Mashing Made Easy!

Introduction

The goal of mashing is to convert grain starch into fermentable sugars. A lot has been written about mashing. And most of it is wrong. Wrong or not applicable to craft distilling. How come? Because most information about mashing looks at starch conversion from a brewer’s perspective. A brewer’s perspective instead of a distiller’s perspective. This iStill Blog post aims to amend that.

Mashing from a brewer’s perspective

Beer balances alcohol with residual sweetness. As a result mashing, from a brewer’s perspective, is finding that fine balance between the right amount of fermentable and unfermentable sugars. The fermentable sugars create the alcohol. The unfermentable ones, often called “dextrins”, sweeten the flavor of the beer.

As a result, brewers use elaborate mashing schemes to achieve that fine balance. Step-up mashing protocols with rests at 40c, 65c, 70c, and more, help the brewer achieve his goals. And since most distillers didn’t know much about mashing, many have used brewer’s protocols. And that’s wrong.

Mashing from a distiller’s perspective

Distillers aren’t interested in sweetness in their distillers beer. Sweetness is a flavor that does not come across, when the base beer is distilled. So instead of focussing on getting both fermentable and unfermentable sugars, distillers should only focus in converting as many of the starch into fermentable sugars.

The consequence? Distillers do not need a brewer’s approach to mashing. No need for difficult step-up mash schemes. Instead, always do step-down mashing. Like this:

Step-down mashing single malt

If you are planning to make whisky from malted barley only, your procedure is very easy:

  1. Bring your mash water to 65c;
  2. Slowly add the milled malted barley;
  3. Stir it in and let it mix for 60 minutes without heating;
  4. Put the cooler on and bring the mash to 25c and start fermenting.

You see how you only need to step-down? And remember: no heating is required.

Step-down mashing for other grain bills

Any other grain bill goes like this:

  1. Bring your mash water to 90c;
  2. Add your high-temp enzymes and your grains (all but the malted barley);
  3. Stir it in and let it mix for 60 minutes without heating;
  4. Put the cooler on and bring the mash to 61c and add the malted barley and/or your low-temp enzymes;
  5. Mix for 60 minutes without heating;
  6. Put the cooler on and bring the mash to 25c and start fermenting.

Anything more than that is overcomplicating things …