A beer recipe is only the first part of a recipe… brewing process is the second… without the right process a beer recipe can brew a variety of beers…. (this is more so when brewing all-grain)

… and today I’m going to take this even further… how to use process to modify a recipe… more specifically a recipe intended to be brewed using a decoction mash…

Last week I introduced my new experiment in which I am going to see if decoction mashing does really make a difference in brewing…. last week I talked about the why’s brewers have mentioned you must do decoction mashing for certain beers… today we are going to visit the opposite side… why you don’t need to do a decoction mash….

The idea of decoction mash is to work with undermodified malts, but aside from that a subtle flavor is supposed to develop in the process, which is the flavor claimed not to be able to be produced any other way… that flavor is believed to come from melanoidins forming while boiling grains giving your beer a malty-like flavor… of course it’s believed to be slightly different…

So here’s the other side of the argument…

Melanoidins are also produced during the boil, so one way to add this ‘decoction mash’ flavor to beer is to boil longer… not necessarily harder, just longer to produce more flavors… but this alone won’t have much of an effect if you are trying to truly mimic the flavor of decoction mashing…

The key is malt selection… it’s hard to fully convert undermodified malt, so one of two things will need to happen if you are set on doing a step mash instead of decoction mash… one, you can up the amount of malt to make up for less extract efficiency (how much sugar you get out of the malt)… two, substitute part of the undermofied malt for moderately modified malt…

You don’t want to substitute all the malt because undermodified malt tends to have more of a grainy flavor compared to moderately or highly modified malts… so you’ll want to find a good balance between using some undermodified malt and moderately modified malt to keep some characteristics of the undermodified malt and do a step mash…

I’ve also heard (and read) you should avoid using a malt like melanoidin malt to get the ‘melanoidin flavor’ because it has a different, more pronounced flavor than what you’d get from decoction mashing… but I think using a malt like this one or similar (amber, victory, aromatic, etc.) in very small amounts – and I mean small – can help us achieve the flavor we are looking for…

Finding out exactly what amounts of different malts to use will be part of the experiment… but the reason why I want to bring it up now is to talk about one strong argument I’ve read when trying to avoid decoction mashing…

Those who say they can get the same results with infusion or step mashes do so by modifying both the recipe and the process as well… many think that there’s only one way to brew a specific style of beer… in some cases I would say so, but in many cases there will be multiple ways to get the same beer…

This is very common when trying to brew a clone… clone recipes are usually different than the actual recipe the brewery uses… the process is also usually modified and adapted to the homebrew setting… but you can get a beer that tastes pretty much the same… of course it’s up to the brewer to do a good job at getting as close as possible, which is another topic altogether…

So hopefully I can convince you keep an open mind about this at least while I go through the experiment…

Cheers!

P.S. got my car back, but I won’t be able to brew this weekend… I’m running a 5k on Saturday to help raise charity money for the Cardon’s Children Medical Center (Banner Health) and have team projects for school…


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