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Step Mashing

I figured I would re-hash an old subject to get some fresh perspective on it.

For those that like to do the extra work, or are working with under modified malts, I have read that a step mash schedule may be particularly helpful.

Here is an example schedule that some may follow (in this example I am calculating for 15 lbs of grain that are 65 degrees):

Protein Rest: 122° F for 15 minutes 18.75 quarts (1.25:1) heated to 131.1 degrees F
Beta Sacch’ Rest: 149° F for 30 minutes 9.3 quarts at boiling
Alpha Sacch’ Rest: 158 F for 30 minutes 5.2 quarts at boiling
Mashout: 170° F for 15 minutes 10.4 quarts at boiling

In total that is almost 11 gallons of water; which to me, seems a little high being that a lot of people are using the 10 gallon Igloo cooler.

Now where I am really confused with the process is: if one were to batch sparge, would it be acceptable to skip the Mashout? And just add the sparge water at this point? Or, if not do you just drain your tun after the Alpha Sacch’ rest, then add your sparge water amount?
Also, very generic, but do you stir at each point of the temp rise?

I have either done single infusion batch sparging or single infusing fly sparging with a Mashout prior to sparging.

I probably will not change the way I do things, I just like to know other processes should I switch it up down the road.

There is never a need to do a mashout with batch sparging IMO. Also, unless you can find under modified malt, a protein rest isn’t a good idea. If you want to do one, 15 min, at 131 is what you should do. Mashing in a cooler, I have never found any calculator that can accurately predict water temps and amounts. If I decide to do a step mash, I add boiling water until I get to the temp I want. It’s more accurate to do it that way. Of course, the only reason I ever do step mashes any more is to make sure that I was correct when I decided there was no benefit to step mashes! :wink:

…ever since my first “step-mash” in 1996, this mash schedule (infusion or decoction) has always provided a clearer, more fermentable wort no matter if batch-sparging or fly-sparging:

140-148F 20 min.
151-157F 40 min.
168F 10 min.

Keep in mind that if your clarifying additives and your fermentation technique is well honed, for a few pennies more, a single-infusion 151-158F range produces highly fermentable wort with a similar gravity; I just like the “cleaner,” maltier results I get when I step-mash.

This schedule is based on the late, great Dr. George Fix’s findings based on his mash methodology; given this, arithmetic based logic suggests that the genetics could not have improved so drastically in maybe 50-60 generations of grain; therefore, Dr.Fix’s brewing methodology should still produce the best results; but, that’s just my thinking :blah: …

I typically brew lower gravity beers < 1.046 with at least half our grain-bill consisting of specialty malts: Munich, Honey malt, CaraPils, chocolate, etc.

Hoppy Zymology!

"Of course, the only reason I ever do step mashes any more is to make sure that I was correct when I decided there was no benefit to step mashes! :wink: "

That is the conclusion I am getting at. I found that single infusion with a batch sparge seems to work great for me.

I think the boiling H20 approach would work best as you mentioned. This way one would not over/under shoot their temps.

In your humble opinion, is Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner Malt modified enough to completely skip a protein rest and just go with a single infusion at say 148 for 90 minutes?

You’ll have to d/l the specs from Weyermann to see. Here’s what to look for, according to John Palmer…

The most common indicator of malt modification is the Soluble to Total Protein Ratio (S/T ratio), also known as the Kolbach Index. To
generalize, a ratio of 36 to 40 percent is a less-modified malt, 40 to 44 percent is a well-modified malt and 44 to 48 percent is a highly modified malt. Less-modified malts may require decoction mashing where boiling of portions of the mash and multiple temperature rests help to fully solubilize and convert the starches. Well modified malts may benefit from multiple temperature rests during mashing, but can be fully converted using a single temperature rest. Highly modified malts can easily be converted using a single temperature rest.

I never looked up the specs that Denny mentions but I’ve done a single infusion mash with that malt (and the floor malted variety) and gotten my expected efficiency. The beers turned out great (various batches of Munich Helles and Bohemian Pils)

Only time I do a step mash is when using a large percentage of unmalted wheat and like Denny mentioned the calculations never seem to predict the correct amount of water. I now do like he says, add hot water until you get to the temp you want. The calculation usually gets me in the ball park but I almost need to use a bit more water.

How about when there is a high percentage of adjuncts or rye malt? I haven’t done a controlled study on it, but it seems to me that the sparge goes easier if the temperature is higher, which only really matters if you’re playing with a gummy grain bill.

I agree that batch sparging happens so fast that there is no need to lock in the conversion profile, which is the primary reason mashouts are typically recommended.

When working with a cooler, I’ve found that decoction is the easiest way to handle a multi-step mash. You can handle two or perhaps even three steps just by adding boiling water (assuming you started with a particularly thick dough-in), but the decoction seems to be easier to tune-in. There is a lot of argument if decoctions really benefit the final beer, and I suspect the answer is not significantly if at all, but it does bump the efficiency but quite a bit.

I’ve done a few step mashes using infusion temps recommended by Beersmith, and have had excellent results. I’ve generally been within 1-2 degrees of my target temp. It can be done if you don’t mind the extra time time and effort. :slight_smile:

A couple of years ago I ran extensive internet searches TRYING to purposely purchase anything labeled as “undermodified malt”. Searched for hours… and came up empty. Perhaps I was looking in all the wrong places. But I’m fairly confident that undermodified malt is pretty difficult to source, or at least it was a couple of years ago. In conclusion: Decoction is of questionable benefit (although I do it for some of my lagers), and protein rests, well, totally unnecessary and even detrimental. Also, I’m with Denny when he says a mashout is never necessary – this is true for all small batch brewers who are able to get their sweet wort up to a boil within an hour.

How about when there is a high percentage of adjuncts or rye malt? I haven’t done a controlled study on it, but it seems to me that the sparge goes easier if the temperature is higher, which only really matters if you’re playing with a gummy grain bill.

I agree that batch sparging happens so fast that there is no need to lock in the conversion profile, which is the primary reason mashouts are typically recommended.[/quote]

I haven’t found that to be the case. I just use hotter water to batch sparge and skip the mashout completely. No problems with up to 60% rye malt.

The Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner Malt is fine without any step mashing and simply batch sparging without any question in my mind. I have gone through 2 sacks of the stuff in the last year. The floor malted variety makes a beer that is almost as good as Best Malz.

…well, I would say that your brewing process is spot-on: stick with it!
It s just beer, right?

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