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Planning my first brew - a few questions first

I’m going through the John Palmer online book on brewing. I haven’t read all of it - he really goes into great detail. I can’t seem to find what the difference is between steeping and mashing. As I understand it, steeping is for specialty grains that don’t ferment, but just add flavor. Mashing is steeping the grain before the boil and the grain that is mashed is fermented. But as far as the actual process, they are the same thing, as far as I can tell. You heat it in water about 170F for about 1/2 hour and then add it to the wort. (time and temp may vary).

Another thing I’m wondering is: the water where I live is very hard. I use a reverse osmosis filter and I’m afraid that would be too soft (no minerals). Should I add salts or bicarbonates to the water depending on what type of beer I want to brew or should I wait till after and adjust the pH?

I was thinking of trying a partial mash porter using dark LME and chocolate grain. The chocolate grain would be the specialty grain for steeping, right?

Steeping and mashing are very different. If you are using malt extract the mash process has been done for you. You steep the specialty grains just to get flavor and/or color. They do not contribute any fermentables. Mashing converts starches into sugar that can be fermented. You can add the non-fermentable grain for the same flavor or color as you did using extract. Yes the chocolate malt is a good example of a grain you might steep.

About your RO water. Yes if you use it, minerals and salts will have to be added. What and how much will depend on the style you are brewing. There are some real good water experts here but I do not claim to be one. My water is pretty good so I don’t mess with it much. Post what you are trying to brew with your water and you will get lots of help. With extract the malting company used water suitable for making the extract so water is not as much of a concern as mashing the entire brew.

[quote=“sunbelt57”]I’m going through the John Palmer online book on brewing. I haven’t read all of it - he really goes into great detail. I can’t seem to find what the difference is between steeping and mashing. As I understand it, steeping is for specialty grains that don’t ferment, but just add flavor. Mashing is steeping the grain before the boil and the grain that is mashed is fermented. But as far as the actual process, they are the same thing, as far as I can tell. You heat it in water about 170F for about 1/2 hour and then add it to the wort. (time and temp may vary).

[/quote]

Your understanding is partially correct. Mashing does a couple of things: it ‘washes’ the starches off of the grains, but it also activates enzymes in the grain itself that CONVERTS those starches into shorter chain sugars, which are then fermentable by yeast. With steeping, you are rinsing grains that don’t necessarily contribute any fermentable sugars, just melanoidins (carmelized sugars that, you are correct, don’t ferment).

[quote=“sunbelt57”]
Another thing I’m wondering is: the water where I live is very hard. I use a reverse osmosis filter and I’m afraid that would be too soft (no minerals). Should I add salts or bicarbonates to the water depending on what type of beer I want to brew or should I wait till after and adjust the pH?

I was thinking of trying a partial mash porter using dark LME and chocolate grain. The chocolate grain would be the specialty grain for steeping, right?[/quote]

Hopefully Martin Brungard will chime in here, but I believe that for an extract beer (where you aren’t mashing), RO water should be great (assuming your RO filter actually produces RO water!). The reason is the malt syrup already has the short chain sugars in it that yeast can eat. Therefore mash chemistry, which is largely driven by the content of the water, doesn’t matter.

Pick up a hard copy of How to Brew. Its a great resource.

Congrats on taking the hardest step to making great beer, good luck and welcome to the obsession! There are a lot of good brewers on this forum. I’ve regular’d on a few of them, and NB’s has a great balance of practical information/advice without being too technical.

I think mashing and steeping are pretty similar. I mash all my beers in a bag, otherwise known as Brew In A Bag (BIAB), and this is really nothing more than a large glorified steep. However, I don’t agree that 170 F is a good temperature for either one. For a mash, you want to hold the temperature at around 150 F for at least 40 minutes. The main difference between that and a steep of specialty grains is that you don’t need to hold for 40 minutes for a steep, just yank the bag after a few minutes (5 minutes?) then add your extract and roll, as like you said, you’re not trying to convert starch to sugars but rather just extracting color and flavor.

If you’re brewing with extract, definitely use 100% RO water. When you move to all-grain, then you can think about playing with salt additions. Salt additions should not be required for most styles when brewing with extract, since extract already contains all the salts you need from the manufacturing process. Anyway, with steeping grains, it’s best to keep the pH as low as possible, and RO water will do that for you. For a mini-mash, you’ll be shooting for a pH of 5.1 to 5.5. Again, your RO water and dark grains should get you there just fine.

