Pseudo Decoction

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by OldBrewer, Oct 6, 2018.

  1. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    After more than 5 decades of drinking beer, and trying to analyze what it is I like best about it, I have discovered that the melanoidin taste common to many lagers and pilsners (mostly European) is what I crave most in beers. This taste is truly amazing, and quite complex, and, unfortunately, not commonly recognized or appreciated by most.

    Other than by doing a double or triple decoction, it seems very difficult to come close to this remarkable taste. However, there are ways to simulate it. Other than by doing a decoction, three of those ways include either adding melanoidin malt, Munich malt, or Vienna malt (or a combination). I have tried all three, but do not find that they come close to matching the subtle taste of melanoidins obtained through the decoction process.

    I have heard of a fourth way, which takes much less time than doing a decoction, or double or triple decoction, and which comes much closer to achieving that decoction flavor. This involves taking half your grain bill, adding one third of the mash water, and boiling it for 20 minutes or so. Then you add it back to the rest of the grain and mash water, and mash it all together as usual.

    Especially for those who prefer lager/pilsner brewing, has anybody tried this method, or have other similar methods which come closer to achieving that decoction-type of flavor, without having to resort to doing actual time-consuming, complicated, and frustrating, decoctions?

    Do you have any suggestions or details, on how this may be achieved?

  2. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,243) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado

    I'm no German, but didnt you just describe doing a decoction?
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  3. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Not really. In a decoction, all the grains and mash water are first added together, and the first rest is done. Only after that rest do you pull the thick mash,boil it, and return it to the wort to raise it to the second rest. Then you repeat. In the "pseudo mash" process, you start right our by mixing half your grains and 1/3 of the water, bring it to a boil for 20 mihutes or so, and only then add it to the rest of the grain and mash water. Then you just do a normal infusion mash with the combined decoction and rest of grain/water. There should be enough enzymes left in the other half of grain to complete the conversion.
  4. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,243) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado

    Ah. It's pretty damned close. I also crave those flavors of a true decoction. My marzen this year was 2/3 munich and vienna with a sprinkle of melanoiden malt, and it's not even close to what I want. I'll be looking forward to trying this as well.
  5. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    I made a Paulaner type of south German lager earlier this year with a pound of light Munich malt, as well as some Melanoiden malt, and just finished the same recipe but with a pound of Vienna malt instead (also with melanoiden malt). It just wasn't what I was hoping for. I'll try the pseudo decoction approach next time.

    It is similar to a regular decoction, but without all the fuss during the mashing. I'm wondering how much to let the decoction cool down (if any) before adding it the the rest of the mash, in order to hit the mash temperature.
  6. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,243) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado

    I have a direct fire mash tun, so I would leave the rest of the mash at room temp and mix it all up in hopes of hitting my mash temp, but if I didnt I could just turn on a burner. I wouldn't imagine it would be far off.
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  7. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    I can do the math (law of thermodynamics) to calculate the resultant temperature, but when I have calculated it in the past, it rarely comes even close. There are too many variables not included in the equation, such as the amount of grain, heat losses to the air, etc.

    I wish I had a direct fire mash tun.
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  8. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    I just did a calculation for a typical brew, and the resultant temperature of the mix (assuming the decoction is at boiling and the remaining mash is at room temperature, 70 F) would about 106 F. Thus I would need to bring the mash up to about 132 F before adding the decoction. However, this is all theoretical, the the actual result will be different. But it gives a ballpark estimate to start with.
  9. wasatchback

    wasatchback Aspirant (270) Jan 12, 2014 Utah

    Why not just do a single or double Decoction? It’s really not that difficult. Shortcuts are shortcuts, if it provided the same results no one would bother with a normal decoction regimen.
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  10. Shawn3997

