“This—that is merely my method—The place is yours?” I thus answered those that requested about The Manner. “For The Manner doesn’t exist!”
— Friedrich Nietzsche, Additionally sprach Zarathustra


Mashing grain is what makes beer beer. Sure, hops, yeast, and water actually play necessary roles, however it’s only via the mash, whether or not carried out in your home or within the course of of producing malt extract, that the soul of beer is liberated from its starchy origins.

Mashing grain is to beer as crushing grapes is to wine, as urgent apples is to cider, and as gathering honey is to mead. It’s the elementary course of that makes beer doable, the tactic by which brewers use naturally occurring enzymes in malted barley to transform starches into fermentable sugars.

On this chapter, we cowl the fundamentals of mashing your individual grain. Rather more could be (and has been) written on this matter than we might probably start to cowl right here, however the classes you study right here will get you off on the precise foot and serve you nicely for a lot of batches to return.

What the Mash Does

What occurs when sizzling water and crushed grain come collectively is extremely advanced, and this e-book is much too transient to even try an in-depth treatise on mashing grain. However simply as one needn’t perceive the workings of the inner combustion engine to drive a automobile, one needn’t essentially perceive each side of mashing grain to make nice beer.

A number of processes are at work in the course of the mashing of malt, however the primary course of you want be involved with is the conversion of starches to sugars. And this conversion comes down to 2 elementary enzymes:

  • Alpha amylase (α-amylase)
  • Beta amylase (β-amylase)

Alpha amylase does its finest work within the 150–160°F (66–71°C) temperature vary. It converts advanced starches into lengthy chains of sugars. Yeast doesn’t readily ferment such sugars, so a mash temperature that favors alpha amylase tends to create much less fermentable wort, which leaves residual physique and sweetness within the remaining beer.

Beta amylase is most energetic within the 130–150°F (54–66°C) temperature vary. It really works by snipping the ends off long-chain sugars to create easier sugars. Yeasts can simply ferment these easy sugars, so a mash that favors beta amylase will yield extra fermentable wort, giving the ultimate beer a drier end and thinner physique.

Thus, adjusting the mash temperature hotter or cooler impacts the physique and sweetness of the ultimate beer by favoring alpha or beta amylase, respectively. When you actually get into all-grain brewing, you’ll encounter loads of different enzymes, however these are the one two that you must learn about to get began.

Mastering the Mash: Liberate the Soul of Beer from Its Starchy Origins

Crushing Grain

Malt must be milled, or crushed, earlier than it may be mashed to extract fermentable sugars. On the whole, finely crushed malt yields higher effectivity than coarsely crushed malt, however this isn’t the entire story. The outer husks of barley kernels are an necessary a part of the lautering (wort separation) course of, so that you need to maintain these as intact as doable.

A crush that’s too effective turns the inner starch into flour and shreds the barley husks into small items. A effective crush boosts extract effectivity, however the broken husks are much less in a position to filter the wort, making lautering troublesome. Too coarse a crush causes the alternative drawback. Intact barley husks make for straightforward lautering, however the starchy endosperm stays intact as nicely, which implies that alpha and beta amylase can’t simply get to the starch.

A very good crush, subsequently, strikes a compromise, combining acceptable extract effectivity with good lautering properties. It minimizes the sizes of the crushed starch kernels and maximizes the sizes of the husks. The malt mill at your homebrew retailer might be set to strike this compromise. If in case you have a malt mill at house, you’ll be able to experiment with varied settings to realize the proper compromise to your system.

Business breweries typically moist mill their malt, which includes hydrating dry malt with sizzling water or steam because it enters the mill. This makes the malt husks extra pliable, which helps them stay intact because the starchy endosperm is crushed into effective items. You may obtain comparable outcomes by spritzing your malt with a twig bottle 20 minutes or so earlier than crushing it. Simply give the malt a great mist, stir, and repeat till it feels barely moist. Not moist, simply damp—“much less dry,” even. Then crush your malt as common.


