Author Topic: Multi-step mashing...  (Read 4797 times)

Offline Village Taphouse

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Multi-step mashing...
« on: April 07, 2020, 03:33:54 AM »
So hopfenundmalz posted a nice article in the Travel section and the article talks about a brewer (Eric Toft at Schonram brewery in Bavaria) who likes his step mashing techniques.  He also mentioned that he "doesn't like EASY" which is bittersweet for me because I generally do not have a lot of extra time to brew.  Toft also does decoctions on his beer which I am not going to attempt now.  But I am asking those of you here if you have found a good step mashing procedure that will create a bit drier finish in something like a helles or dortmunder or pilsner.  Also, I do not have a direct-fired mash vessel so I would have to do this by adding boiling water a bit at a time.  His mash is outlined in the article but the durations are not there... so it's 118° and then between 122° and 131° and then 140° and finally 149°.  But the time spent at each step is not there.  I have no problem hearing from those who have tried step mashing and found no difference.  Also, I have heard that some people use highly-modified malt and do step mashes and find themselves with beer that is not as good as their single-infusion beers (cloudy, no head formation, etc) so I don't want that either.  At the moment I have a partial sack of Avangard Pilsner and I have an unopened 55-lb sack of Swaen Pils as well.  Anyone care to share or shine some light on this?  Cheers.
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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2020, 11:22:59 AM »
I like a Hochkurz step mash, if I am looking at German lagers  - 144 for 30, 162 for 30 and 172 for 10 (or you can skip the last temperature rest, if you are heading right to the boil).  I use a HERMS system, so I don’t know what infusion temps and volumes would be used.

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Offline raf

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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2020, 12:31:43 PM »
Also, I have heard that some people use highly-modified malt and do step mashes and find themselves with beer that is not as good as their single-infusion beers (cloudy, no head formation, etc) so I don't want that either.

This is the camp I'm in. With the malts that are readily available to me (Briess, Avangard, etc.), I've just not found them to produce a superior result using step or decoction mashes.

Offline BrewBama

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Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2020, 01:06:45 PM »
I have done temp steps and infusion steps.  I have gone back to 152*F single infusion and a 170*F mash out because it’s just so much easier with no detriment to the beer IMO. 

When using temp steps, adding the ramp from one temp to the next can extend a mash schedule into PITA territory for me. I found the increased interaction of temp steps every 20-30 minutes was just too much.

When using hot water infusion, I found I was all over the map with temp ‘control’. I couldn’t repeat a mash from one brew day to the next. It made mashing a crap shoot and I just can’t handle that. I am looking for repeatable results. It’s hard to make improvements with no trend.

Now, I mash in, set the temp on my PID and come back when it’s done. Too easy. The measured flow controlled pump constantly recirculates the gap control milled grist to measured liquor ratio mash and I get the same predictable SG and crystal clear wort in the BK. Spot on every time.

There are other processes I’ve tried that I discarded besides just step mashes. I no longer condition my grain before milling for instance. I find I get a more predictable crush by controlling the gap of the mill rollers measured by leaving 70% atop a No 14 sieve and running the motor slow with dry grain.

But there are processes I’ll never quit doing just because they’re more difficult also. I underlet my mash because I get no dough balls. It would be easier to simply pour the water in the tun and stir in the grain like all the videos and tutorials you see but when I did that I got dough balls. So, I slowly pump my water thru the ball valve of a grain filled mash tun. Zero dough balls ever.

If step mashes made 2x better beer despite being 2x more difficult I’d do it. But I found step mashes are 2x more difficult without any improvement. That places it in the not worth it column for me.

With a single temp mash the resulting beers are just as clear, the head retention is no different, and the body is indistinguishable to me.

I caveat the above with two thoughts:

1) I am normally using American standard pale base malt. If I were using an heirloom variety malt that would benefit from temp steps I imagine my process would adapt for that grain bill.