    Shawn3997 Initiate (28) Aug 25, 2016 Arkansas

    I saw a "How It's Made" for Sam Adams Boston Lager and this is exactly what they do. While heating up the main mash water they boil some portion of their grains and then add those to the main mash. I'm going to try this sometime this month with a German Pilsner and compare it to a single infusion mash.
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  11. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,755) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    I'm not sure I have tried them often enough to be as confident that it matters to me as you seem to be, but I will sometimes just try a single decoction to get to mashout temps if I'm brewing German styles.
  12. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (435) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    I decoct all the time . . . other than adding about 45 minutes to brew day it ain't a big deal. Actually do a double D, boil liquid run-off from mash tun for mash-out step (which is quick/easy). So I wouldn't say your abbreviated method is going to save a tremendous amount of time . . . plus a real decoction has the advantage of actually working. The only special equipment you need is a good pair of lederhosen:
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  13. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    I have done those before. I can guarantee that this approach will be MUCH easier. For one thing, you do the entire decoction separately and before the regular mash even begins. No worries about first bringing it up to the first res, taking a portion of it, bringing it to a boil, returning it, bringing it to the second rest, repeating, all the time hoping that you will hit the right temperatures, especially while the thin mash is cooling during the boil of the decoction. If you have a way to heat your mash tun, then it's no big deal. if you are using a cooler, then it's an enormous amount of frustration and adds a LOT of time to your brew day.
  14. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Yes, those lederhosen would certainly make the brewday much more interesting :-) Might not get much done though. I think the key issue here is whether or not you're doing a decoction using a mash system that has internal heat, or on a stove, as opposed to doing decoctions using just a cooler.
  15. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (435) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    I use an Igloo cooler . . . pull about 1/3 which is heated then boiled then pitched back to mash tun. Kettle of boiling water resolves any temp-miscues. For mash-out pull some liquid and boil it . . . that's it, DD is complete. Stirring arm gets a little tired but builds up the glass-lifting muscle nicely.
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  16. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (84) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    Sorry, decoction doesn't really add flavors. It adds excess color, thermal stress, and worse shelf stability. Of the large continental macros who still decoct (very few), they are usually single decocting( except of course PU). They are not decocting for flavor usually, it's extract or legacy process/equipment/lore/mystic. In the case of PU the decoction is not what makes it sweet, the poor AE/FE of the yeast leave simple sugars, and thats where it gets it's sweetness.

    The flavors you crave, and have yet to get are flavors of low oxygen brewhouses. When oxygen is excluded from the hot side, malts don't oxidize and turn cloying sweet. They are also phenomenal at o2 exclusion on the cold side. In short, you want a continental pilsner flavor, you exclude oxygen.. everywhere.
    #16 TheBeerery, Oct 8, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
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  17. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,469) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I have to disagree a little here, but I think you and @OldBrewer are talking about different types of flavor. I would agree that decoction does not produce fresh pilsner malt flavor, and can actually work against it. But it does cause Maillard reactions, which do make toasty/roasty flavor compounds. FWIW, the Melanoidins produced by the Maillard reactions actually have no flavor at all. But other products (probably mostly pyrazines) do.
  18. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (84) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    For sure, my comment was more towards your comment about Melanoidins, they are tasteless. Pilsners don't have toasty or roastly flavors (and shouldn't), so decocting a pilsner to get Melanoidins, is a fruitless task (this coming from a former decocter FYI). A wise man once said (Kunze), buy your cara's don't try and create them.
    OldBrewer likes this.
  19. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,712) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    There is a fair bit of discussion about “melanoidins” and whether they have flavor. As I understand it Food Scientists state that melanoidins are flavorless. Perhaps the best way to address this overall topic is via the term Mallard reaction products of which there are many types (with melanoidans being one class of Mallard reaction products). Decoction mashing will produce Maillard reaction products.

    There has been much debate in the past by brewers (including homebrewers) about whether decoction makes a significant difference in the flavor profile of a resulting beer. I recall reading about an ‘experiment’ that Denny Conn conducted in the past where the same beer was brewed twice but one was via decoction mashing and the other was not decocted. These beers were tasted blind by a number of taste testers (40?) and there was no perceived difference between these two beers.

    Below is a link to an interesting article on the topic of decoction mashing. Some extracts from that article:

    “When I visited Ayinger, I was not surprised to find the standard four-vessel arrangement typical of decoction breweries. But the mash cooker was in disuse. Immediately after installing the new brewery, Ayinger ditched decoction. My tour guide, John Forster, was dismissive. “It’s more effective now to do infusion. We say decoction is for old breweries. We can do it, but it’s not necessary.”