Brewers create totally different sorts of wort by following what known as a mash schedule, mash routine, or mash protocol. With information of how totally different enzymes work, a complicated brewer can favor every enzyme for various lengths of time. A mash schedule is only a timetable of various temperature steps, referred to as rests, and the way lengthy every relaxation needs to be held.

Single-Temperature Infusion Mashing

Most all-grain homebrewers (and, for that matter, most American and British craft brewers) rely virtually completely upon the single-temperature infusion mash. It’s all that you must brew most types of beer with well-modified malts (see Chapter 2 for extra about malt modification).

In a single-infusion mash, you add (infuse) a specified amount of sizzling water to crushed malt to realize a selected mash temperature. The mash is held at that temperature for an hour or so, then the mash is full. Altering the temperature of the mash adjustments the fermentability of the wort. As I focus on above, a temperature of 146–152°F (63–67°C) favors beta amylase, yielding wort that’s comparatively dry and light-bodied. A low mash temperature is ideal for a lot of Belgian ales and refreshing summer season lagers.

A mash within the vary of 152–158°F (67–70°C) favors alpha amylase, which leads to beer with a number of physique and residual sweetness. A excessive mash temperature is good for any beer the place a thick, viscous physique is desired, together with many British types and so-called “session” beers.

Many of the beer you make will use a relaxation round 152–154°F (67–68°C), which gives a great compromise of beta amylase and alpha amylase exercise. It is a nice temperature to goal for for those who don’t need to give it some thought an excessive amount of.

Multistep Temperature Mash

In a multistep temperature mash, the mash is carried via a sequence of rests, or temperatures, which might be held for a sure time frame. A typical mash routine would possibly embrace the next:

  • A protein relaxation at 113–130°F (45–54°C)
  • A beta amylase relaxation at 140–150°F (60–65°C)
  • An alpha amylase relaxation at 160–165°F (71–74°C)
  • Mash-out at 170°F (77°C)

Such a mash protocol is most acceptable when the malt isn’t totally modified or for brewers concerned about German brewing practices. Homebrewers who need to execute a stepped temperature mash usually use a direct-fired mash tun or comparable vessel to boost the mash temperature via the assorted steps. With some planning, homebrewers who mash in an insulated cooler can pull off a multistep mash by including infusions of boiling water to realize the steps.

Mashing Logistics

Strike water is the title given to the brewing liquor that’s combined with the crushed grain to begin the mash. Sometimes, strike water is heated to a number of levels above the goal mash temperature. The exact temperature of the strike water is dependent upon the temperature of your grain, the temperature of your mash tun, and even the mash tun form, dimension, and materials.

It’s definitely worth the small outlay of money to buy good-quality brewing software program that will help you make these calculations. However if you’re simply getting began, estimating a strike temperature that’s about 10–15°F (6–8°C) hotter than your supposed mash temperature ought to get you shut. When your strike water has reached the precise temperature, it’s time to mash in. Moderately than add all the grain and water to your mash tun without delay, I like to recommend combining them in levels:

1. Add half the strike water to the mash tun.
2. Add half the crushed grain and stir nicely to combine.
3. Add the remaining strike water to the mash tun.
4. Add the remaining grain and stir nicely to combine.

After you’ve mashed in, let the mash relaxation for five minutes, then test the temperature. If it’s too low, add some boiling water to boost it. If it’s too excessive, toss in a handful of ice cubes to decrease it. The mash tun ought to preserve the temperature all through the mash, so as soon as it has stabilized, there’s no have to maintain checking.

Don’t fear in case your mash is available in a few levels low or excessive. With expertise you’ll discover ways to predict this. For now, so long as your mash is someplace between 150°F (66°C) and 155°F (68°C), that’s ok.

About 20 minutes earlier than the mash is completed, begin heating sparge water (extra in regards to the sparge within the subsequent chapter). The quantity of sparge water you want adjustments from one batch to a different, so all the time warmth a bit greater than you suppose you’ll want. The goal temperature for sparge water is 168–170°F (75–77°C).

