The Different Types of Mash
During the brewing process, home brewers can choose different types of mashing techniques.
But first, what is the mash?
For those who don't know, mash is an essential process in brewing and is what brewers do to convert the starches in malted grains into fermentable sugars. Different types of mash differ in complexity and difficulty, benefits and purposes. Let's find out together!
Single Infusion Mash
The single infusion mash is the simplest of the various types of mashing. The single mash is called that because you're basically infusing all the grain in water at a single temperature, usually for about an hour or an hour and a half. The important thing is to keep the infusion temperature constant at a certain degree to allow the enzymes present in the malt to convert the starches into sugars.
This mashing technique is very beneficial in terms of simplicity and ease. In fact, the single infusion technique is the one used by most home brewers.
Multistep mash is slightly more difficult. But how does it work? Unlike the single infusion mash where the temperature is kept constant at a certain degree, with the multistep mash technique several steps are carried out, at different temperatures, to obtain different sugars. The different temperature steps vary in a range that goes from about 50 to 70 Celsius.
The brewer decides to bring the wort to different temperatures and each temperature corresponds to the activity of a particular enzyme. The protein rest, for example, is the ideal temperature for the proteolytic enzymes that break down the protein molecules in beer, promoting head retention and preventing cold haze.
To make the multistep mash correctly it is necessary to use a pot that has a direct heat source, on which the brewer can change and increase the temperature. Electric pots, with temperature control via digital display, are the ones that best suit this type of mash. Otherwise, if you are using an insulated but unheated container, you will need to add boiling water to gradually raise the temperature to the desired level.
Keep in mind that multistep mash is necessary to properly brew certain styles of beer, such as wheat beers that need protein rest as wheat contains high levels of protein.
A mash decoction is the most labor-intensive and is similar in some respects to a multistep mash. This type of mash involves taking portions of the wort (usually a quarter or a third), heating it to a boil while stirring, and then adding it back to the main wort. This process of boiling the wort sections is repeated two or three times until the final wort temperature is reached.
The mash decotion may seem like a very particular technique and in fact it is so, this mashing process was born when hundreds of years ago there were no such large pots that could be heated directly and in this way it was possible to produce large quantities of must, by heating the must a little at a time.
As the decoctions are boiled and added back to the wort, the overall temperature rises in steps that simulate those of a stepped wort, giving you pauses that allow enzymes to work.
As you can imagine, this is a very difficult and time-consuming method of crushing. However, many brewers say that mash decotion adds a more complex malt profile to your home brew and its qualities cannot be achieved in any other way.