2) My PID controller is not programmable. To make temp change I had to change the temp myself. If I had a programmable PID controller I would be more inclined to consider using steps.  Sounds lazy but the constant up and down was BS.


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« Last Edit: April 07, 2020, 01:26:35 PM by BrewBama »
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Offline KellerBrauer

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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2020, 01:17:26 PM »
I have been doing a step mash for quite some time now, albeit not nearly as complicated as you (village taphouse) suggest.  I do a protein rest at 120° for about 20 minutes, then I move to my saccharification rest with a temperature based on the results I’m looking for, often followed by a mashout.

Dryer finish: 130° to 152° for about 90 minutes.  A dryer finish will produce a higher ABV
Sweeter finish: 153° to 167° for about 60 minutes.  A sweeter finish will produce a lower ABV

The quantity of water and the water temperature is calculated in BeerSmith based on my Equipment Profile and a few other factors.

Lastly, many of the temperature rests you refer to are not necessary of you use a highly modified malt as a base.  That said, the highly modified base Malt should make up a large portion of your grain bill - say at least 60-70%.
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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2020, 02:12:57 PM »
IMO, a step mash shpuld depend on the ,aly you use and if it will benefit from it.  Many do not, and it could even be detrimental.  I still do step mashes a few times a year to see if it makes any improvement (or even difference) in my beers and so far it hasn't.
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Offline goose

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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2020, 02:16:08 PM »
I have made Helles three ways, single infusion, step mash, and triple decoction.  I really don't see meuch difference between the flavor with a single infusion and a decotion except for maybe a bit more melanoiden character.  So in my estimation, the decoction with today's highly modified malts is a waste of time on my brew day unless you are trying to recreate the old German techniques.
My Helles is the only beer in which I do a step mash.  Got this from Horst's style book for Helles.

protein rest at 122 degrees for 30 minutes
low sacchaification rest at 140 degrees for 15 minutes
high saccharification rest at 156 degrees for 15 minutes
mash-out for 10 minutes at 168 degrees

Does it really make that much difference, probably not as Denny says, but this is one beer that I like to mess with.  Is it a PITA, well yes kinda because of all the heating steps (RIMS system aided with an external heat source to help raise the temperature to the next step a bit faster)   All other beers use a single infusion mash.

But if you are looking to do a step mash, this is the technique I use for a Helles and it comes out pretty malty, which is a characteristic for the style.  If you want it drier, you could bump up the low saccharification temp to maybe 146-148 and eliminate the high saccharification step.  But that is your choice.

Just my .02
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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2020, 02:16:55 PM »
Guys, thanks.  When I see something in the article like "you do it this way because it makes noticeably better beer" (I'm paraphrasing) then it makes me want to try it just to see if it's really noticeable.  I have tried a Hochkurz mash a few times, probably with a higher-modified malt since that's what I typically buy.  I saw no difference but maybe I did something wrong.  A brewed bud of mine (lives in DE) sent me a big 32oz can of Helles from a local brewery called Stitch House.  The beer was fantastic.  It was smooth and balanced but it had a very dry and unique finish... something I do not see in my own beers.  When I make a helles I am very critical of it because I want it to be that good.  I consider the helles I make to be good but the finish is not quite as dry.  Others have told me to add a smidge of sulfate to the water or use a late hop addition which I *could* do but I just wonder if a step mash could create that slightly better attenuation and crisp finish.  I hear BrewBama on the unpredictable results... with hot water it's a moving target for sure.   
Ken from Chicago

