Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Advances in Partial Mash

Today, I thought I would get into some of the great advances we have seen in home brewing and specifically in Partial Mash Brewing over the past 20 or so years. For me, and maybe for you, these advances make partial mash brewing even easier, and even more fun.

When we started brewing, things were very different.  It wasn't quite the dark ages of home brewing but it was close.  Home brewers were largely divided into two camps.  I know what you're thinking I'm going to say here... Extract and All grain... right?  come on you know you were thinking it.   But really the division was more like guys who had big propane burners and brewed outside (or garage) and guys who brewed on their stove tops.   The guys who brewed on propane, tended toward all grain, because... well because they could.  And they weren't wrong when they said their beer was superior, as I discussed in earlier blog posts, extract leaved a lot to be desired back in those days.  
So if you could brew outside, and use all grain, well why not.   Especially if you already owned a turkey fryer.   Everything changed in the mid 1990s when we started hearing about Partial Mash.  Getting a portion of your sugar from a temperature controlled grain mashing, and the balance from extract. Extract has come a long way since the dark ages.  The first advancement in partial mash,  Better Extract.  You can actually make great beer from extract now.  But you are limited to the extracts that are manufactured. That is another huge advantage of partial mash.

Back then we were mashing in a mash pot, or in a cooler (I still do sometimes) and then transferring the wort to the boil kettle.  Some of us would use our boil kettle for the mash, then use a lauter tun made of 2 pvc buckets to separate the grains (think mine is somewhere in the garage...It may have Christmas lights in it right now).  Others would pour the wort and grains through a strainer. That All changed when the Aussies thought of BIAB.  You could now perform your partial mash in your brew kettle and just remove the grains by lifting the bag.   Brilliant! And by far the easiest way to BIAB.

Image result for home brew newsletterIn the dark ages our recipes came from newsletters, friends, and Magazines.  Changing a recipe had no predictable results.  You did the math... it seemed ok... you brewed the beer.  You tasted it.   If it was good you did it again.  But if it was lacking, you were doomed to try again.  In truth it was kinda fun.  But not nearly as fun as using software to create a brew before you brew it.   The advances made in brewing software are critical to partial mash.  There was a time when partial mash consisted of mashing 4 lbs of grain... no more.   just 4 lbs.  That was because 4 lbs of grain would give you roughly the same fermentable sugars as 3.3 lbs of LME.  It kept the recipes simple.  But with the advances in software we don't need to think that way any longer.  I have partial mash recipes (again posted at BrewToad) that are 75% grain.  The DME is really just there to add sugars and increase the OG.  With software you can really custom design a partial mash recipe.

One of the advantages of partial mash today, as opposed to years ago... full volume boil.  When we started brewing Turkey Fryers (even propane) were expensive.  And you probably had to get them at Bass Pro, or a similar out door store.  But as they grew in popularity, the price came down.  Now the options available to a home brewer are almost baffling.  I have, and I know you all have done this too, spent countless hours online trying to decide how to invest my limited brewing equipment funds. You can spend as much as you want to spend.  But you can also brew great beer right on your stove top, even if you don't own a high powered gas stove by using the texas two step.  Just create your wort, and boil it in two pots.  Your wort doesn't know where it is being boiled.   There are many posts about this topic online, but I will lend one or two pieces of advice,  just divide it in half.   It makes all of your math so much easier.  Your only boiling 6.5 gallons of wort, and I am here to tell you, any stove can handle this in two pots.

You don't have to wait till you can afford expensive equipment to brew great beer.  If you have a couple of pots, a brew bag,  a thermometer, and a couple of brew buckets, you're ready to step up to partial mash.  And if you're like me, you may not choose to step to BIAB or All Grain very often after you try partial mash.

Got any recipe you want me to convert?  Let me know... I'll be happy to help

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