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To Decoc or not?

I’m curious for some feedback from fellow home brewers. I’ve been doing some reading on decoction mashes and am interested to try it out, but everything I read lays out the process and follows it up with “but with today’s highly modified grains, decoctions are not usually necessary”. So, for those of you who’ve tried multiple types of mashing (decoction, step mash, single infusion) can you give me some first hand advice? I realize decoctions aren’t necessary, but do they improve your beer? Seems like a lot of time and work, which I’m not opposed too, but only if the reward is worth it.

If it helps in the conversation, I’m starting to get back into making lagers which I’ve gotten away from for a while due to the lengthy time they consume. But, I’m on a lager kick and plan on brewing a few over the next few months. I’m also of German decent and am interested in brewing a few traditional German lagers (Pils, Dunkelweizen, etc).

Based on your post, you should do it just to try it. I have done it a handful of times and it was definitely worth the experience. In my opinion based on this brief flirtation with decoction mashing, the end product is no better than the same beer brewed with a single infusion mash. The one exception to this has been a bopils I brewed with a modified Hochkurz schedule of decoction—that is, mashing in at 142, 40 min. rest, pulling a decoction, raising the mash to 158, 30 min. rest, pulling another decoction, raising the mash to mash out. That, combined with a 120 minute boil produced a lovely product. But frankly, I’d like to try it again with a single infusion and the long boil.

Again, do it for the sake of the experience. Maybe start by doing a single infusion with a single decoction to mash out. But I’m not convinced it makes a big difference.

YMMV

[quote=“DCBC”]Based on your post, you should do it just to try it. I have done it a handful of times and it was definitely worth the experience. In my opinion based on this brief flirtation with decoction mashing, the end product is no better than the same beer brewed with a single infusion mash. The one exception to this has been a bopils I brewed with a modified Hochkurz schedule of decoction—that is, mashing in at 142, 40 min. rest, pulling a decoction, raising the mash to 158, 30 min. rest, pulling another decoction, raising the mash to mash out. That, combined with a 120 minute boil produced a lovely product. But frankly, I’d like to try it again with a single infusion and the long boil.

Again, do it for the sake of the experience. Maybe start by doing a single infusion with a single decoction to mash out. But I’m not convinced it makes a big difference.

YMMV[/quote]

I was feeling EXACTLY what you posted. Give it a shot just to give it a shot. And after reading about the many different styles, I was going to try exactly what you suggest. Just a single decoction the first time around and maybe a Hochkurz for the next.

So long story short, give it a shot just to do it, but don’t expect a noticeable difference with the finished product.

While I agree with the “do it and decide for yourself” theory, personally I don’t think they necessarily improve a beer. An experiment I did with blind tasters found the same (http://www.ahaconference.org/wp-content … nyConn.pdf , starting on pg. 25). The experiment was on single decocted beers and the overall conclusion was the those who preferred non decocted versions or had no preference outnumbered those who preferred the decocted beer. A triple decoction might have different results. I still do decoctions occasionally, but it’s to determine if maybe I missed something rather than because I think it will improve the beer.

Thanks for the input and link, Denny. I’m gonna give it a shot, but will suppress any high expectations.

P.S. To Denny, thanks for the raisin and fig infusion idea in my Belgian Dubbel recipe. Came out nice. Early on it tasted a little flat/watered down, but is aging nicely. Been in the keg and carbed for 2 weeks now and it gets a little tastier every few days. Thanks again!
:cheers:

[quote=“dobe12”]P.S. To Denny, thanks for the raisin and fig infusion idea in my Belgian Dubbel recipe. Came out nice. Early on it tasted a little flat/watered down, but is aging nicely. Been in the keg and carbed for 2 weeks now and it gets a little tastier every few days. Thanks again!
:cheers: [/quote]

Cool!

One other thought about Hochkurz…it would be interesting to compare a hochkurz using the decoction as the heat source for the temp step, and compare to one where you do the same temp step by infusion.

I’ve heard a lot about the benefits of hochkurz but nothing that told me how much was simply the temperature-stepped conversion rest vs. the decoction.

I found this podcast very helpful JamilZ., John Palmer interviewing Denny about Decoction mashing - process, pros, cons, experiments, etc.

http://thebrewingnetwork.com/shows/527

I think that most people look at this from the wrong point of view. When I do a decoction, I do it because it is FUN. It adds to my experience of creating beer. If I wanted easy, I’d go to the beer store. In the end I think it makes a difference in my beer…even if its only in my head.

Yeah, I can understand that, but I can also understand that some want the brewday to go a little quicker. To each his own!

I’m sure I do a lot of things that may or may not add much to the final product as well, some because I find them satisfying and they technically make sense to me, and others more because I’m seriously paranoid about screwing things up.
:cheers:

I like to work smart… not hard. Not saying a decoction mash isn’t smart. I was just looking for some feedback from those who’ve tried. Just wondering if there is a noticeable difference. Denny has scientific proof, generally there is not a noticeable difference.

I do plan on trying one, but have no intention of doubling my brew days with no added benefit.

Yeah, I can understand that, but I can also understand that some want the brewday to go a little quicker. To each his own!

I’m sure I do a lot of things that may or may not add much to the final product as well, some because I find them satisfying and they technically make sense to me, and others more because I’m seriously paranoid about screwing things up.
:cheers: [/quote]

Yeah, my brew day is already 6–7 hours with a single infusion from setup until the end of cleanup. With my first double decoction, it was twelve (that, of course, included a 120 min. boil instead of 90). With two kids, I’m lucky to get one 7 hour brew day per month. I still say “do it; it’s fun!” In fact, do back to back of the same style, one with decoction, one without. See what you think. Enjoy the experience.

I like to work smart… not hard. Not saying a decoction mash isn’t smart. I was just looking for some feedback from those who’ve tried. Just wondering if there is a noticeable difference. Denny has scientific proof, generally there is not a noticeable difference.

I do plan on trying one, but have no intention of doubling my brew days with no added benefit.[/quote]

Denny only did a single decoction though. I have found that for a proper pils with the “grainy” flavor, that a double decoction gives a different flavor than a single infusion.
I use the hochkhurz method method for German Lagers and will continue to do so as I notice a difference.

IMO, that’s the best reason to do a decoction, or anything else in the brewing process.

For the record, I think the word is “decoct”. I wince when I read the title of this thread, gives me visions of Elena Bobbit.

Well “decoc” wouldn’t be correct for that use either.

That alone is a good enough reason. And if you are twisted like me, you might add a couple of habanero peppers for good measure. Sort of like doing a ceral mash with adjunts, not necessary with all the flaked & torrified choices, but you can understand the process. But I think it is true it is not necessary, but neither is making your own beer, especially with all the beers available today, but I’ll continue to brew as long as I can.

I’m pretty new to AG but I have a 5 Gallon Mash-tun and want to brew a Oktoberfest with 3-different rests. There will not be enough room for 3 infusions so I’m thinking of draining some of the hot liquor and heating it back on the stove and adding back to the mash tun to meet all the temperature rests. I believe this would be considered a form of decoction but I’m not sure. Any one have feedback on this approach?

Back int the day I used to only do decoctions, because at the time my first decocted batch was way better than any previous. Probably because I like malt heavy beers and it allowed that to come through when my hop rates were likely a little high.

Nowadays, it seems like way too much time. My brews are great with single infusions. I may use it again if I want something specific out of german style lagers, but for the most part I am finished with the process.

But try it regardless. You will be amazed with how efficient your mashing becomes. Account for this when designing your grain bill.

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