Offline Visor

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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2020, 04:56:57 PM »
   The only time I do a step mash is when I brew one recipe that's ~50% rye, it starts with a glucan rest at ~112* with the intent being to reduce lautering time. It definitely is a PITA cuz the 2nd infusion even at boiling [202*] only brings the mash temp up to ~145* so I have to do a decoction to get the mash up to target. That of course is a bit of a crap shoot guessing exactly what volume to decoct. I could steal some H2O from the sparge volume to make the 2nd infusion hit target temp, but then there wouldn't be enough remaining volume to effective. Even with the glucan rest this beer takes freaking forever to lauter, I'm considering skipping the glucan rest next time I brew it to find out if it really does make a difference in lautering time. From my experience the online infusion calculators are all garbage.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2020, 05:00:39 PM by Visor »
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2020, 05:23:16 PM »
Guys, thanks.  When I see something in the article like "you do it this way because it makes noticeably better beer" (I'm paraphrasing) then it makes me want to try it just to see if it's really noticeable.  I have tried a Hochkurz mash a few times, probably with a higher-modified malt since that's what I typically buy.  I saw no difference but maybe I did something wrong.  A brewed bud of mine (lives in DE) sent me a big 32oz can of Helles from a local brewery called Stitch House.  The beer was fantastic.  It was smooth and balanced but it had a very dry and unique finish... something I do not see in my own beers.  When I make a helles I am very critical of it because I want it to be that good.  I consider the helles I make to be good but the finish is not quite as dry.  Others have told me to add a smidge of sulfate to the water or use a late hop addition which I *could* do but I just wonder if a step mash could create that slightly better attenuation and crisp finish.  I hear BrewBama on the unpredictable results... with hot water it's a moving target for sure.   

One Take away from the article is that he is using malts we can't source.

Someday I will see if I can find out how many Maltsters there are in Germany.
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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2020, 05:24:00 PM »
   The only time I do a step mash is when I brew one recipe that's ~50% rye, it starts with a glucan rest at ~112* with the intent being to reduce lautering time. It definitely is a PITA cuz the 2nd infusion even at boiling [202*] only brings the mash temp up to ~145* so I have to do a decoction to get the mash up to target. That of course is a bit of a crap shoot guessing exactly what volume to decoct. I could steal some H2O from the sparge volume to make the 2nd infusion hit target temp, but then there wouldn't be enough remaining volume to effective. Even with the glucan rest this beer takes freaking forever to lauter, I'm considering skipping the glucan rest next time I brew it to find out if it really does make a difference in lautering time. From my experience the online infusion calculators are all garbage.

I wonder why you have such troubles.  I've never had an issue even at 60% rye malt.  Are yiu using rye malt or flaked?  I'd love to get to the bottom of this.
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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2020, 05:25:35 PM »
Guys, thanks.  When I see something in the article like "you do it this way because it makes noticeably better beer" (I'm paraphrasing) then it makes me want to try it just to see if it's really noticeable.  I have tried a Hochkurz mash a few times, probably with a higher-modified malt since that's what I typically buy.  I saw no difference but maybe I did something wrong.  A brewed bud of mine (lives in DE) sent me a big 32oz can of Helles from a local brewery called Stitch House.  The beer was fantastic.  It was smooth and balanced but it had a very dry and unique finish... something I do not see in my own beers.  When I make a helles I am very critical of it because I want it to be that good.  I consider the helles I make to be good but the finish is not quite as dry.  Others have told me to add a smidge of sulfate to the water or use a late hop addition which I *could* do but I just wonder if a step mash could create that slightly better attenuation and crisp finish.  I hear BrewBama on the unpredictable results... with hot water it's a moving target for sure.   

One Take away from the article is that he is using malts we can't source.

Someday I will see if I can find out how many Maltsters there are in Germany.

