"Traditional" Belgian Step Mash?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by VikeMan, Jun 29, 2018.

  1. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,445) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Re-reading "Brew Like a Monk" I see that Moortgat reportedly "employs a traditional step mash." I know little about step mashes in Belgian breweries. Anyone know what a typical Belgian traditional step mash would look like? Or better yet, details about the one specifically used by Moortgat? TIA.
     
  2. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (421) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    Here's some discussion on the subject (not Moortgat specific):
    https://beerandbrewing.com/belgian-beer-youre-probably-doing-it-wrong/

    Some topics listed are questionable to me, however the idea of step-mashing the less modified Continental malt probably has some merit. Not sure we can even get that stuff over here. You figure on becoming a maltster?
     
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  3. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,445) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    "Less" modified is a key word here. Each malt has a different level of modification, as indicated (typically) by the Kohlbach index. I think some brewers make the mistake of thinking of two broad categories of base malt modification ("Fully" modified and "Under" modified) in too much of a binary way, i.e. that "under" modified needs a protein rest and that "fully" modified doesn't. I think it comes down to what you're trying to accomplish, because each of these broad modification categories is actually a range, and because there are effectively two different temperature ranges (with different enzymes most active and thus different results) within the term "protein rest." As an example, foam retention for even a "fully" modified malt can actually be enhanced by a short protein rest in the upper part of the protein rest range (low 130s), because the particular enzyme most active at that temp turns long "haze" proteins into medium "foam" proteins.

    I'm speaking here mostly from a german beer perspective. I don't know what the Belgians do/did traditionally. Thus my question.

    (Regarding the availability of less modified malts over here, I believe Barke Pils is right on the hairy edge between under- and fully-modified.)
     
  4. Dave_S

    Dave_S Initiate (46) May 18, 2017 England

    According to http://edsbeer.blogspot.com/2015/05/duvel-brewery.html, they use a simple infusion.

    There are other posts on that blog in May, June and August covering other Belgian breweries (*cough* Orval *cough*) that he visited on the same IBD "study tour", some of which also have information about mash schedules and other interesting process stuff.
     
  5. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (194) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Regarding "well-modified" or "fully-modified".... I believe the terms we should be using in the States is more like the difference between "well-modified" and "extremely-well-modified". It's really, really, really difficult to source any malt here that is anything less than "moderately modified" IMO.

    Furthermore, well, I could be a devil (I'm good at it) and question whether any beers these days here really benefit from step mashing at all, or why/how it's any better than single infusion. But nevermind that, I'm not saying that here now. :wink:
     
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  6. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (421) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    A Belgian bar will not serve a beer unless it's in the Brewery's proprietary glass. If they run out of glasses for a particular beer they will politely tell you they are out of that beer. The famous 't Brugs Beertje in Brugge has 1600 beers and 1300 glasses. What does that have to do with step-mashing? Probably nothing . . . but it's how they think.
     
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  7. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    I completely agree with the first part!. The second part not so much. :grin:
     
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  8. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,445) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    That's interesting. And also contrary to what Hieronymus says in "Brew Like a Monk." I wonder... "Ed" says simple infusion (and not single infusion). I wonder if he was just trying to say that it is not decocted, i.e. is only infused. So I just asked him that very question on his blog. We'll see what he has to say about it.

    Just speculating...I suppose both could be correct, if Moortgat changed their process sometime after the book was published.
     
  9. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota


    Something like dough in at 55c, rest for maybe 10
    Step to beta ( actual temp depends on gelatinization temp of malt) 62-65c. for 20-40min
    Step to alpha 72c for 20-40min
    Step to mash out 77c for 10min

    You always step mash as per the malt, and not for the beer.. common misconception.
     
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  10. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    Infusion mashing is what step mashing is called. Single infusion or British brewing is completely different. It's either infusion or decoction.
     
  11. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,445) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    How do you determine the gelatinization temperature for a given malt?

    I agree. But when someone in a blog post says "simple" infusion, I think it's worth clarifying what they meant to say. I've seen people say simple infusion before when what they really meant was single infusion, including some rather big name homebrewing writers.
     