    “Although decoction mashing is still very much alive in the Czech Republic—by law, in order to be classified a “Czech beer,” the beer must have been made with decoction mashing—a great many people doubt it has any appreciable effect on the flavor of beer.”

    “A week later, when I toured Budvar in the Czech Republic, brewmaster Adam Brož mounted a hearty defense of decoction. It “is very important,” he said, adding that they had conducted a side-by-side test of their beer brewed with decoction and step infusion mashing. “The beer brewed by the infusion process was emptier in its taste—the body was not correct for the lagers. Also the color changed. If you boil during the decoction, you prepare the compounds which cause golden color. The infusion lagers were yellowish, and not so full in their taste.”

    Let the decoction mashing debate continue!?!

    Na zdraví!
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  20. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (84) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    It just goes back to this.. You emulate the process the professionals use to make the beer you want to "clone".
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  21. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Vikeman is correct on this. I do agree that the low oxygen brewing does add a degree of freshness to the beer, and having done this, I agree. But the freshness is only a part of the taste that I am trying to achieve. Perhaps I was wrong to attribute the "elusive favor" to melanoidin, but I do know that whenever I have used malanoidin additions (melanoidin malt, Munich malt and/or Vienna malt) I approach that "elusive flavor" that I am so obsessed about. I also get that taste whenever I have done decoction brews.

    Thus it may be more accurate for me to say that the taste derives from the Maillard reactions -somehow - and may not necessary result from the actual melanoidin. I agree with what Jack said about Adam Brož's comments that it adds more malt body (although a unique type of body). I'm not convinced that it adds much color, at least to the extent some people maintain. Someone once compared the color of a decoction mash to an infusion mash using the same recipe, and the color difference was extremely slight.

    I also notice that this "elusive taste" derived from the Maillard reactions is not noticeable by many people. For some reason, I am highly sensitive to this particular flavor and is one that I seek in all the lagers I try. There is a local lager that still does a double decoction, and this beer is literally filled with the flavor (only 2-row malt is used - not other grains are added). Thus in any test, it is possible that the results may not be totally valid because not everybody is able to detect the flavor. The test should be only done with those who can detect that "elusive flavor".
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  22. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (242) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I think the question that should be asked is firstly: does a decoction reduce the fermentability of the wort compared with a step mash, if so to what degree, and if so are tasters able to pick up on the difference in taste in the finished beer? Additionally, is there a difference between using a single thick mash decoction, one thick mash and one thin mash decoction, one single thin mash decoction or two thick mashes and one thin mash decoction?

    In other words do you get the same result from a single decoction as from a triple decoction? If so, which form of decoction have people been using to test this I wonder?

    The claims I see being made in 19th century literature about decoction mashing are practical in nature, that it can increase efficiency and that they reduce the fermentability of the wort and beer. These are measurable things and do not deal with intangible or subjective taste preferences. With modern malts the efficiency claim might be both moot and irrelevant. But the second claim, that of producing a less fermentable wort and beer can still be relevant and can still be tested and found to be false (or no longer valid), or true. If found to be true its application might be of interest to some brewers depending on what their goals are.
  23. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    I just wrote an equation that will more accurately estimate the temperature, by using the laws of thermodynamics and adding the specific heat capacity of both water and malt. I could tweak it more by adjusting the specific heat capacity as it changes by temperature, and also the weight of water as it changes by temperature (assuming the same volume) but I think those changes will only result in minor corrections. As such, using the revised calculations, I would need to bring the typical brew up to about 125 F instead of 132 F in order to result in a temperature of about 152 F after the decoction is added back to the rest of the mash. I'll see how this works out in practice.
  24. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,712) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Patrik, those are indeed interesting questions. I wonder if there are any technical articles studying these specific topics?

    Below is something that Kai Troester mentioned in his treatise on Decoction Mashing (with emphasis in bold by me):

    A decoction is pulled again, rested for conversion and then brought to a boil. This time to reach the saccharification rest temperature. This temperature is similar to the saccharification rest temperature that is used for a single infusion mash, but the same temperature that was used in a single infusion mash may not give the same fermentability in a decoction mash. Boiling has destroyed more of the enzymes while it has made the starch also more easily accessible. The former would lead to a less fermentable result while the latter would shift the fermentability towards a more fermentable wort. This is only to illustrate that experimenting with the saccharification rest temperature might be necessary for optimal results. The saccharification rest temperature that would have been used in a single infusion mash is however a good starting point.”

