Monday, June 9, 2014

D Day 1

Decoction mashing isn't a walk in the park.

For anyone who doesn't know, decoction mashing is an old method of conducting a step infusion mash without using hot water to reach each step. Instead, you infuse at one temperature and then take a portion of the thick mash, bring it to the boil, and then add it back to the thin mash, raising the temperature to the next step. This method was used in parts of Europe, namely Germany and Czech Republic, in the past when the malt wasn't as well modified as modern malt and wood was used for mash tun construction (although I'm unsure of the exact details). Some brewers still use this style, saying that the boiling of the grain caramelises some of the sugars, adding flavour and colour (or maybe it's just because they are absolutely insane). Also, I'm pretty sure that some German guy back in the 1700's said something like:

"Ha! Dekoktion Maischverfahren ist ein Spaziergang im Park!"

Well let me tell you 'mr nobody', decoction mashing IS NOT a walk in the park. It is hot, stressful and long. You dirty bastard.

Not that I didn't know this, trust me, I had a fair idea that this might be a long brew day. I had my book out, I decided to give all the math a go. I jotted down all my planned gravities and volumes, not very well, but I tried to not rely on a computer, I wanted to connect with the tradition of a decoction mash. Little did I know that all of this was going to be completely useless against the beast that is decoction mashing, and the second time I was hastily pouring boiling water into the mash tun to bring the temperature up, this really hit home.

So, if you read my last post, this is the first beer out of two that i am brewing for my German Sausage Party or: Deutsch Wurst Partei.

Here is the "planned" recipe:


German Smoked Ale

3kg - Weyermann Smoked Malt
2kg - Munich Malt
200g - Chocolate Malt
200g - Flaked Wheat

30g - Hallertau Mittelfruh @ 45mins
30g - Hallertau Mittelfruh @ 15mins

Wyeast 1007 German Ale

Mash schedule:
Mash in 22L @ 50°C for 15 minutes: protein rest.
Draw 9L of thick mash out of the tun, put it on heat and bring to the boil, then add back to the tun, this will bring the mash to it's next step, 63°C: saccharification rest, sit for 45 minutes.
Batch sparge with 18L of water at near boiling.
Get 20L of wort at ~1.060


So it seems fine, right? A nice dark, hoppy smoked ale with a good amount of Munich to add some body and sweetness, some chocolate malt for colour and a toasty bite, some flaked wheat for a nice creamy head, and all decocted to add some dark toffee and really bring out the malt.

Here it goes.

Had my strike water on the heat, want to just overshoot my first rest temperature of 50°C. When it looked hot enough I poured it into my mash tun and then set everything else up while I waited for it to cool.

Overshot quite a lot, more than I had planned, hit about 70°C... It's alright, it will cool by the time I need it.

I've started milling my grain a little finer than I usually do, I think I was having some issues with efficiency because I didn't have it fine enough, what do you think? Too fine?

The new grind seems to work really well, I don't think the husks are too mashed up. Speaking of mash, how's the water going?


Don't worry, I knew it wasn't going to cool that quickly, I was just being hopeful. Time to add some cool water... Added some cool water, waited a bit longer, and eventually said "fuck it! 55°C is good enough!"

Stop judging me, Fritz.

Mashed in, first time ever doing it at this low a temperature, definitely looks different.

I then waited 15 minutes to let the enzymes do their thing. Decoction time.

I pulled the first 9 litres of thick mash out. There is only 5.4kg of grain in this recipe, I'm pretty sure that 9 litres of the thick mash is all of the grain.

No worries, I boiled it.

It feels so wrong, but so right at the same time.

I boiled it for about 10 minutes and started to put it back into the main mash, I eventually just poured the whole lot in.

It didn't reach the target temperature of 63°C, instead it only just got to 58°C.

Fuck. This is where I start stressing. Then it hits me: ANOTHER DECOCTION! THAT'S WHAT THEY ARE FOR RIGHT?! YES! YES!

I take only about 5 litres of the mash this time, because of the smaller temperature increase.

After boiling it again for 10 minutes, I just dumped the whole thing back into the mash.


I just sit down and stare straight ahead.

No, no I didn't just sit there, I boiled the kettle and poured it into the mash tun. Twice.


This is when all felt useless. Time to have a beer.

As I'm sitting there, enjoying the last smoke beer I made, with it's delicious smoked cheese taste, I have an idea.

I can fucking decoct it... AGAIN!


Yeah? Well I did it anyway.

It worked. I just got above 63°C.

I waited for 45 minutes while the low temperature mash took place, little did I know more trouble was just around the bend...

Stuck sparge.

Because I had put more water into the mash that I needed, the pressure on the grain bed was quite high, and this caused it to compact down, blocking liquid from getting through. It would have been bad, but I just poured some of my heated sparge water in, stirred it up and kept going. I was not in the mood for any more shit. It worked, but the remnants looked like a post apocalyptic wasteland...

Well, time for the boil. But first, another beer.

This is HOLY MALT. I made a blog post about the brew day recently, and this is now one of the last bottles. You know what that means. It is awesome.

It almost looks like a black IPA here, but in the right light, it glows like a red sunset. Sticky burnt toffee, tongue searing bitterness, pine needles, tropical fruit, biscuity bread crust, this beer rules.

How's the boil going?

Ahh my favourite part, the velvety protein foam on top, swirling elegantly with every small stir. Everything seems so calm now that I have the sweet wort in my grasp and everything is under control.

The boil went without a hitch, it felt so good.

I no-chilled the beer, but not before I collected 2.5L of wort from the kettle into my new 3L Erlenmeyer Borosilicate flask! Real wort starter! I had a small extract starter in the flask before, but I decided to give them some more sugar and keep them healthy, that's why I split the two.

Anyway, until the next decoction.


EDIT: Today after it had cooled over night, the gravity came in at 1.052, but I got 23L instead of the planned 20. Pretty close, even with all the hiccups. Pitched the yeast and a few hours later, activity!

No comments:

Post a Comment