Snake River Brewers - A Homebrew Club Serving Boise, Nampa, and the Treasure Valley of Idaho
Snake River Brewers
A Homebrewing Club Serving Boise, Nampa, and the Treasure Valley of Idaho.
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Author Topic: Mash Thickness  (Read 22374 times)
Micah
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« on: May 22, 2015, 10:22:27 AM »

Mash thickness is one of those topics that has been beat to death in most homebrew forums. It seems everyone has an opinion on this and usually they swear by those opinions.

When I got started brewing I read up and learned that the rule of thumb is to mash in the 1-1.3 qt/lb range. I followed this advice and found I would usually get about 70% kettle efficiency when using grain milled by the LHBS and batch sparging. Wanting better efficiency and more control, I quickly moved to milling my own grain whereupon my efficiency jumped to the mid to upper 70s.

One day I was listening to a podcast with Denny Conn talking about batch sparging and I misinterpreted a technique he used for calculating strike volume and decided to adjust accordingly. Whoops. This had me mashing at a fairly consistent 4 qt/lb for 60 minutes. My efficiency shot up. Suddenly I was seeing average of 82% kettle efficiency. The truth is, this has worked very well for me. Nearly all of my brews are done at this ratio, even after realizing the misinterpretation.

Of course, this has me questioning the impact (on the finished product) of straying so far from conventional wisdom. I know that diastatic conversion power is a factor- in theory the enzymes have to "work harder" to convert in a thinner mash, but given my efficiency this hasn't been a problem. I know that pH can be greatly effected- the grist has less ability to drop the pH, but I nearly always hit the 5.2-5.4 range with mineral/acid adjustments. I also know that attenuation is a factor- thinner mashes tend to lead to more attenuable wort- I like most of my beers on the drier side, so this has been a plus.

What factors might I be overlooking?

I'm considering brewing my next batch of beer, a blonde ale, using a thickness of 1.5 qt/lb to see what I can glean from the experience. What are your thoughts?

« Last Edit: May 22, 2015, 10:53:10 AM by Micah » Logged
Micah
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« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2015, 04:22:45 PM »

I ended up brewing a Blonde Ale today with a mash thickness of 1.5 qt/lb and thought I'd share what I've learned so far.

For starters I ended with 76.5% kettle efficiency with a 60 minute mash. This was a 3.5% drop in efficiency compared to a similar gravity Saison that I brewed yesterday and a 5.5% drop from my average 4 qt/lb mashes. From everything I've read, this is counterintuitive; a thicker mash is supposed to make for faster conversion.

A positive outcome was that I didn't need to use any lactic acid to drop the pH- the higher grist to strike ratio allowed me to rely on the grist to neutralize more of the acidity. I hit a pH of 5.27 after adding some gypsum, epsom, and calcium chloride to the strike water to achieve a balanced chloride:sulfate ratio. Even though I was worried that the sparge pH would be high, I was pleasantly surprised to find it at 5.59. I'll take it.

I can see that not needing to add lactic acid, or needing to add less, could be beneficial for some styles where a potential acidulated malt characteristic might be undesirable, but given that I'm careful to never exceed 2% total lactic acid as equivalent acidulated malt in the grist, I don't guess it's much of a concern either way.

Everything else so far was par for the course. I'm anxious to see what perceived effect the mash thickness will have on the finished product.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2015, 01:49:24 PM by Micah » Logged
flyinglow
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« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2015, 05:46:55 PM »

I would be curious of a side by side, exact recipe and temps to see if flavor outcome changed at all .
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macabra11
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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2015, 07:36:02 AM »

I would be curious of a side by side, exact recipe and temps to see if flavor outcome changed at all .
I would bet it would be pretty hard to tell the difference. Not saying it isn't worth a try, but there are so many other factors involved that I would question whether or not the water/grist ratio was the thing that caused a flavor/body change.

I used to use a thicker mash (1.25 qt/lb) but have switched to a standard of 1.5 for most everything I do. Mostly because of reduced chance of stuck sparges and, like Micah said, the propensity for a more attenuated final product. I will say that for my german beer recipes, I like using the thicker mashes. I'm not 100% convinced the mash thickness makes much of a difference in what I'm perceiving, but I like to imagine it is making a difference.  Tongue

If an experiment were to be conducted, I'd think one person would have to do it on one system, with ingredients from the same sources, a split yeast starter, precise fermentation etc.
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dale
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« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2015, 08:59:33 AM »

I adjust mash thickness based on my equipment - there is no way I could do 4 qt/lb and be able to do a 10 gallon batch. Even a 5 gallon batch at that ratio would be a tight fit. So for me, a bigger beer gets a thicker mash than a smaller beer just so it all fits in my mash tun. I really haven't noticed that it makes that much difference, if at all.
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« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2015, 10:11:28 AM »

I adjust mash thickness based on my equipment - there is no way I could do 4 qt/lb and be able to do a 10 gallon batch. Even a 5 gallon batch at that ratio would be a tight fit. So for me, a bigger beer gets a thicker mash than a smaller beer just so it all fits in my mash tun. I really haven't noticed that it makes that much difference, if at all.

Me too dale....sometimes my 10 gallon Mash Tun is a limited factor, exp. for High ABV beer.  Not a huge deal, but sometimes I only make a 9 gallon batch and 1.25 quarts per pound......

I'd rather do the 1.5 quarts per pound...easier to stir and find dough balls.....
« Last Edit: May 25, 2015, 10:13:31 AM by BroncoBob » Logged

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