the mash temperature, is it that important?
Behind every sip of beer lies a careful orchestration of ingredients and processes. Among these, the mash temperature stands as a conductor, wielding the power to shape the flavours, body, and alcohol content of the final brew. Welcome to the fascinating world where heat meets grains, and mash temperature becomes a pivotal player in the creation of fermentable sugars.
Unveiling the Role of Fermentable Sugars
Fermentable sugars are the building blocks of beer. Yeast, the magical microorganisms responsible for the transformation of these sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, find their sustenance in this sugary feast. These sugars also lend body, mouthfeel, and sweetness to the beer, contributing to its overall character.
Mash Temperature Dance: Lower vs. Higher
The mashing process involves mixing malted grains with water, creating an environment conducive to enzymatic activity. Here's how mash temperature manipulation affects the production of fermentable sugars:
1. Lower Mash Temperature (63c - 66c): A lower mash temperature encourages the activity of enzymes like beta-amylase. This enzyme breaks down starches into shorter, more fermentable sugars like maltose. The result is a drier beer with a lighter body, crisper mouthfeel, and a higher alcohol content.
2. Higher Mash Temperature (68c - 70c): Opting for a higher mash temperature promotes the activity of enzymes like alpha-amylase. This enzyme produces longer, less fermentable sugars, imparting a fuller body, smoother mouthfeel, and a slightly sweeter taste. The beer tends to finish with more residual sugars, leading to a beer that feels rounder and maltier.
Most of our beers at Wildcraft are brewed around 65-68c, depending on the style and desired outcome. Its not always an exact science... trying to change the temperature of the mash once its in the mash tun (around 400kg grains and 1200l of water) isn't easy and there are factors which change our starting temperatures. For example, if I heat the strike water to 83c and transfer onto the grains in the summer, the mash temp ends up very different from doing the same in the winter. This and other atmospheric conditions need to be taken into account at all times!
The choice of mash temperature is an integral part of crafting various beer styles: please note, we are being very generalised here:
Pilsners and Light Lagers: A lower mash temperature is often preferred to create a drier, crisper profile that's characteristic of these styles.
IPAs and Pale Ales: Many hop-forward styles benefit from a slightly higher mash temperature, balancing the bitterness of hops with a touch of residual sweetness.
Stouts and Porters: For these rich and robust styles, a higher mash temperature enhances the mouthfeel and complements the roasted malt flavors.
Belgian Ales: Belgian styles often favour higher mash temperatures, resulting in beers with a touch of sweetness and a full body.
Mastering the Mash Temperature
Achieving the desired mash temperature requires precision and control. Modern brewing systems provide tools to maintain specific temperatures throughout the mash process. Here at Wildcraft, our setup is quite simple. We have a temperature monitoring port on the side of the mash tun and we have a seperate thermometer in the top. Cold or hot spots can easily occur so we like to hedge our bets with 2 readings :-)
Understanding the relationship between temperature and enzyme activity empowers us to design our recipes with intention. The mash temperature dance is a subtle but powerful influence in the world of brewing. By fine-tuning this aspect, we can sculpt beers that range from dry and crisp to rich and full-bodied.
So, the next time you enjoy a pint of Wild Summer or Wild Stallion, raise your glass to the art of mash temperature – an unsung hero behind the complex symphony of flavors in your glass.