And that's the thing that seems to get overlooked so often.  Some malts may need or benefit from step mashing.  Most do not in my experience.  People hear about a procedure tied to beer they like and think it will help them, but too often don't look at the entire pictuee.
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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2020, 05:31:08 PM »
Guys, thanks.  When I see something in the article like "you do it this way because it makes noticeably better beer" (I'm paraphrasing) then it makes me want to try it just to see if it's really noticeable.  I have tried a Hochkurz mash a few times, probably with a higher-modified malt since that's what I typically buy.  I saw no difference but maybe I did something wrong.  A brewed bud of mine (lives in DE) sent me a big 32oz can of Helles from a local brewery called Stitch House.  The beer was fantastic.  It was smooth and balanced but it had a very dry and unique finish... something I do not see in my own beers.  When I make a helles I am very critical of it because I want it to be that good.  I consider the helles I make to be good but the finish is not quite as dry.  Others have told me to add a smidge of sulfate to the water or use a late hop addition which I *could* do but I just wonder if a step mash could create that slightly better attenuation and crisp finish.  I hear BrewBama on the unpredictable results... with hot water it's a moving target for sure.   

One Take away from the article is that he is using malts we can't source.

Someday I will see if I can find out how many Maltsters there are in Germany.

And that's the thing that seems to get overlooked so often.  Some malts may need or benefit from step mashing.  Most do not in my experience.  People hear about a procedure tied to beer they like and think it will help them, but too often don't look at the entire pictuee.
I hear this.  I think that there is something about my approach to things (brewing being one of them) where I want to try something and get some understanding of it just to see what happens.  I know a number of people who dismiss things without ever trying it so their credibility is gone at that point.  Of course I could try something, decide it makes no difference and then tell people that I tried it but then find out that there were other considerations or that my experiment was wrong so there's that too.  For anyone who read that article, the part that gets me is that other beer people and other head brewers across the world see this guy's beer as the true pinnacle (among other German beers which is really saying something) and I just want to know some of the magic. 
Ken from Chicago

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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2020, 05:33:26 PM »
Guys, thanks.  When I see something in the article like "you do it this way because it makes noticeably better beer" (I'm paraphrasing) then it makes me want to try it just to see if it's really noticeable.  I have tried a Hochkurz mash a few times, probably with a higher-modified malt since that's what I typically buy.  I saw no difference but maybe I did something wrong.  A brewed bud of mine (lives in DE) sent me a big 32oz can of Helles from a local brewery called Stitch House.  The beer was fantastic.  It was smooth and balanced but it had a very dry and unique finish... something I do not see in my own beers.  When I make a helles I am very critical of it because I want it to be that good.  I consider the helles I make to be good but the finish is not quite as dry.  Others have told me to add a smidge of sulfate to the water or use a late hop addition which I *could* do but I just wonder if a step mash could create that slightly better attenuation and crisp finish.  I hear BrewBama on the unpredictable results... with hot water it's a moving target for sure.   

One Take away from the article is that he is using malts we can't source.

Someday I will see if I can find out how many Maltsters there are in Germany.

And that's the thing that seems to get overlooked so often.  Some malts may need or benefit from step mashing.  Most do not in my experience.  People hear about a procedure tied to beer they like and think it will help them, but too often don't look at the entire pictuee.
I hear this.  I think that there is something about my approach to things (brewing being one of them) where I want to try something and get some understanding of it just to see what happens.  I know a number of people who dismiss things without ever trying it so their credibility is gone at that point.  Of course I could try something, decide it makes no difference and then tell people that I tried it but then find out that there were other considerations or that my experiment was wrong so there's that too.  For anyone who read that article, the part that gets me is that other beer people and other head brewers across the world see this guy's beer as the true pinnacle (among other German beers which is really saying something) and I just want to know some of the magic.

Ken, I understand completely.  That how I reach my own conclusions and opinions...I try it.  But keep in mind that it's not just procedure that makes this guy's beer famous. You need to get his ingredients, too
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Offline dannyjed

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Re: Multi-step mashing...
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2020, 05:58:04 PM »
I think every brewer should try a decoction mash at least once if they can. I just did a double-decoction for a German Pils on Friday and was surprised on how smoothly it went considering I haven’t done it in a couple of years. I can’t tell you if it makes a difference or not, but I definitely had the time to do it. Also, I believe in the article it states that the malt used is under-modified, so a step/decoction mash is probably necessary.


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