How does it work

I did my first mash experiment this past weekend. It was what the brew store guy called a mini mash. I was making a rye ale and he does not carry rye malt extract. He talked me into making a mini mash with a pound of flaked rye and 1.5 pounds of a base malt. He said to use 1 quart of water per pound and talked me through the process. When I did it I noticed that there did not seem to be enough water. Then I started to think about it. Is this mashing process dependent upon little water that will allow the enzyme process to convert sugars? If I have too much water would it result in the concentration of enzymes to be too low and cause the conversion to not happen?

It’s best if you don’t use, say, a full 5-7 gallons water for your mash or mini-mash. It would probably still work out fine, but most people won’t dare to try it. Rule of thumb that I have heard about is to use no more than 3 quarts/pound to ensure good enzymatic activity. Below that, people are all across the board. Most people will use more than 1 qt/lb, not that there’s anything wrong with that low ratio but the mash is just super thick and more difficult to stir. A lot of people go for 1.3-1.5 qt/lb. That’s what I do quite often, or might occasionally go as high as 1.7-2 qt/lb. Those all work just fine.

There are a few occasions when a super thick mash as low as 0.8 qt/lb is not a bad idea, but these occasions are rare. Example: A very high gravity beer that you want to batch sparge several times, you can mash that low to maximize your efficiency. But high efficiency isn’t necessary if you’re willing and able to throw an extra couple of pounds of grain into the mash for the $2 or whatever it costs to make life easier.

In my experience, the mash ratio really doesn’t matter nearly as much as some people think. From 0.8-3 qt/lb, it’s certainly all good.


Mashing with to much liquor may result in a high pH leading to tannin extraction.

Good point, flars.

He’s right. A lower water to grain ratio makes it far easier to hit the pH of 5.3 that is ideal for mashing. Otherwise when it gets up to 5.7 or higher… the beer doesn’t taste quite so great anymore.

Hmm. Being my first ever mash I did not do anything regarding PH. I just added the 165 degree water and tried to keep it between 155 and 160 for the hour. When I tasted the resulting wort it was indeed sweet so I think I achieved the goal but I do have concerns. I took the temp at the middle of the mash and it was more like in the 148 degree range. The brew shop guy recommended I use a steeping bag for my mash since I did not have any mashing equipment. So my mini mash was sort of like a mini brew in a bag. What I was reading was that if the temp is too low I could get unfermentable sugars. I guess these are the reasons why this is a hobby. If it were easy and required no effort to get it right it would not be fun. It’s not the kill, it’s the thrill of the chase.

It’s the opposite – if the temperature is too HIGH you’ll get unfermentable sugars. On the lower end, your sugars will be more fermentable. Sounds like you actually did okay. We all have our own opinions, but mine is that most beers should be mashed anywhere between 148-152 F. So I usually shoot for 150 F and if it’s anywhere in that range, I’m happy and successful. So if you hit 148 F, you were good. 155-160 F is okay for a few styles but too high for most… although it truly is a matter of personal preference as well.