  12. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    Using the Hartong index on the malt analysis sheet. Here is a little write up about gelatinization. http://www.lowoxygenbrewing.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/pddvxvf.pdf
    http://www.lowoxygenbrewing.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/pkjdf.pdf

    and for sure on the clarification part.
     
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  13. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (194) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    You've taught me well! On some stuff, but not on others. :wink:
     
  14. patto1ro

    patto1ro Zealot (515) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    Most British breweries didn't use a single infusion in the 20th century. The commonest mashing scheme was an initial infusion at 146-148º F for 40-60 minutes after which hotter water was added from the underneath to raise the mash temperature 3-4º F. That's effectively a step mash.

    Only in Scotland was a single infusion then sparging common.
     
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  15. Dave_S

    Dave_S Initiate (46) May 18, 2017 England

    I would have assumed that he means "just one rest". As you say, a lot of people use "simple infusion" that way - in fact, a quick Google suggests quite a few technical sources as well as hobbyists and homebrew writers, but I'm willing to be corrected on this if you've got a more authoritative reference than "five minutes googling".
    That would seem like a plausible explanation - BLAM was published in 2005 (and presumably researched over a few years before that) whereas Ed's blog post was from 2015, and that period includes quite a lot of changes at Duvel Moortgat.
     
  16. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    You certainly aren’t the first person to suggest it! I think the best retort I’ve heard to that hypothesis went something like, “If step-mashing really was wasteful of resources, inefficient, and a total waste of time...do you really think Germans would be doing it?” :stuck_out_tongue:
     
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  17. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    I am under the impression that German brewers brew as per what they are taught at brewing school (e.g., Weihenstephan). If as students they are instructed to conduct a step mash that is what they will do as professional brewers.

    Do you have any science to support that with today’s well modified malt there is need for conducting a two step mash? Or is it the case of “my father brewed using a two step mash and therefore that is how I brew as well”?

    Cheers!
     
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  18. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (194) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    From what I understand, many Germans don't.
     
  19. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    Alas! I am not a malt scientist. But basically unless this is something you consider yourself an expert in (I know I’m not!), you are either taking the word of the maltster that ‘their malts are so modified, a step mash is unnecessary’, or you are taking the word of the German brewer that their beers benefit from a step mash.

    Whether with cask treatment, mash schedules, whatever, I always have a ‘listen to the creator’ philosophy. If German brewers say it’s important, it probably is.

    I also think that they are much less susceptible to the, ‘My father did it this way...’ mentality. This isn’t French wine. Germans have shown adaptability for the sake of brewing efficiency countless times. The slow move from the very traditional decoction to the step. The embracing of stainless and conicals, the use of hop products.
    Continuous innovation and increased efficiency is the name of the game in german brewing.
    Nothing in the reinheitsgebot about step mashing. I’m sure if it was a waste of time it would have been phased out by now. Yet it is still SOP.

    AFAIK, it’s still the modus operandi at the good breweries. A buddy of mine who recently returned from aforementioned Weihenstephan Uni confirmed this.
     
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  20. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    I am not a "malt scientist" either but a few days ago I had numerous conversations with representatives of numerous malting companies at HomebrewCon 2018. Out of curiosity I asked a number of folks if under-modified malts are available today for sale. I received a consistent answer of "No". I personally am willing to accept the answer from the "experts" which are the maltsters in this specific case.
    Larger breweries conducting a step mash can have the benefit of an incremental increase of extract from the malt depending on the specifics of the malt being utilized. I have zero knowledge (despite searching) that there is any science which indicates that there is any improvement of the quality of the resulting beer (e.g., beer flavor). If you have some technical, scientific papers here I would enjoy reading them.
    Or it is a case of this is what I was taught in brewing school.
    Your personal opinion on this matter is noted.

    Cheers!
     
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  21. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (194) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    You may be right about that. Even here in the States, I love love LOVE Gordon Biersch's stuff, and I know they do decoctions in traditional fashion. But do they need to? Is this alone what sets their beers apart for me? I really don't know.
     