    So, you have two things working at cross purposes here: boiling which destroys enzymes but making the starch more accessible. Which process ‘wins’ as regards creating a fermentable wort? Considering that contemporary malts are well modified, does that impact this ‘equation’?

    Below is a link to an article that discusses some of the views of Dr. Charlie Bamforth on the topic of Decoction Mashing:

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  25. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (84) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    I think it's just unfermented sugar ( this elusive flavor). Not mashing in high and having an under attenuated dextrine rich wort (yuck), like fermentable sugars, left in the beer.

    Beers like PU have a quite high % up to 10% fermentable sugar left... that is going to add quite a bit of "body and sweetness"

    It goes back to professional (in this case) German brewing literature. Where as based on style the residual sugar amount is varied in the beer to give fullness and sweetness. For something like a dunkel 5-6% residual is preferred, were as a pilsner can be lower 1%ish. No one else I know of does this. Everyone always ferments to FG regardless.

    I routinely do this on all my beers. By using practically the same highly fermentable mashing program. My beers will finish (if left) at about 1.006-8 depending on OG. Knowing this I can halt fermentation to drop the yeast and leave the residual extract where I want it.

    Decoction has basically been dropped by all continental macro breweries ( save maybe for some wheat beers, they need way higher gelatinization temps because of the wheat). Except for the Munich breweries... because of tradition.
    #25 TheBeerery, Oct 8, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
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  26. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,469) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Before you grind the pebbles, there's still a big rock left. Heat Capacity of the mash tun. It's not hard to do.
  27. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (242) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Interesting question indeed. I suppose that that is where the claim about an increase in efficiency stems from, of accessing more of the starches. I would think however that the higher temperatures of the decoctions would result in different sugars being created compared with an infusion mash in favor of less fermentable types, so that even if more starch is accessed and converted, more of it ends up being of a less fermentable kind? I.e dextrines etc.
  28. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (84) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    Yes some of the starches need more than a single infusion temp/rest to burst and be accessible. This is the reason for many German breweries only decocting wheat beers. The argument now a days is that a step mash is nearly as effective as decoction for access to extract, and thats the only downside (potentially less extract). Where as pumping mash around and heating mash, etc is not only hard on the beer, its energy and space extensive as well.

    With that being said, decoction is a viable brewing method, and it served its purpose. Much like all things science and technology have advanced and things can now be measured and tested like they couldn't before. This paves the way for additions or changes.

    Also, the sources listed are food for thought, but take them with a grain of salt. I don't think any homebrewer, let alone most professional brewers have enough lab/sensory analysis to make claims of which is better. That includes Bamforth IMO. If I wanted to get down to the nitty gritty ( and I have) I would sit down with some professional continental brewmasters. Some for and some against, and listen to what they have to say. There are cases for and against, but in the professional area, decoction may or may not be chosen for other reasons besides flavor ( if there is a difference).
    So it boils down to, if you want to do it, if you don't, don't.

    My question to you @OldBrewer is..

    Off the top of your head list some continential pilsners that you think have "it" and I may be able to tell you if they are decocted or not. Maybe it is decoction, maybe the flavor is some other component of the beer. Either way I find it really intriguing. I am a ginormous fan of continental pale lagers, and am a certified super taster, and BJCP blah blah.. I taste things in the beers that most people don't, i.e. I can taste the flavor of paulaner's sauergut in the beer and whatnot.
  29. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,712) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Yeah, I would like to read more data (e.g., an article from a technical journal) on this topic.

    I wonder if this is a topic that contemporary brewing scientists would even study today since decoction mashing is no longer popularly done by large(r) breweries. I suspect that some smaller (brewpub sized) breweries in Germany still conduct decoction mashing since that was the way it historically was done. I am under the impression that much of brewing science is being done to support the more 'mainstream' brewing industry.

