From the HBD Archive
From: Tom Hotchkiss <trh@hpestrh>
Subject: First Mash
Date: 1989-10-04 15:19:56 GMT

In response to Mark Never's query about mashing, I have to talk about my
first attempt. I just put the grains in a big picnic cooler, and dumped in
about 1 to 1 1/2 qts./lb. of 170 degree water. At first, I didn't mix
it well and ended up with pretty wide temperature variations in the mash.
So, I stirred a bunch more and the temp settled at something below the
desired 150-154. So, I started adding boiling water a quart or so at a
time until the desired temp was reached.

Next, I drank a homebrew and waited 1 1/2 hrs. Then, I made a feeble attempt
at sparging by trying to use the spigot on the picnic cooler. The cooler
was one of the rectangular varieties, and I didn't have the grain in a bag.
The grain would quickly clog the spigot, stopping the flow of wort. The
only way to get anything was to use a spoon to hold the grain back from
the spigot. Hot water from the sink was used for sparging (not the best
way). In summary, with the big rectangular cooler (grain spread thin on
bottom of cooler) and no grain bag, I got a really inefficient mash.
Back then I didn't use a hydrometer, so I don't know how bad it was.

The bottom line however was that I got a really great pale ale! It was
a little light which I'm sure was due to the inefficient mash. Since that
time I have tried more single step infusions, multi-step infusions,
and temperature step on the stove. Based on my experiences, I would
recommend the single step infusion for your first attempt. Of all the
methods, it is the fastest, easiest, and yields great results. Multi-step
infusions are a bad idea since you end up with way too much water in
the mash. Temperature step on the stove seems to give a slightly more
efficient mash, but it takes at least twice as long as single step
infusion. Here are a few more pointers:

1. *Definately* buy a grain bag. A large one (good for at least 10 lb of
grain) shouldn't cost more than 5 bucks.

2. Try to find a tall, round cooler with a spigot on the bottom (like the
Gatoraide bucket Harry Carson emptied on Bill Parcels when the Giants
won the superbowl). The reason is that I have found the biggest factor
in mash efficieny to be sparging. The tall round cooler will give you
a deeper grain bed for sparging. Note that if you have a rectangular
cooler and can't afford a round one right now: try it anyway, it will
still work. Another option is to make the Zapap sparging bucket
described in Papazian's book.

3. Be patient sparging!!! The process should take at least an hour.
Letting the wort drain off too quickly lowers the mash efficieny.
Hot water from the sink works, but it is only about 110 degrees and
I have heard that hot water pipes tend to have lots of nasties in
them. So don't mess around and heat up some cold water on the
stove for sparging.

4. For your first attempt, I would suggest using an extra pound or two
of pale malt over what the recipie calls for. This is in anticipation
of reduced efficieny for your first attempt. English malt is
highly modified and works best for infusion mashing.

5. Finally, I heat up the water that you add to the mash to 180 rather
than 170 degrees, since 170 seems to result in too low a temp. It's
eaisier to adjust the temp down than up. For a good discussion of
infusion mashing, I would suggest Dave Line's "Big Book of Brewing."
It's also good for a few laughs.

Go for it, you won't be disappointed.

Tom Hotchkiss trh@hpfcla

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