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Why partial mash?

I have been extract brewing (with specialty grains) for a year and a half. I enjoy the process and have been having pretty good success. I do not really have an interest in converting to all grain brewing.

Having this in mind, would there be any benefit in switching to partial mash brewing? Does partial mash brewing allow one to minimize extract twang and or make better beer? Or, is partial mash just a method used to transition to all grain?

Excellent question. It’s a little bit of both. PM allows you to use some ingredients you can’t use with extract, and it lets you get better flavor and control with other ingredients. There are a lot of grains that aren’t used in making the extracts. You can steep them when doing extract brewing, but with the exception of crystal malts (whose starches have been turned to sugar, which has been caramelized) and highly roasted malts such as roasted barley, black, and chocolate (whose starches have been roasted to the point that they can’t be converted to sugar) all you get from steeping is starches, which can give some flavor and color, but also make the beer cloudy and don’t contribute fermentables. Partial mash lets you use all grains to their fullest, and opens up to you corn, rice, rye, and oats (which you can sort-of get in syrups if you look hard enough). PM is like steeping with specific volumes of water at specific temperatures and for specific time. For my money and time, it’s more worth it to get a good boil, quick cooling, good yeast pitching, and fermentation temp control really dialed in before worrying about partial mash or all-grain. It can give fuller malt flavor and more nuances in flavor, and it gives you more control over the level of fermentability of your wort, but a lot of people jump to it before addressing the other (and above-mentioned) aspects of their process.

I’ve been brewing with extract & specialty grains for 12 years. personally, I’m ready to go to another level. don’t jump into a different process until you’re ready. abrown001 hit the nail right on the head.

You will make better beer and have more control over the beers you make with minimal effort

Partial mash is a great stepping stone to all grain. If you’re doing extract with steeping grains now, chances are you have all you need to do partial mash except a grain mill. If you have a LHBS near by or a friend with a grain mill, you’re set!

It’s way more fun and there’s a greater sense of creating something when you mash. Not to knock extract because I started with it like most and you can make some damn good beers with extract, but all grain or partial mashing gives you a lot more control and opens up a whole new world of options in terms of color and flavor. You can start building better and more specific and controlled recipes.

And if you get the hang of partial mash, you can even start doing all grain. You may not be able to make a big beer, but all grain is the same as partial mash. You just use more grain and no extract. It all depends on how many lbs of grain your system can hold.

Like abrown mentioned, there are grains that have to be mashed and aren’t available (or readily available) as extracts. Malt is also cheaper than malt extract, so mini-mashing is less expensive than extract brewing, if that’s a concern for you.

I’m with dobe12. I started doing partial mashes a few months ago, and it does give you a lot more control. You can make more complex, more interesting beers.

For me, it was also a way to get over my fear of mashing. After a couple of batches and a little advice, I started hitting my gravities right on, that gave me the courage to move on to AG. I’ll never go back to extract now, AG is way to much fun and the beer is absolutely better.

Thank you all for the responses. Always educational.

All that was said, and it really is no more work than extract with specialty grains. Maybe a longer steeping time and paying closer attention to mash temp, but I notice good results with partial mash. Also, I still do extract/specialty grain when I feel like it. Give it a try, all you need is a bigger bag.

Some grains need to be mashed or else they contribute nothing to your beer. They require the enzymes from base malts to convert their starches to sugars. So partial mash (PM) or AG is required to use those grains. That is the reason why the Surly recipes are PM or AG only.

You could fully switch to AG, but if you’re not in a position to do that, then you can move up to PM with minimal investment. It will greatly expand the amount ingredients you can use to make beer with.

As kind of a follow up to this, I’ve thinking about trying out partial mashing as well. Been doing NB extract kits for about a year now, and want to step it up a notch. But there are very few partial mash kits offered by NB and I don’t quite feel creative enough to come up with my own recipes.

Can I take an all grain recipe and convert it to partial mash? Or where do people get their partial mash recipes from?