    If you ever find any technical articles on this topic please let me know.

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  30. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Yes, I realize that, and usually adjust for that by preheating the fermenter. However, if it can be readily calculated, I would prefer that. Do you have a source that provides directions on how the heat capacity of the mash tun can be calculated?
  31. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    The best example is the lager brewed in Toronto (Steam Whistle). However, some European lagers that come to mind are Hacker-Pschorr Munchen Gold, Pilsner Urquell, Bitburger Premium Pilsner, and Hofbrau Original.
  32. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (84) May 2, 2016 Minnesota


    So I think at least 1 of those are non-decocted. Also Paulaner is not as well.
    #32 TheBeerery, Oct 9, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  33. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Paulaner has that wonderful oxygen-free flavor, but lacks that "elusive" flavor. Their Octoberfest comes close, but perhaps the flavor comes from the Maillard-produced Munich malts.
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  34. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (84) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    Bitburger uses a nice portion of light Munich, as does Paulaner in the marzen and helles.

  35. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    In my experimentation with a Paulaner-like lager, I found that 1 pound of light Munich malt overpowered the taste I was hoping to obtain, while using the same recipe with one pound of light Vienna malt instead of the Munich malt, was not quite enough, although I could begin to notice the taste. Possibly 1/2 - 3/4 pound of Munich, or 1.5 pounds of Vienna might work, or a combination of the two.

    Thus this Maillard taste seems to be sensitive to just the right amount. Too much, and the effect is gone, too little and it's barely noticeable. There seems to be a perfect balance point involved.
  36. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (84) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    I'm not sure what size batches you brew so 1lb may be 10% it may be more.

    Munich is bread crusty, sometimes outside of hard pretzel. Vienna is doughy, like fresh bread dough, so I don't really know how they can be used interchangeably to create the same "effect".

    For comparison this is my house keller pils. It has 20% light munich in it.

    I would assume it would have said elusive flavor.
  37. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Sorry - I now mostly make 5 gallon batches. Munich and Vienna do taste different, but both contain Maillard products. It's the Maillard product leading to that "taste" that I was mentioning.

    That pils looks absolutely delicious. Wish I lived close enough to try it.
  38. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,469) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Okay, I assume you are using formulae that know the volumes of water and the weight of grains, plus the applicable temperatures. What I would recommend doing is to determine the "water thermal equivalence" (yes, I made that term up) of your mash tun, i.e. determine how many gallons (or quarts, or whatever unit you are working in) of water have the same heat capacity as the tun. Then, you treat the tun in your formulae as if it is "Z" gallons (or whatever) of water. (You should probably come up with a fraction of a gallon at homebrew scale.)

    Here's a way to estimate the value of "Z" to use in your formulae: Add 5 gallons of water, heated to known temperature "Twater" to your tun, which is waiting at known temperature "Ttun." (Best to use room temperature, and best if the open tun has acclimated to it over a few hours or longer.) Close the tun, wait about 5 minutes, and measure the current temperature of the water, "Tfinal," which will be somewhere between Twater and Ttun. Plug your numbers into the following and solve for Z. ("5" below assumes 5 gallons or water added.):

    Tfinal = (5 x Twater + Z x Ttun) / (5 + Z)

    Z will be the gallons (or whatever) to use for the water thermal equivalence of the tun.
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  39. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Thanks - sounds like a great and viable plan, and it should be easy to do. Actually, in my calculations, I also use a specific heat of water (after converting quarts to pounds and using pounds by change in degrees F) and of grain (also by pounds by change in degrees F). Thus your "water thermal equivalence" could also be calculated as a specific heat of the tun. But converting that to a ratio relative to the specific heat of water will also work. I'll give that a try.
  40. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (247) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Well I wrote the formulae and tried entering some data I had on past brews. The result was a considerable amount of variation in the "specific heat" value for the cooler. However, one of the variables I didn't measure in the past was the actual room temperature. Other variables include how I added the hot water - whether all at once, by a large measuring cup, how long it took before I had added all the water and closed the lid, how long I stirred before measuring the temperature, etc. Accounting for those variables in the future will make the estimate more accurate, but there are likely still some variables that need to be determined.