Recently I had the pleasure of brewing up a batch of beer on one of my friends home brewing setups. It is always nice to get another home brewers perspective on home brewing. I find that I learn a lot about the home brewing craft from examining other home brewers methods and practices. Even better, both of us use similar home brewing hardware and like similar styles of home brew.
One of the biggest differences in our home brewing systems and our beer brewing practices is when it comes to the mash. Where I have made my mashing process complicated (possibly over complicated) over time, doing my best to make sure my mash is at a specific temperature for the entire 60 minutes, he sets his mash temp, closes the lid and does not attempt to correct for any temperature loss over time. By the time his mash has completed, the temperature in his tun has only dropped by approximately 6 to 8 degrees F.
My concern with a drop in mash temp would be that perhaps the finished beer would come out too dry or thin due to the lower average mash temp, the starches would only be converted to very simple sugars. Yet after sampling several of his beers, that did not turn out to be the case. I sampled 4 of his beers that day, varying from stouts to IPA’s and all of them were fantastic. I would not describe any of his beers as too thin or too dry.
The image above is of my Blichmann BrewMomerter. I hi-lighted the segment that pertains to the mash conversion. As all grain home brewers, for the most part we mash at between 150-152 F to get a well rounded mash conversion. When I asked my friend if he was concerned with the temp dropping, he said that he felt that most of the starch conversion was occurring early in the mash process while his temperature was on target and that he had never noticed a degradation in the quality of his finished beer since he started conducting his mash in this manner. I am inclined to agree with him based on the high quality beer that he produces.
I think that sometimes as home brewers, out of our desire to brew “perfect” beer, sometimes we go too far and over complicate things (or at least I do). I am not saying to ignore your mash temperature or to only mash for 10 minutes. My point is more that modern varieties of beer have been produced for over 600 years, well before yeast was even discovered in 1857. Considering that our ancestors created beer without having the benefit of such instruments as a BrewMometer, perhaps there can be some flexibility when it comes to brewing.
One of the home brewing items that he possesses that I am pretty envious of is a large sized stainless steel hop spider. When I say large sized, I mean large sized, this thing is giant as you can see from the animated image. The photos were taken during the whirlpool process after the boil had completed. I have been trying to get a hop filtering system to work out on my home brew system for the last few batches without a great deal of success. I have been trying to overcome some challenges with clogging issues in my hop filter and he shared some great advice with me. He said that in order for a hop filter to work properly and to get similar hop utilization compared to not using one, you need to have a hop filter that is at least half the diameter of your home brewing kettle. The size of the filter made a dramatic difference. I could see the wort moving around inside of his filter and he had hardly any clogging issues.