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Mash-Extract brewing is like brewing with extract alone except for the need to soak grain at certain temperatures to convert the starches in the grains to sugars. You will also have more grains to work with than a typical extract brew- usually between 2 and 5 pounds.

Filling the grain bag..


There are several methods for mashing grain. The easiest is called an infusion mash, and requires soaking the grain in water at a temperature range of 148- 154 oF. All of the mash- extract recipes for our beer kits use this method.

Our illustrated guide has instructions for mashing with a large grain bag. Another way to mash is to soak the grains directly in a brew pot, and then transfer the grains to a lauter tun (a large straining bucket with a false bottom to strain out the grains) to sparge. It is also possible to use a large colander to strain the grains, although this is the least preferred method because too many grain particles will wash through. A colander will also do a less efficient job of extracting the available sugars from the grains.


Weigh out the grains that your recipe calls for, and mix them together. Place the grains in a cotton or nylon straining bag, and close the bag tightly. The malted barley grains need to be crushed before using. Once grains are crushed they should be used right away or sealed in an airtight bag to keep them fresh. Check your grains by smelling them- they should have a fresh , grainy aroma, or a sweet caramel and or chocolate smell, if they are specialty grains.


In a large pot (2 gallon at least), heat the water your recipe calls for to 165 oF. Most recipes call for 1 to 1 3/4 gallons of water. If using distilled water or you have soft water, you may want to adjust the mineral content of the water by adding 1 or 2 teaspoons of gypsum. You might want to make other mineral adjustments- a good brewing book will have guidelines for doing this. The main reason to adjust the mineral content of the water at this stage is to achieve the proper PH for mashing.

Because this is a partial mash and you will be adding extract, it is not necessary to get too scientific about the water. 99% of the time, the process will work without adding any minerals or by just adding a teaspoon of gypsum.

Starting the mash...


Pack the grains loosely in the bag and close the top before placing the bag in the hot water. The grain swells when soaked in water- it is important to allow enough space in the bag for this to happen and still allow room for water to flow through. You may need to add more water than the recipe calls for to completely cover the grains.

Add the grains your recipe calls for to the water. Once you add the grains the temperature should be 150 oF. Stir well and allow the grains to soak (mash) for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Try to maintain a constant temperature: you can add heat if needed either by putting your brew pot on a burner on low heat and (stirring constantly while heating), or by removing part of the mash and heating it to 180 oF, then adding it back to the mash. Be very careful when adding heat with a stove! Your grain bag can melt or burn if it touches the metal bottom of the pot which is directly on a heat source. You should always slowly stir the mash when adding heat so the temperature equalizes quickly.

It is very important that you maintain a consistent temperature range. If you allow the mash to get too hot (over 160 oF), the enzymes that convert starch to sugar will be deactivated, and the mash will not be successful. If the temperature is too low (under 140 oF), the mash will not complete. Because the mash is thick enough to retain heat well, simply insulating the mash container with an old thick towel may be all that is necessary to maintain the heat.

The mash is complete when all of the starches have been converted to fermentable sugars (see below).

Still Mashing (150 oF)....

Sample for the starch test...

After adding iodine: the purple color means starch is still present...

How To Determine Starch Conversion:

When you first place the grains in the hot water, you will notice that the mixture has a cloudy appearance due to the presence of starches. As the grains continue to soak the mixture clears as the starches are converted to sugar. To test for starch conversion, take a small sample of the liquid and place it on a small white plate or in a cup. Try to keep grain particles out of the sample by floating a spoon on the top of the mash and gently tipping the liquid into the spoon. Add a drop of iodine (the same iodophor that is used for sanitizing works well), and swirl or mix it with the sample. If the color of the mixture stays red, or only changes slightly (a few grain particles can cause this) then the conversion is done. If it quickly changes color to dark blue or black, continue the mash for another 10 or 15 minutes, or until it is complete.

Sparging the Grains


Sparging is the process of rinsing the sugars from the grains with water.

First, heat your sparge water (1 to 2 gallons, depending on your recipe) to 170 oF. Open the top of the grain bag and hold it up so that the level of the grains inside the bag is slightly higher than the level of water in your brew pot (see picture, left). Using a ladle or a measuring cup, slowly pour the sparge water over the grains inside the bag. Try to pour most of the water as close to the center of the bag as possible; this will extract the highest possible amount of sugars. Allow the sparged grains to drain for a few minutes, then squeeze the bag gently to extract more of the remaining liquid. If the bag is too hot to handle, set it aside to cool- you can squeeze the bag into you brew later in the brewing process.

It is important to not try and wring out every last drop of liquid from the grains, as this will add too much solid matter to the brew and can affect the taste and clarity of the finished beer. The spent grains are no longer needed for the brew, as the flavor and color have already been extracted. The grains still have some use, so if you are able, we recommend one of the following options:

Compost: Spent grains have a large amount of fiber which is excellent for building compost. Because of the high sugar content, they can attract insects and rodents, so it is a good idea to mix the grains thoroughly with the rest of the compost matter.

Animal feed: Spent grains are an excellent food source for poultry, pigs, or cows. It should be fed to the animals fresh.

Baking: for making bread, spent grains add barley malt sugar and fiber (put the grains in a blender with some water to reduce the husk size). Other foods you can make with the spent grains include granola, cookies, or energy bars.

Happy Brewing!


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