Choosing a Mash Method III (Simple Heated Step Mash, Part Two)

This is the second half of an article that was posted yesterday



A step mash for a reasonably dry beer — drier than could be made with a single infusion mash.

After the beta amylase rest (140–145 °F/60–63 °C), and the temperature ramp up into the saccharification range (148–162 °F/64–72 °C), the rest of wort production is almost identical to a single infusion mash. One difference is that you can choose a slightly higher temperature for your main mash rest. If you were brewing a dry beer and using a single infusion mash, you would likely rest in the 148–151 °F (64–66 °C) range. If you were brewing a somewhat drier beer, you could in the 152–154 °F (67–68 °C) range after the beta amylase rest. Because you’ve already rested at lower temperatures (favoring beta amylase), your main rest can be slightly higher, favoring alpha amylase a bit more, comparatively.

Both alpha and beta amylase will be active at both rests, just to varying degrees. In the beta amylase range, the activity of alpha amylase is still substantial (albeit less than it will be at the higher temperature of the saccharification rest). In the saccharification rest, beta amylase activity continues, although it will decline fairly quickly over time. Still — since it has already been working for a period of time at the lower rest — there is less substrate for it to deal with.  [Read more…]

Choosing a Mash Method III (Simple Heated Step Mash)


A step mash for brewing a dry beer. A 15-minute rest at 140 °F (60 °C) is followed by heating the mash to a roughly 45-minute rest at 152 °F (64 °C). Finally, the mash is heated to 170 °F (77 °C) for a mash out. (Click to Enlarge.)

Sometimes the simplest approach is the best. When brewing with fully-modified malts — as most malts are these days — a single infusion mash is almost always your best bet. The maltster has taken care of many of the issues (gums, proteins) that would have required a step mash. In most cases, performing a step mash is at best a waste of time. At worst, it can decrease the quality of your foam. And, by varying the mash temperature of your single infusion mash, you can make wort with varying degrees of fermentability. For most styles of beer, this range of fermentability is adequate.

However, there are some times when a step mash is just the thing. If you are brewing with undermodified malt, a step mash is highly recommended. (If you single infusion mash, you may end up with too many proteins in your wort and gums (glucans) may make lautering difficult.) I’ll cover this approach in a later article on decoction mashing (a type of step mashing). [Read more…]

The Steps in a Step Mash (II)

This is the continuation of a previous post


brewpotThe lower temperature rests in a step mash deal with hydration, mash pH, proteins, and beta glucans. They are not needed with most fully-modified malts, but work well with undermodified malts or home malted barley. Two of the three remaining rests deal with the degradation of carbohydrates — how starch is broken down into a mixture of fermentable sugars and unfermentable carbohydrates. These rests can be performed regardless of the type of malt you are mashing.

[Read more…]

The Steps in a Step Mash (I)

This a follow up to my recent post on single infusion mashes. Reviewing how enzymes work will make some parts of this article make more sense. 


brewpotSingle infusion mashes work well when brewing with fully-modified malts. However, there are times when a step mash is more appropriate. In a step mash, the mash is initially rested at a temperature below the usual saccharification range, then raised through one or more rests at progressively higher temperatures. To raise the temperature, the mash may be directly heated, infused with hot water, or decoctions may be pulled, heated, and returned to the main mash. (Additionally, in a cereal mash, a mash that was initiated separately from the main mash may be stirred in to raise the overall temperature of the combined mash.)

Performing a step mash is beneficial when using undermodified malt or home malted grains. In home malted grains — for which the degree of modification is likely to be uneven, compared to commercial standards — a decoction mash is likely your best bet.

There are historically relevant step mashes, such as the “standard” triple decoction mash, in which a specific set of rests is called for. On the other hand, any brewer can come up with his or her own step mash by choosing to rest or not at various temperatures. Here’s a quick rundown on the common steps found in a step mash, with some final thoughts on the overall mash program.

[Read more…]