The Mashing Process For Beer Brewing

When brewing beer at home, it is vitally important to understand the different processes involved. While beer has been around for centuries, beginning home brewers may find it intimidating. One of the most important steps is the mashing process.

Mashing is the process of breaking down starches in grain(s) into fermentable and non- fermentable sugars. The grains must be placed in water and undergo controlled sustained temperature for a specific length of time. While it sounds complicated, once the process is understood and practiced, it does become easier.

You will need:

• Thermometer
• Stock pot capable of holding several gallons of water
• Distilled water
• Grain(s)
• Stove with consistent temperature control
• Roller mill to crack grain
• Iodine test kit
• An accurate weight scale

There are some terms you will need to know:

• Grain bill- this is the mix of grains, such as malted barley with wheat, corn, crystal, chocolate, munich malt, oats, sorghum, corn, rye or other grains.
• Grist- the cracked grains
• Liquor- the water used in the mashing process
• Wort- the liquid in the mash pot

The first step is to crack the grain. It is not necessary to crush it, just crack the shells. Since there is a great deal of discussion and debate on the types of grains (2-row or 6-row, modified or unmodified and so forth), it is suggested the beginner stick to established recipes to gain confidence before trying to step “out of the box.”

The following is the single temperature infusion method:

1. Use one quart of water for every pound of grist used.
2. Heat the water to approximately 168º F. Slowly add the grist, and stir well to keep it from clumping.
3. Allow the mixture to heat and keep at 150º to 158º for an hour. Keeping the mixture at a given temperature for a specified amount of time is called a rest.
4. Perform an iodine test to make sure all the sugars have been released.

To perform an iodine test, use a white saucer, iodine and a few drops of wort. Place the wort in the dish and add one or two drops of iodine. A blue or black reaction will indicate there are unconverted sugars remaining in the wort. When the iodine stays a yellow- ish color, the mash has released all the sugars, and is ready for the next step in the brewing process.

A two or multi-step infusion process is sometimes employed by raising the temperature of the mixture with heat or adding boiling water between rests. Care must be taken with each step, temperature and rest.

There are other methods of mashing in beer brewing. The decoction method involves removing some of the mash, boiling it in another pot and returning it to the mix. This was commonly done before the invention of thermometers. During those times, the malt and grains had more variables in starches, sugars, and so forth. One very old method is the triple decoction, where the mash is removed and boiled three times. One danger of this method is scorching the mash, which would ruin it and the process has to start over.

Different brewers have varying opinions regarding the different methods of mashing. Each produces a different taste in the resulting beer. Since beer drinkers are a widely varied group, having many different tasting beers means there is something for everyone’s taste.

Experiment with different mashing methods to develop your own taste and establish your favorite method. With time, you can write your own recipe(s) for your beer. There is no license required for brewing your own beer at home.