Steep for a few minutes in the 150-160 F range, then yank the bag, add your extract and bring to a boil. That’s all there really is to it. For a mini-mash, you can still use a bag, BIAB, and just hold at 150 for 40 minutes to do your mash.

:cheers:

Awesome! I just got my shipment of choc malted grains and I’m ready to start brewing. Here’s the recipe I was given that I’m working off of:

3.3# Dark LME
2# Extra Dark LME (or just use 5.3# of Dark)
2.4# choc malt
150F 45 minutes
then add 10oz cascade hops
boil 35 minutes with hops
1 packet dry ale yeast after cools down to 75F
let set for 7 days

The guy that gave me this is on vacation right now so maybe one of you could tell me: how long to steep the grains and at what temp. (I’m assuming 150F @ 45minutes then add the extract and hops and boil for 35 minutes).

Is that supposed to say 1.0 ounces of Cascade hops? 10 ounces seems a bit over the top.

15 minutes to steep your specialty grain will be just fine for this, no need to steep a full 45 minutes unless doing a mini-mash, and you’re not doing that.

[quote=“in_the_basement”]Is that supposed to say 1.0 ounces of Cascade hops? 10 ounces seems a bit over the top.[/quote]Thanks for pointing that out. He told me the recipe in the parking lot and I scribbled it down on a note pad. Then it got lost and when I found it, I transcribed it to electronic media. Something may have gotten lost in translation.

Mashing and steeping are both extremely similar and very different.

Process wise, they are pretty much the same. Get grains, put them in water, keep the temp 60-70C (140-158F), wait until ‘done’.

Chemically, they are worlds apart. Luckily at this stage you dont really need to understand the exact reactions that occur, just that they do.

Personally, I’m not too sure on the recipe. Using ~2.4# of choc malt? Adding cascade hops at 35 mins? Only fermenting for 7 days?

Have you bought everything yet? If not, Here’s what I would do:

0.75# Choc Malt (Steep @150F for 30 mins)
3# Dark LME
3# Light LME
1oz Cascade
Boil w/ hops for 60 mins
Add yeast once cool
Ferment for 2 weeks minimum, then bottle when stable SG over 3 days.
(Do you have a hydrometer? If not, then you should definitely get one!)

This will give you a Brown Porter that is a lot more true to style. You could bump up the hops to about 1.4oz if you like a more bitter beer, but using 1oz will still be fine and more easy-drinking.

[quote=“Machalel”]Mashing and steeping are both extremely similar and very different.

Process wise, they are pretty much the same. Get grains, put them in water, keep the temp 60-70C (140-158F), wait until ‘done’.

Chemically, they are worlds apart. Luckily at this stage you dont really need to understand the exact reactions that occur, just that they do.

Personally, I’m not too sure on the recipe. Using ~2.4# of choc malt? Adding cascade hops at 35 mins? Only fermenting for 7 days?

Have you bought everything yet? If not, Here’s what I would do:

0.75# Choc Malt (Steep @150F for 30 mins)
3# Dark LME
3# Light LME
1oz Cascade
Boil w/ hops for 60 mins
Add yeast once cool
Ferment for 2 weeks minimum, then bottle when stable SG over 3 days.
(Do you have a hydrometer? If not, then you should definitely get one!)

This will give you a Brown Porter that is a lot more true to style. You could bump up the hops to about 1.4oz if you like a more bitter beer, but using 1oz will still be fine and more easy-drinking.[/quote]

Yes, I have a hydrometer but I don’t have any light LME. I also realized I don’t have a way to measure the weight of anything other than the small electronic scale I use for reloading (grains & grams). The container of Dark LME is 6# so I only have to measure 1/2 of that and I have 3.3# of Briess CBW Porter (could I use that as a substitute for Light LME?) And could I estimate 3/4# of the grains using a measuring cup?

sunbelt57,
Welcome to the worlds greatest hobby, and good luck. I’m a 72 year old man that has been extract brewing since early 2002. The best advice an old man can offer is, keep thing simple starting out with this great hobby. Also stay with this form, there are a lot of great people that will support and help you. Some of the best complements I have received is on some of the simplest of beers that I brew. In closing I’ll say it again, keep it simple starting out and most of all have fun.

Good Luck,
Jazzman

Ah ok then, well you could use the whole 6# of dark LME instead and still have nice beer. :slight_smile:

What sort of measurement does your scale go up to? 0.75# is 340g (if that helps).

It goes up to just under 1000 grams but they have digital food scales at China Mart for ~15 bucks that go up to 11#.

Hey, just one more question: If I can’t find a rubber gasket to fit my air lock, can I use modeling clay or just glue it on?

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