When Is the Mash Full?

Many homebrewers make nice beer with out ever checking that the mash has totally transformed. When you purchase crushed malt out of your native homebrew retailer and be sure that the mash temperature stays inside a couple of levels of the goal temperature, then an hour-long mash ought to lead to adequate conversion most often.

Nonetheless, for those who’d wish to test for conversion, doing so is easy. You want some tincture of iodine (out there at drugstores) or some undiluted Iodophor sanitizer:

1. Take away a small pattern of wort from the mash tun and place it on a white saucer, taking care to take away solely liquid and no grain materials.
2. Add a single drop of iodine or Iodophor to the wort pattern and blend totally.
3. If the iodine turns black, a great deal of residual starch stays within the mash, and it’s best to go away it for an additional 15–half-hour. If the iodine stays yellow-red, then the starches have been totally transformed.

The colour could be troublesome to discern for darkish wort (akin to stout), and the iodine take a look at is much from excellent. However for those who’re nervous about conversion, it might assist reassure you.

A Few Notes on Water

Water chemistry is a subject unto itself and may simply fill a whole quantity. (In actual fact, it does. See Water: A Complete Information for Brewers by John Palmer and Colin Kaminski.)

However water high quality is essential to all-grain brewing, so you’ll be able to’t ignore it altogether. A number of types akin to Czech Pilsener, Irish stout, and Burton IPA might profit from a classy understanding of water chemistry. Nevertheless it’s higher to begin merely and alter your course of as you achieve expertise than to fret about water from the outset.

Resist the temptation to begin including this and that to your water since you learn someplace that Burton water has so many components per million (ppm) of sulfate, and yours solely has 4 ppm. Tweaking ions actually impacts the flavour of your beer, however this needs to be a secondary consideration to mash pH.

Mash pH

The pH is roughly a measure of how acidic a substance is. To grasp pH as a starting brewer, that you must know solely 4 issues:

  • An answer with a pH of lower than 7 is claimed to be acidic.
  • An answer with a pH of precisely 7 is claimed to be impartial. Pure water has a pH of seven.
  • An answer with a pH larger than 7 is claimed to be fundamental.
  • The optimum pH for a mash of malt and water is within the vary of 5.2–5.6.

Chemists can dig into textbooks to grasp why that is the case. The remainder of us want solely do not forget that after we measure the pH of a mash, we would like it to be within the 5.2–5.6 vary. Given this ultimate vary and provided that dissolved substances can have an effect on that pH, our major purpose as brewers is to make sure that the mix of dissolved ions and molecules ends in a mash pH that’s in our goal vary. And the 2 largest gamers are calcium and bicarbonate:

  • Calcium (Ca) usually lowers mash pH. It helps alpha amylase work higher at starch conversion. It even aids in settling trub and yeast on the finish of fermentation. You need calcium in your facet.
  • Bicarbonate (HCO3-1) usually raises mash pH. It reduces fermentability. And it discourages sedimentation. In different phrases, bicarbonate just isn’t normally your good friend.

On the threat of oversimplifying a really advanced state of affairs, calcium and bicarbonate play reverse roles. By tweaking these two ions, you’ll be able to typically transfer a mash pH into the fascinating vary of 5.2–5.6. Right here, then, is the strategy I like to recommend you are taking to brewing water as a starting homebrewer.

  • Acquire a metropolis water report or buy clear, uncomplicated water in case your faucet water is unsuitable. You don’t know the place that you must go for those who don’t know the place you begin!
  • Decide whether or not your water, mixed with the grain you propose to mash, falls into the pH vary of 5.2–5.6.
  • Deal with your water to maneuver the mash pH the place you need it.

In case your faucet water may be very low in mineral content material, congratulations! You may brew absolutely anything you want by including issues to it. If, however, your faucet water has a really excessive focus of dissolved substances, simply begin with distilled or reverse osmosis (RO) water that you just buy from the shop.
Do not forget that it’s the mash pH that issues, not the pH of the water you add. Most water has a pH higher than 7, whereas grain malts contribute acidity. Typically talking, the darker the grain, the extra acidity it is going to lend to the mash. Very mild malts, nevertheless, might not be acidic sufficient to get the pH of the mash down into that 5.2–5.6 vary.

