GET YOUR BEER EDUCATION: Let me tell you a little about myself. Since I've been young, I've always asked "why?" I've always questioned things. I research a lot on my own and don't seek out personal mentors that feed me advice every second. I'm just not that impressionable. I'm a nonconformist and generally don't follow the group. That's probably why I don't follow groups most of the time. If you've kept up with me so far you've seen where I go for the latest information in blogs. The best information is in blogs and websites. Reliable websites are sites by established teachers like BYO (Brew Your Own) magazine. Whereas, groups seem to give you minimal information. I won't mention any names, but I may step on a few toes here. If you have gotten into groups in social media you may have found that other members act anywhere from helpful to not having a clue about your homebrewing problems. Some members may just ignore you. You may have met that social media member that has very narrow minded views and has criticized you for not following the path that has been established. Some members are very experienced at brewing and may try to lead you down their same road. Try to take social media groups lightly. You may have to research some of your beer questions on your own.
OTHER MASHING METHODS: Through the blogs and books I've been reading, I've discovered other mashing techniques besides the easy method, of single infusion, I've described in the earlier entries of this blog:
1. Multi-Step Infusion
You can read the full descriptions of what these are on the internet, but I'll give you an idea of what these involve. Multi-step infusion is just hitting other temperatures at specific time intervals instead of just staying in the 150's temperatures for an hour. Decoction is taking some of your grains and water over to a separate container to cook at a higher temperature: usually boiling with constant stirring. After a specific time interval, the boiled mixture is moved back in with the batch where it came from. This results in a more caramel taste in your beer.
MY MASH TESTING: There are a variety of steps that brewers don't agree on in regards to mashing. I'm still testing 4 methods below. I'm only making my Paulaner Wiesn clone beers now to see how they compare.
A. As described earlier, most homebrewers agree that mashing should be temperatures in the 150's for an hour. Many will say grains are well modified and don't need any other mash technique. Take it off the burner, put the lid on, wait 7 minutes, put it back on the burner, stir it, take the temperature to maintain the temperature. Repeat this for about an hour. This involves no mashout as some homebrewers say you can leave it out. I know now that I must have my batch of beer in the 150 degree range for at least 40 - 60 minutes to get sweet enough.
B. Zymmurgy magazine highlighted brewer Dan Gordon using what he learned at Weihenstephan. It is a German way of brewing multi-step infusion. With this method, I constantly maintain temperature as close to the desired temperatures with a thermometer, stirring and adjusting the stove controls as necessary. These maintained temperatures, called "rests", are 126, 140, 154, 162 and a mash out at 172 degrees Fahrenheit.
C. The same Zymmurgy magazine article also outlines Gordon's decoction method. This method is followed when dark malts are over 25% of the total. I focus on boiling separate mixtures, pulling about 25% of the mixture from the main pot, which are then added back after 10 minutes. This method adds another rest of 104 degrees before all the the same temperature rests listed in method B above. So far, I have not done a true decoction. I just have taken separate boiled parts of the mixture out 3 times, with constant stirring to prevent scorching each separate batch, before adding it back to the pot. I usually wait 10 minutes between each stirring. I then follow a method A above with a mashing in the 150's. I will be experimenting with more decoction in the near future.
D. I synthesized a hybrid method of using Drew Beechum's method in his The Everything Homebrewing Book. I don't rest (hover around 1 temperature for a time period); I hit a temperature, put the lid on the pot, following the same procedure listed in method A above with the pot off the burner, but cooked at the various temperatures like method B above. It is less intensive, but has a mashout.
ATTENUATION: Don Gordon noted that the German way of brewing can control attenuation or alcohol in your beer. More attenuation means a dryer more alcoholic brew. The temperatures of 126 and 140 seem to control attenuation. I might try to do a comparison with a mash for 10 minutes and then another batch at 30 minutes at each of these temperature ranges to see how attenuation affects the taste. Randy Mosher also covered the other temperatures in his book Extreme Brewing.
BEER HAZE/BEER FOAM: I found that BYO magazine had an article on beer haze. Hazy beer is not clear beer. BYO showed that you can combat beer haze with a protein rest between 113 and 140 degrees. A good rolling boil and a quick chill of the wort is the best to fight beer haze. So, if I do a mash at 126 or 140 from the methods above I should see reduced beer haze. Be aware that if you fight beer haze too long you may end up loosing some of your beer foam in the process. I don't use Irish Moss any longer because it was cutting down on my beer foam. I've also switched over to brown sugar instead of plain table sugar. Brown sugar gives a better head on my beer in comparison tests. I don't buy any expensive cane sugar, but rather the Domino brand. (Domino Sugar is a registered trademark of Domino Foods)
MORE ABOUT MASH: It appears that if you are using some of the more complex sugars, like honey, or other adjuncts, like wheat or rice, you might benefit from using multi-step infusion in your brewing.
MY PAULANER WIESN CLONE: My clone of the Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn is a mix of Dark Munich malts and German Pilsner. These are the 2 ingredient malts as listed by the company on their website. I just haven't found the right percentage yet. I got a batch that was too red with 13% Dark Munich and 87% German Pilsner. I know now that the percentage should be less. I'm going to try 7% Dark Munich on my next batch.
SUMMARY: I've pulled the major points from The Everything Homebrewing Book by Drew Beechum, Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher and the Zymmurgy article comes from "Lager Brewing the German Way" of their Nov/Dec issue 2011. Truthfully, I've told you the secrets. However, I'm still working on some conclusions which I will share with you soon. You don't have to follow an entire method above, but you can add an extra temperature step above to see if it makes a difference in your homebrews. If you don't mash out try one on your next batch. If you have wheat as an ingredient in your recipe try to hit 104 degrees for 20 minutes in addition to what you already do. If you want more alcohol try hitting 126 for 20 minutes in addition to your routine. I noticed that the multi-step infusion adds some kind of complexity to the beer. I'm not a certified judge, but I can honestly say it makes my beer taste better. Be different, experiment and have fun. Really now, isn't brewing better than cooking?