[quote=“Takehiko”]As kind of a follow up to this, I’ve thinking about trying out partial mashing as well. Been doing NB extract kits for about a year now, and want to step it up a notch. But there are very few partial mash kits offered by NB and I don’t quite feel creative enough to come up with my own recipes.

Can I take an all grain recipe and convert it to partial mash? Or where do people get their partial mash recipes from?[/quote]

there are tons of partial mash recipe online, or post your recipe to get it reveiwed by others.
Your steeping grains usually remain the same and your just adding 2row or MO or something along those lines to account for the extract

It is easier to do the recipe conversion if you use brewing software like BeerSmith, Promash, or possibly even iBrewMaster. Essentially, you’ll substitute some base malt (2-row, pilsen, marris otter, etc) for some of the light extract so that the computed OG is the same. The same process can be used to convert extract to all grain recipes.

Mini-mashing is all grain brewing, just doing part of it with extract and part with mash. I suppose if you do mostly american style beers it does not really matter but if your into the Euro beers then it’s close to impossible to replicate the malting style. An american pale ale malt extract is not the same as a British or Belgian malt. Williams brewing has a couple of extracts in the Belgian and British style but that’s about it. That was mentioned before but more in sugar conversion of grains vs. a completely different flavor. Although the two are closely related…

Mini-mashing takes the same amount of time as using ‘All’ grain and the same method. Although you can do the bag thing too (same time factor, just a single kettle). Not convinced with the efficiency though.

I like doing both All grain and extract. Extract is faster for sure and with some styles makes some kicking beer without all the extra work. I think at this point I would rather do all grain or extract but not PM, seems like more work between the extract and mashing. It is true you are more dependent on hitting your numbers with all grain (keep a spare pound of DME if low to add in at the end) but the taste is the answer. If your satisfied with extract then why change?
Then again I have not experienced this extract ‘twang’ thing ether. chlorinated water yes, but that is an issue with any brewing syle.

The NB kits have Promash recipe files that anyone can download from this site, and you can get a free trial copy of Promash on the web as well. There are some subtleties (pretty much all having to do with efficiency settings), but the conversion is pretty intuitive. Simply swap some base malt for some light extract and you’re pretty much there…

Converting AG to MM is pretty simple. … n-and-back

Basically you mash all the specialty malts and as much base malt as you can, then make up the remaining gravity with whatever extract is closest to the base malt.

Awesome, thanks for the tips everyone!

Partial Mash in a paint strainer bag from home depot works well. I have two kettles. An aluminum from a turkey fryer and a larger stainless steel from when I went to full boils.

I’ve done partial mashes and all grain batches with this method and it works great. I do “sparge” lift the bag for the first runnings and place in 2nd kettle with appropriate temp and volume of water to sparge. And have even done 3rd runnings. I got good efficiency doing all grain but gets trickier with bigger beers.

Just getting back into brewing after a long hiatus and I’ll be doing a partial mash. Using 3lbs of extra light dry extract in place of base malts to make things a little easier and more forgiving since I’ll only be mashing like 8 lbs of grain, until I get my groove back.

I’ve also used extract in place of base malts in the past when I wanted to ensure my stout had more body.

Once you get into partial mash and all grain you’ll never want to go back to just steeping! Way more fun and flexible.

I went from extract to stove-top all grain, by passing PM. I use a 5 gallon cooler for my mash but because of its size and the size of my former extract pot, I’m limited to half-batches with each mash. No real problem as I cut each recipe in half and do two mashes and two boils, then combine both in one carboy. Only real drawback is the extra time involved due to two batches.

But, I recently did a PM with one low gravity batch and diluted a high-gravity half-batch with sanitized water. After my mash (7.25lbs) and boil, I had:

12 qts post boil at SG = 1.087
I added 2.25 qts cold water at 1.000
OG = (3 x 1.087) + (2.25 x 1.000) = 5.25X
then, solve for X for OG
X = 1.0497 = 1.050 = OG

Beer turned out great. So, why do PM? Because sometimes you might be feeling a little lazy. :wink:


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