Malt provides the sugars need to make beer but they still need to be extracted. This process is called Mashing and there are several different method to this process.

Dry Malt Extract (DME)

The first and easiest is the use of DME. This isn’t strictly mashing as we are not steeping the grains or even using grains to begin with. DME is exactly what the name says it is, malt extract. All you have to do is dissolve it in water and then bring it to a boil to sterilize the wort.

Single Infusion

This method relates to partial grain/partial DME batches and all grain batches. Single infusion is the simplest method; a pre-determined amount of grain and volume of water are combined at  a specific temperature for a set length of time. Pretty rigid, right? It’s supposed to be. This method yields a highly reproducible beer.

Step Mashing

This method is similar to Single Infusion but does not stick to 1 temperature but rather “steps”. Each temperature is selected to activate and exploit a particular enzyme present in the malt. Each enzyme breaks down a specific set of complex components. There are 4 major steps that have been historically used:

-β-Glucan Rest(48ºC): This rest helps to reduce the overall visocity of the mash. β-glucans are very “sticky” and can rest in the entire mash hardening into a nice loaf of bread.

-Protein Rest (50ºC): Originally meant to breakdown proteins into their amino acids so that yeast would have a more nutrient rich environment to work with, this step has been abandoned as most of the research indicates this step has no value.

– β-Amylase Rest (57ºC): This enzyme helps to breakdown the first set of complex sugars for yeast to ferment.

-α-Amylase Rest (70ºC): This enzyme breaks down the majority of complex sugars into simple sugars.

Decoction

This method is more labor intensive than any other method. Once the grains have been allowed to steep for some time, a third of the grain is withdrawn, drained and then cooked down. When the grains are allowed to cook down some of the remaining complex sugars begin to breakdown and some maillard products begin to form. The grains are then added back to the mash so that the new sugars can be extracted into the wash. This increase the fermentability and the maillard products give a caramel character to the wash.

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