, 08:13:09 PM »
The last few brews I have taken pH and SG readings throughout the mash at 20, 40, 60, 80, and 90 min. Each time when I graph the SG it looks like a hockey stick.

My last brew: nearly straight up to 84.5% of my OG at 20 min, then significant right turn to 91.5% (+7%) at 40 min, 95.7% (+4.2%) at 60 min, 98.5% (+2.8%) at 80 min, to my OG (+1.5%) at 90 min (mashout). 

The pH stayed within .02 throughout the mash.




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Offline Robert

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2019, 08:23:10 PM »
I used to mash at about 1.25 qt/lb, because a) that's about what American commercial brewers have conventionally done and b) it allowed me to maximize the sparge volume for (theoretically) better efficiency (see dmtaylor's post.)  I now try to go more like 1.6 qt/lb, at the least 1.5.  I have not seen any actual change in efficiency, but it's a heck of a lot easier to stir.  I can mash in super quick with no dough balls, and it's easy to maintain even temperatures in the mash (direct fired mash kettle.)  I  suppose ultimately,  what would limit my ability to thin out my mash is the total grain bill.  A big beer with a big grain bill would require a thicker mash, just to have anything left for the sparge.   FWIW I've also tried as much as 1.75-1.8 qt/lb in small grain bills for low gravity beers.  None of this seems to affect efficiency,  probably because I run the vorlauf and sparge at an optimal velocity no matter what.   As to how it affects body and attenuation,  I would indeed have expected to see significant effects there.  But I really can't say I have.   So, I'd say just pick a mash viscosity you find convenient for whatever reason.   Of all the factors you can control to affect the qualities of the resulting beer, this is probably about the least important.
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Offline KellerBrauer

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2019, 08:27:25 PM »
I kind of assumed the responses from this question were going to render a very wide range of information.  Wow!  This is a lot to try and digest.

I suppose the reason for my inquiry is because I brewed an Oktoberfest yesterday and my mash efficiency was at about 83% where it is normally about 10 points higher.  The only difference I found was the mash was a little thinner and thought that was a contributing factor.  My pH measured spot on as I anticipated with no acid additives to the mash and only 4.5mL to the sparge.

Fascinating information indeed.

Thanks for all your help!
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2019, 09:33:54 PM »
Goose, don't confuse 'conversion' with appropriate sugar production. I concur that virtually all starches in a mash can be converted within 15 minutes. However, that doesn't mean that the types and proportions of sugars in the wort will be appropriate or desirable. I haven't found that a mash that is only long enough to convert all starches makes a good beer.

I find that mashing for around an hour gives the various enzymes enough time to do their thing in creating the array of sugars I want in my wort. Within that time, I'm able to vary mashing temperature to dial in the attenuability that I want in the beer. In general, I either perform single or double temperature steps plus a mashout step (only because a mashout step is super easy with a RIMS and it does increase extraction efficiency slightly).

So that slight pH excursion that I've documented in all those test mashes probably doesn't really amount to a significant effect on the overall fermentability when the mash duration is significantly longer (this is totally conjecture on my part). 

Kellerbrauer, I have a difficult time believing that mash thickness would have an effect on efficiency. Efficiency is the extraction of fermentable content from the grain solids into the water. As long as the starches and sugars can get out of the kernel material, it seems that the amount of water they dissolve in should have little effect. However, I can believe that the activity of enzymes could be affected by mash thickness.
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Offline Robert

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2019, 11:08:51 PM »
The last few brews I have taken pH and SG readings throughout the mash at 20, 40, 60, 80, and 90 min. Each time when I graph the SG it looks like a hockey stick.

My last brew: nearly straight up to 84.5% of my OG at 20 min, then significant right turn to 91.5% (+7%) at 40 min, 95.7% (+4.2%) at 60 min, 98.5% (+2.8%) at 80 min, to my OG (+1.5%) at 90 min (mashout). 

The pH stayed within .02 throughout the mash.




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I always track density and pH through the process as well, and always have results nearly identical to yours.   Approaching 85% (or more) of maximum first wort density by the end of 15-30 minute beta rest (in fact density cues me to raise for the next rest,) and up to 100% after 30 minute alpha rest, with possibly just the last 1-2% coming through mash off (I suspect this last is just a result of physical/mechanical action, not enzymatic.)  As Martin notes, you get stuff into solution fast, but not in its final, ideal form.  I do an iodine test too for this reason.   pH locks in early -- within a few minutes -- and holds rock steady through the mash and right into the kettle.

[BTW I don't know a lot about hockey, but I think you're describing a hockey stick as wielded for fighting, not shooting the puck.  ;D  ]
« Last Edit: April 14, 2019, 11:17:38 PM by Robert »
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Offline BrewBama

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Re: Thin vs. Thick Mash
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2019, 11:37:33 PM »

[BTW I don't know a lot about hockey, but I think you're describing a hockey stick as wielded for fighting, not shooting the puck.  ;D  ]

I thought that’s what hockey was: a fight with sporadic periods of a game in between.


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