Ok, so you want to try a step mash. You want to experience all of the benefits of this traditional mashing process. You want to have more connection to your mash. You want to have more involvement in your brewing. You read the previous post, and you know that resting a mash at certain temperatures can have a significant impact on your final product. So how do you plan the recipe? If you haven't read the previous post, now is the time to go back and read it.
I will share my process for planning a step mash with you in hopes that you will follow a similar train of thought when you design your recipe. I will be sharing a recipe for our Belgian Tripel (Desir et la Nuit) And I will be sharing the process I followed to create the recipe. The first thing you should know is that this recipe began life as a La Fin du Monde Clone. It was the step mashing that took this recipe to the next level. It was good as an LFDM clone. But after we added the step mashing, the recipe went to another level. This is without question the best beer we have ever brewed, and that is saying a lot. This is among the very best beers that I have ever tasted. I am obviously proud of it, and I dearly hope you will try it. I am confident that it will become part of your standard lineup.
So, we begin with a desire to take our LFDM clone and make it somehow even better. We loved the malt profile. We loved the slight expression of honey. We were not trying to correct problems as much as we were seeing if the recipe could become even better. And boy oh boy did we succeed.
What we wanted
- Malty, grainy, bread-like, and sweet, without being cloying.
- Reasonable clarity - we didn't want it to be perfectly clear, but not chunky either.
- Full attenuation - a very digest-able wort
- High alcohol that is completely hidden by the flavor of the beer
- Rich mouth feel
|Jerry Vietz, Unibroue|
But we had an advantage or two, or three. We are home brewers. We have access to the full range of techniques. We are unbound from the limitations of a commercial brewing system. Step mashing is available to us. We were able to taste our wort as we mashed. We are only brewing 10 gallons, Adjustments are easy. So we knew what we wanted, how did we make it happen? Let's break it down.
Acid Rest - We wanted some clarity and we wanted a good mouth feel, We also wanted a beer that would have have a great fermentation and attenuation. Sounds like we need to rest for a while at a temperature that would promote Glucanase activity. Glucanase, as you may recall breaks down Beta Glucans. So 115 F for 15 to 20 minutes. Remember at 115 F Some Peptidase is also active. Which is fine, we'll accept whatever ferulic acid is produced by this rest, even though phenolic flavor is not our focus with this beer.
|The mash will begin to thin out in|
the protein rest.
|Saccharification rests will be at temperatures you are more|
familiar with. Make sure you taste your mash before you
move on to the mash out.
|A thin mash decoction is just wort that you pull, and bring|
to a boil in order to raise your mash to mash out temps.
If you have a recirculating infusion mash system, then just follow the temperature schedule. That is one of the few justifications for the expense of these systems. They make step mashing a breeze. Fill with water, set your temps, go through your steps... done! I still am attracted to the recirculating BIAB systems, like Brausupply, Colorado Brewing Systems, High gravity, and Grainfather.
We do not have a recirculating mash system, yet. Although we are working on converting the keggle to a gas powered recirculating system. When we brew 5 gallons we can heat our mash. We have an electric turkey fryer that can pull double duty as a mash tun. But when we brew 10-gallon batches, we tend to use a 100-quart rectangular cooler.
So, how would we be able to do a step mash for a 10-gallon batch, in a cooler that has no heating element? The answer is an old technique that you may or may not be familiar with. We would be doing an infusion step mash with boiling water.
Infusion mashing is adding boiling water to your mash to increase the temperature of the mash. It is how we did step mashing in the dark ages. The concept is simple. When you add boiling water to the mash, the temperature increases. So, in theory, you can add enough boiling water to raise the temperature of your mash from step to step.
Wait, won't that kill the enzymes? Well, yes, a few. a few of the enzymes will be denatured. But the overwhelming majority will survive. The enzymes will not be affected enough by the boiling water to impact the mash or the mash efficiency at all. It may seem counter intuitive but it works.
But how do you know how much water to add? For that, we turn to our trusty old friend... the interwebs. There are so many great brewing calculators out there. Some of them will even calculate the amount of boiling water you need to add to change the mash from one temperature to the next rest temperature. I generally use Beersmith or Brewtoad. But for mash water calculation I turn to "brewers friend" Mash Infusion and Rest Schedule. I am a fan of brewersfriend.com. When they make recipe input easier, I will probably switch over to it. It is rich with features, and even includes basic water chemistry.
OK, so to calculate the infusions, you have to start with some basic information. You have to know your batch size, your total lbs. of grain, your water to grain ratio and your boil off rate. Your boil off rate? Yes, how else will you know your water to grain ratio?
|The acid/beta glucan|
Rest will be very thick.
Relax, you're adding more water.
- 27 lbs. of grain
- Grain absorption rate .1 gallon per pound of grain.
- Boil off rate is 2 gallons per hour
- So we start with 15.7 gallons of water.
- The math
- 27 lbs. of grain will absorb 2.7 gallons of water
- Pre-boil volume is 13 gallons
- Post boil volume is 11 gallons
So here is what brewersfriend.com mash infusion and rest calculator comes up with
- Strike with 8.37 Gallons of water at 123.1 F - Rest at 115 F for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Wait, wait, wait. 15 to 20 minutes? why not a specific time?
- OK here's why. Your next addition may or may not be boiling yet. Relax, times are not as big of a deal as you have been taught.
- Add 2.5 Gallons of boiling water, stir while you are adding - Rest at 135 F for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add 1.8 Gallons of boiling water, stir while you are adding - Rest at 145 F for 30 minutes.
- Add 2.8 Gallons of boiling water, stir while you are adding - Rest at 156 F for 30 minutes.
- At this point you have used 15.47 gallons of your alloted 15.7 gallons.
- So just add the other .23 gallons of water to the mash out at 168 F.
- Pull a thin mash decoction large enough to bring the mash to 168 F. About 4.75 Gallons.
You may have also noticed that we are using 27 lbs. of grain and 15.7 gallons of water, You can not pull this off in a 10 gallon round cooler. So if that is your mash tun, be prepared to do a 5-gallon batch instead of a 10 gallon. The mash at it's largest will be 17.82 gallons. Our desire to do no sparge, and to do infusion step mashing is part of why we have a 20-gallon rectangular cooler with a door on top.
Next, this coming weekend we will be brewing this recipe with an illustrated guide to step mashing with infusion step mashing. We will also partigyle the grains. A 1.074 beer will produce a 2nd runnings wort of about 1.037. A quick sugar addition will turn that 2nd runnings batch into a 1.050 session saison. So, talk about efficiency? We're getting 15 gallons of beer from this one batch of grains, and we could get 20 if we wanted 20. The saison we will have some fun with. Think Jake has some ideas for hops and dry hopping. Should be fun.
Additional content; While researching this recipe I discovered tastybrew.com mash infusion calculator. I'm impressed. We probably won't try it with this recipe, because we know brewersfriend.com works so well. But I will definitely be giving it a go on my own. Here is what it came up with for our infusion rest schedule.