The conventional wisdom is that in order to do a mashed beer, you must sparge (rinse the sugars out of the spent grain) and collect more than the full volume of your finished beer, then boil it down to the final amount. This is the most efficient, but not necessarily the laziest way to do it, which is to waste some malt by collecting and boiling a concentrated wort—say 3 gallons—then dilute it with cold water at the end of the boil.
This does three things: 1) Speeds up the brew by eliminating the time-consuming sparging process, which can be like water torture for some impatient brewers; 2) Lets you use a smaller pot on a normal stove; and 3) Speeds the chilling process enough so that a wort chiller is not absolutely necessary.
Like I said, this wastes a bit of malt, so recipes have to be calculated differently. If you collect and boil just 3 gallons instead of 6 and then dilute, you will need to use about 1.4 times as much malt as a particular recipe calls for. Your mileage may vary, so after you do one or two of these, you may find that you need to compensate a bit. Fortunately for the lazy guys among us, the majority of the sugar runs off with the first wort, or the loss would be greater.
I know that this wasting of grain conflicts with that characteristic aspect of homebrewers which may be charitably described as “thrifty.” But you have to choose. You can’t have it both ways.
The procedure described here, called no-sparge brewing, has been much discussed on the “Homebrew Digest” internet forum of late, and many advocates think it makes beer with a cleaner, purer taste, as it leaves behind potentially husky, tannic flavors that can harm a delicate beer if over sparged. Laziness does get rewarded in this case.
Brew Your Own Red Ale
Here’s a recipe and step-by-step directions for a rollicking red ale, kind of an altbier. It’s full of the rich, complex malt flavors that only mashing will give you. Be aware that every setup is different, and that the quantities and temperatures may have to be fine-tuned to your brewery.
Yield: 10 gallons at 1055 OG (original gravity); approximately 45 to 50 IBU (international bitterness units)
8.5 pounds pils malt
6 pounds Munich malt
2 pounds biscuit/amber/victory malt
3/4 pound malted wheat (for head retention)
1 ounce Hallertau hops, 1 hour
1/2 ounce Hallertau hops, 15 minutes
1/2 ounce Tettnang hops, 15 minutes
1 ounce Tettnang hops, at end of boil
If you don’t have a mill, have your brew shop grind the grain for you. Heat 5 gallons of brewing water to 170 degrees F. Add 3/4 of this to your grain in the mash tun, stir well, then see what the temperature is. If you’re at about 140 degrees F or so, add the rest of the water. You’re looking for a rest temperature of about 150 degrees. If it seems too cool, heat the remaining water to 180 degrees or even higher, then add judiciously until you hit the 150-degree mark. If it’s hitting the mark, then let the rest of the water cool a bit before adding. Any temperature between 145 and 155 degrees is acceptable; even as high as 160 degrees is not disastrous.
Once you get the temperature stabilized, cover the container with something to help keep it warm, then go take a nap. After an hour, come back and start to run off the now-converted wort. You’ll probably drain between 3 and 4 gallons of wort. Add as much as will fit into your brew kettle, leaving a couple inches of head space, and start heating it to a boil. If you have a little extra wort, you can use a second pot to boil it down rather than wasting it. The wort will want to boil over, as you probably already know, so be attentive to the heat.
Once a boil has been established, add the first batch of hops, being careful to watch the heat in case of boil over at this stage. Let ’er rip for 45 minutes, then drop in the second batch of hops. After 15 minutes more, turn off the heat and add the third batch, then let it steep for 5 minutes or so, during which much of the hop and coagulated malt proteins will settle to the bottom of the kettle.
The hops must be strained out, either by siphoning the wort into the fermenter through a tube with a stainless steel pot scrubber scrunchie attached to the bottom (pickup) end, or by pouring through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or funnel.
If you’re fermenting in plastic, you can dump hot and cold liquids together with impunity. If you’re fermenting in a glass carboy, you need to be sure that the hot liquid goes gently into the cold liquid; avoid getting a lot of the hot liquid directly on the glass.
Once this has cooled to 75 degrees F or less, pitch a good liquid yeast. If you want to stick with the altbier theme, use a yeast with that pedigree. There are lots of choices, and each yeast will add its unique signature of flavor and aroma to a beer.
But that’s another article. Happy mashing!