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  22. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    This assumes that the only impact step mashing has is on undermodified malts. Also, this reasoning goes both ways. Conversely, I’ve spoken to several brewers who specialize German styles who preach the irreplaceability of the step mash. Are they less expert?

    I don’t buy the economy angle. At the large scale, there are many ways to increase wort production profitability, and implementing a step mash, or even worse, a decoction, is not a great method. Start with a wet mill and then move to altering the kettle.

    Grain is cheap; utilities and personal are not. AB certainly isn't doing a proper step mash...

    Is that less valuable than ‘what I read in Papazian’s book’? :stuck_out_tongue:

    Hey, it’s all personal opinion; no sources. :slight_smile: Like I said, this is just my philosophy - it’s their tradition, they get to write the rules. If some German brewmaster starts telling me how to brew American IPAs, I’d tell him to go to hell. We make them best, it’s our tradition, we write the rules.
    They make the best German beers, so if they tell me ‘this is how we mash’, I’m not going to say, ‘prove to me why my version isn’t just as good!’
    Also, it seems odd that an industry that years has lived on he forefront of brewing scientific inquiry and innovation would stubbornly cling to this one practice for no reason beyond nostalgia...
     
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  23. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    You are disinterested in brewing science? New information is 'discovered' every day.

    Cheers!
     
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  24. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    No, I’m just aware of my own limitations in time and expertise. As much as I’d like to be 100% knowledgeable in every single decision I make, if the doctor says, ‘take this antibiotic twice a day and the infection will go away’, I’m not going to go to medical school just to make sure he’s right.

    I’m learning. We all are. We brewers are all on knowledge quests; that’s the beauty of this hobby. I just think it’s arrogant to assume that reading a couple of books or brewing a couple dozen beers of a certain style, makes one an expert over people who have dedicated their lives to perfecting a skill.
     
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  25. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Lots of information available via podcasts. I have learned quite a bit from Dr. Charlie Bamforth on a variety of topics including single (simple) infusion mashing vs. step mashing.

    I would encourage you to learn for yourself. Or you can just 'take your pills'. Entirely your choice here.

    Cheers!
     
  26. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (194) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Cheers to that times a million!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
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  27. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,445) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    The question about whether or not step mashes make better beers than single infusion mashes, and under what circumstances, is of course subjective. It's always subjective when simply talking in terms of one beer being "better" than another.

    However, step mashing and single infusion mashing do make different beers. It would be silly to claim otherwise. And saying that well modified malts don't "need" a step mash is technically true, but misleading. It implies that the only reason/circumstance to do a step mash would be for malts that are not well modified.
     
    #27 VikeMan, Jul 3, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
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  28. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,445) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I was under the impression that G.B. does step mashes (but not decoctions). At any rate, I have to agree that they make some solid beers. I've sampled at two different locations, and left both with the feeling that G.B. is pretty underrated.
     
  29. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    Hey, who’s taking pills? You’re the one going to ‘the Dr.’! :wink:
    I have the upmost respect for Bamforth. I’ve listened to his podcasts, read his works, even attended some of his seminars.
    I’ve heard him say things like ‘decoction mashing is probably not vital on the BeerSmith podcast. Or that HSA shouldn’t be your primary concern on the brewing network. The man is a scientist. He states his opinion, but doesn’t make claims of things he or a peer hasn’t properly proven. I haven’t heard him ever say, ‘step mashing is a complete waste of time’.

    As brilliant as the man is, even he doesn’t have all the answers and is constantly testing hypotheses. In his most recent appearance on the beersmith podcast he mentioned his theory that long term cold conditioning had no impact on lager flavor and challenged one of his students to prove otherwise. He even admitted he didn’t know what the result would be, but felt confident he was right.

    This is where I’m at. I don’t have all the answers; I’m not always right. And I have no problem with occasionally standing on the shoulders of giants if it means making good beer.
     
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  30. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    Malt modification makes little difference on if you should step mash or not. It makes a difference on the RESTS you should use. For instance, if using modern malt you drop the protein rest and mash in at higher temp.