Probably the most correct and best option to measure mash pH is to spend money on a digital pH meter. Nevertheless, pH meters don’t come low-cost, and they are often considerably fussy when it comes to upkeep, requiring periodic calibration. An honest various is to make use of pH take a look at strips designed for brewing. Merely dunk the top of the strip into your mash and examine the ensuing shade towards a scale on the facet of the package deal. It’ll get you within the ballpark.

Easy methods to alter pH

The next additions can be utilized to acidify the mash (decrease pH):

  • Gypsum (CaSO3) is finest utilized in types that profit from onerous water. Suppose Irish and English ales, together with Irish stout and Burton IPAs.
  • Calcium chloride (CaCl2) is extra impartial and is the popular option to introduce calcium with out additionally including sulfate.

When you occur to want to boost the mash pH, then flip to those:

  • Baking soda (NaHCO3) raises mash pH and contributes sodium.
  • Chalk (CaCO3) may also elevate the pH, but it surely’s not as efficient as baking soda. Nevertheless, it’s good to think about in circumstances the place baking soda would possibly lend an excessive amount of sodium.
  • Calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2) should be dealt with rigorously, however it is extremely efficient at elevating mash pH. Search for pickling lime within the canning part of your grocery store or cal in Latin markets—it’s the substance concerned within the nixtamalization of maize to make masa harina.

In case your total water profile appears good, however you’re having hassle hitting the specified mash pH, you too can alter mash acidity utilizing other forms of merchandise.

  • Sauermalz, or acidulated malt, is a German pilsner malt that has been acidified utilizing naturally occurring Lactobacillus micro organism. The German Reinheitsgebot prohibits water additions, however Sauermalz can drop the pH with out such additions. Merely substitute a portion of the bottom malt with Sauermalz. Roughly talking, a grist containing 1 p.c Sauermalz will expertise a 0.1 drop in pH. Two p.c drops the pH by 0.2, and so forth.
  • Lactic acid is obtainable in an 88 p.c pure type from most homebrew shops. Only some drops are wanted, and it’s very efficient. Add a drop or two, stir the mash, and take a look at the pH.


Chlorine has executed wonders for contemporary sanitation and is extremely efficient at eliminating waterborne pathogens akin to cholera. Sadly, chlorine can work together with compounds present in malt and create boring, plastic-like flavors in your beer. When you begin with bottled water, then you definitely don’t want to fret about chlorine, however those that draw from municipal sources might have to take steps to get rid of it.

The best option to take away chlorine out of your brewing water is to easily draw your water from the faucet the day earlier than you propose to make use of it and let it stand in a single day. Chlorine will naturally escape into the air. Boiling accelerates this evaporation.

Sadly, many municipalities have switched to utilizing a mix of chlorine and ammonia, which react to create what are often known as chloramines. An efficient option to cut back chloramine ranges in your water is so as to add potassium metabisulfite, also called Campden tablets. Often half a pill will do the trick for a 5-gallon (19 l) batch.

To make use of a Campden pill to take away chloramines out of your faucet water, draw the whole quantity of water that must be handled, together with mash, sparge, and top-up water. For a 5-gallon (19 l) batch, that is normally round 8–10 gallons (30–38 l), relying upon the grain invoice (extra grain means extra water misplaced to absorption). Crush half a Campden pill into powder and add it to the water. The response takes solely a few minutes, however simply to be secure, wait for five to 10 minutes earlier than you start heating the water for mashing and sparging.

Shifting On

As soon as your mash has accomplished conversion, it’s time to maneuver on to the following step: lautering. That is the method by which we separate the barley sugar water from the spent grain and accumulate it for brewing.

That is an excerpt from our Illustrated Information to Homebrewing by Dave Carpenter. Need to learn the entire thing? Obtain it right here.