The Mashing Process/All-Grain Brewing

Mashing is the process of breaking down starch into fermentable and non-fermentable sugars through temperature controlled steeping in water. Rather than just dissolving the existing sugar from the barley kernel as in steeping, you must actually develop the proper conditions for enzymes to break down starch into sugar. To do this, temperature is critical as is the proper time allowed for the conversion to take place. These instructions can be used for partial mashing as well as full all-grain recipes.


1. Use about 1 quart of water per pound of grain that you intend to mash.

2. Remember that temperature is critical, so you must use a thermometer.

3. These guidelines are for the single temperature infusion method so you will not have to raise temp during the mashing process. You will only heat the water to one level and add grain, and hold it there for one hour.

4. Use about 1/2 gallon of water at 170 degrees to sparge each pound of grain.

5. Follow this method for any grain with a starchy white center and for all recipes requiring the use of flaked barley, oats, or wheat etc.

6. With any grain combination it is a good idea to use at least 50% 2-row pale malt to ensure enzyme activity and proper conversion during mash.


First you must select a good recipe. Specialty malts should account for no more than 35% of the total grain bill. Once you have weighed out your grains, they must be cracked. This is best done in a roller mill (we will crack your grain free of charge). Cracking the grain is necessary for the starch conversion and enzyme activation, just like you crack specialty grains for steeping to get at the flavor and sugar inside. Wheat and specialty grains such as crystal, chocolate, munich malt, etc. should also be cracked. This cracked grain is called the grist. The grist is what you will add into your mash tun.


The cracked grain must be mashed at a constant temperature. Depending on the flavor desired and the exactness of your equipment, this temperature should be between 150-158 degrees F for approximately one hour. An iodine test will show if starch conversion is complete. The amount of water required for this process will vary with the amount of grain employed. The rule of thumb stated by Charlie Papazian is one quart water to every pound of grain. Remember, the temperature of your water will drop when grain is added, so raise temp. to approximately 168 degrees before adding grain. Let water and grist stabilize at 150-158 degrees and MASH. The warmer temp. range will cause more unfermentable sugars to be made, resulting in a fuller bodied,sweeter beer with less potential alcohol. The lower range will create highly fermentable sugars, resulting in dryer beers with more potential alcohol. Practice will allow for correct water usage and patience will allow for proper starch to sugar conversion. When employing an infusion mash one must make sure that the malted barley is highly modified, that is , it must not require a protein rest or step mash in order to allow for protein formation and adequate enzyme activity. Some barley is of the six-row variety which must undergo a step mash with a protein rest. To insure a worry-free mash you should use a 2-row malted barley (such as Klages American 2-Row), and it should account for at least 50% of your mash. The protein rest is necessary in under modified malts in order to create the nutrients required by the yeast to ferment the finished wort. 2-Row varieties do not need protein rest, as their unique malting process develops these nutrients. Enzymes play a crucial rule in developing both nutrients and creating the starch to sugar reaction. These reactions are usually temperature specific but luckily there are temps. that allow most enzymes to work together. Don’t get overwhelmed, following the temp. guidelines above and seeing the process will calm your nerves and allow you to realize that you need not be a chemist nor a microbiologist to brew beer, only someone who pays attention to temperatures and ingredients. Most of the grain you will ever buy will be of the 2-Row variety, which is easily utilized. The reason you should always use at least 50% 2-Row in your mash is that it will provide for the necessary enzymes possibly lacking in other adjuncts and under modified barley.


Sparging is the process of rinsing the grain with water in order to leech out all the sugars and dextrins left in the grain. This is done by slowly raining water (170 degrees F) over the grains, allowing the water to flow through the grain and out the bottom of your container into your brew kettle. Your final volume should be approximately 6 to 6.5 gallons. Usually I use five gallons of sparge water with about 10-14 pounds of grain. Remember oversparging will not only dilute your beer it will also give a grainy flavor. Undersparging results in a stronger beer but your yield will not be five gallons, which is what your shooting for. Sometimes you just have to play around with the amounts until you get it right. There is a chart in The Complete Joy, which gives pound to water ratios, which helps at the beginning. You will be boiling your wort, so remember you will lose approximately one gallon in vapor, and possibly more if you use flower hops in the boil which retain some wort, that is the reason for a seemingly large volume after sparging.


Now the sweet liquor is boiled for at least one hour, along with the boiling hops. Heating this liquid to a boil may take a while so be patient, and keep stirring to avoid burning sediment. Keeping the kettle covered may help the heating process, but be careful of the immanent boil-over. During the final minutes finishing hops may be added, and if one enjoys a hoppy aroma they may dry hop their wort has fermented.


A wort chiller cools the boiling water by exchanging the heat of the wort with the coolness of the flowing water in the coil. This allows the wort to cool in minutes instead of hours. Remember cooling the wort quickly enables faster yeast pitching, and thus, a quicker onset of fermentation. Since all bacteria is not killed during boiling (heat resistant spores) the faster the yeast is pitched and the faster it begins fermenting the better. It is at worst a race between the yeast and bacteria and who gets the food (wort) first. At best you will not have that many bacteria present if you are sanitary, so just cool fast and pitch fast.


After the wort has chilled to room temperature (approx. 75 degrees), the original gravity should be recorded. Since yeast require oxygen for their respiration phase it is a good idea to thoroughly aerate the wort by shaking your fermenter or splashing the wort into the fermenter. The yeast may now be pitched, sprinkling the yeast over the wort in a circular pattern, or if using a liquid culture you may just pour it in. Cover the fermenter and attach airlock in order to prevent infection, as well as to allow the carbon dioxide to escape. Remember record all data, including original an final gravities, brewing methods and ingredients

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