Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pseudo all-grain

In a distant blog far, far away, a-non-y-mous suggested I start the summer off right and go all-grain. Great idea, but for a variety of reasons now is not the time.

However, I am going to trade my tricycle (extract brewing) in for a two-wheeled bike with training wheels. I am going to start doing partial mashes.

In extract brewing, 90-100% of the fermentable sugars come from malt extract. This source is very convenient and makes great beer. In all-grain brewing, all of the fermentable sugars come from the malted barley. While this beer is also great (and not necessarily better), there are more subtleties involved with all-grain beer that take the art of brewing to a much higher level. Partial mashing is a combination of the two, though more closely associated with extract brewing.

In partial mashing, some of the sugar comes from grains and the rest comes from extract. It is an easy transition to make since the only additional piece of equipment needed is a beverage cooler (and that's not even critical).

I am planning a future post on the actions of amylase during mashing, so I will save the science for later. The general procedure (and I have not actually done this yet) is to add the grains and water at 155° F to the cooler and let it sit for 60-90 minutes. The liquid is drained off and added to the brew kettle. Extracts are added and things proceed as normal.

I am sending my lovely wife on a reconnaissance mission to my homebrew supply store on Thursday. I should be brewing by Friday.... which reminds me, I am going to recover the yeast from the bottles of beer I will drink tonight and make a yeast starter. No need to buy new yeast. They should multiply and be ready to go by Friday.


A-non-y-mous said...

I'll trade you. Your procedure for growing yeast from a bottle for my mini-mash procedure.

I do all my brewing outside in a 6.5 gal brewpot. Heat the water about 10 deg higher that the mash temp you want, add the grains, stir to mix completely, cover, let stand. The temp drops a bit over the hour, about 5-10 deg or more, but if needed just fire up the propane burner to heat it back up. I haven't felt the need to use a cooler.

Instead of a cooler, consider puting your brewpot in the oven, set to low. Throw a thermometer in the oven to see what the lowest temp is, but my guess is it's right around 160 +/-. Makes for an easy way to insulate.

Then for filtering I have a 5 gal bucket that I drilled a bunch (100-200, I didn't count them) of small holes in. I set this bucket into another 5 gal bucket and pour the mash over the homemade sieve. Then I toss the grains back into the brewpot, add hot water (175-180) to sparge, and filter again. Then throw all of the collected wort into the brewpot and proceed as normal using malt extract. The efficiency of all this is ~75%.

Your first partial mash may be awkward, but don't despair, the second one will go like clockwork! You'll notice your brews have a much better body (mash at 150 for lighter bodied, less sweet beer. Mash at 160 for fuller bodied, sweeter brews), and it becomes a bit cheaper to make.

I typically mash 3# of 2-row and ~1# of whatever specialty grains I need (crystal, munich, chocolate, etc.), then supplement with 6# of light malt extract

Don't forget, and this is important, you have to have the grains milled (the 2-row, or any grain which adds fermentable sugars). It's easy to forget. Your brew shop will do it for free for you (or should). I actually just ordered a mill this morning because I keep forgetting.

Once you do the mini-mash, all grain is just a matter of scale, because the technique is the same. Personally, I'm happy with mini-mash, and have no desire to do all grain. Though the cost savings is tempting.

Make sure you take photos and post!

Matt Jenks said...

Is it wrong to use the incubator in your lab to grow your yeast? Just a rhetorical question...

joe said...

Mini-mashes are bunches of fun! Do you currently have a plan for sparging?

I would second the motion to hear more about your yeast recovery regimen.

Also, it might be informative to talk about redox reactions relevant to fermentation, if you're into that sort of thing.