    You are not searching in the right spot then. All the German professional brewing books, list the numerous reasons why.

    It is taught in brewing school, because it is the proper way to do it. You are targeting enzymes at their optimum. More FAN, better attenuation, Gylcoproteins to name a few.
    Although I have dozens, If a person is serious I always suggest Kunze Technology Brewing and Malting. It's the beer brewing bible. Although its a little dated at 2014 :slight_smile:
     
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  31. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Lots of differing ways to make "good beer".

    Cheers!
     
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  32. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    It’s only $175. I have spent double that on textbooks for 101 classes in college for subjects I had no interest in learning about. A great resource full of little tidbits of knowledge that you will constantly reference.

    I’m with you there!
     
  33. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,445) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Have you experimented with short rests at the upper end of the protein temp range to see how it affects foam? Also, what's your definition of modern?
     
  34. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    I dough in all my beers at 131 and begin heating immediately. I miss some extract if I dough in at 140 or above.

    All the malts coming out of Germany are at least 40 Kolbach, Weyermann ( the only malt I use) is regularly above 42.
     
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  35. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,445) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Ah. So in effect, you do a short upper-protein rest. Based on your pics, I'm going to hazard a guess you don't have many issues with foam retention.
     
  36. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    Yea, it spends a few minutes there probably. Nope no issues with foam :slight_smile:
     
  37. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Woo-Hoo! We agree on something!!:slight_smile:

    Another source of information is Brulosophy. There was a study where a homebrewer brewed a Helles via single temperature infusion mash and via Horchkurz step mash. The results of the triangle taste testing: “While 14 tasters (p<0.05) would have had to correctly identify the unique sample in order to reach statistical significance, only 7 (p=0.81) picked the odd-beer-out, indicating participants in this xBmt were unable to reliably distinguish a Helles made using a Hochkurz step mash from one made using a 150°F/66°C single infusion mash.”

    http://brulosophy.com/2017/08/14/the-mash-single-infusion-vs-hochkurz-step-mash-exbeeriment-results/

    In anticipation of commenting from other BA(s) it is indeed true that the efforts of the Brulosophy folks is not at the same level of vigor as something that would be published in a peer review journal the advantage of these exercises is that they are conducted at the homebrew scale which is applicable to what we do as homebrewers. A scientific study conducted on a commercial brewers scale is dissimilar to what we homebrewers do.

    Let the ‘science’ continue!

    Cheers!

    P.S. 2014 is so yesterday!!:wink:
     
  38. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    One (of many) problem with Brulosophy is that is doesn't address the quality of the beer produced. So was it a 20 point beer that was produced and evaluated or was it a 40 point beer? (Looking at the judging results from HBC it's certainly not the latter.) So how does one distinguish nuances from a beer "potentially" full of faults. Thats one of the main tainting processes to their method imo.
    I see it all the time at my club. Trying to pick up nuances in medicore beer is a fools errand. Due to poor process, the beer is already gone past the stage of brewery fresh the second it was kegged, therefore picking up nuanced flavors ( 99% of what U tests) are impossible and therefore invalid.

    NOW, if the beer they "tested" was then scored by a panel of BJCP national ( or higher) and base beer scored 40 or above. I might actually not deem the material as unsolicited advertising.
     
    #38 TheBeerery, Jul 3, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
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  39. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,445) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    As you know, when Brulosophy fails to detect a difference, it in no way proves that there is not a difference. It only proves that in that particular experiment, those particular tasters with those particular beers on that particular day were not able to detect one to the stated statistical significance. Conversely, when they do detect a difference to the stated statistical significance, it in fact does prove there is a difference (to that confidence level) for those particular beers (and the tasters are in this case irrelevant, since the result was positive). So I'll see your failed attempt at a Brulosophy confirmation bias and raise you with a successful Brulosophy confirmation bias:

    http://brulosophy.com/2016/04/04/si...-brudragon-collaboration-exbeeriment-results/
     
  40. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    You are indeed correct that a beer score was not listed for the Helles beers brewed by Jake Huolihan. It is entirely possible those beers could have scored well with BJCP judging.