The goal of mashing is to convert grain starch into fermentable sugars. A lot has been written about mashing. And most of it is wrong. Wrong or not applicable to craft distilling. How come? Because most information about mashing looks at starch conversion from a brewer's perspective. A brewer's perspective instead of a distiller's perspective. This iStill Blog post aims to amend that.
Mashing from a brewer's perspective
Beer balances alcohol with residual sweetness. As a result mashing, from a brewer's perspective, is finding that fine balance between the right amount of fermentable and unfermentable sugars. The fermentable sugars create the alcohol. The unfermentable ones, often called "dextrins", sweeten the flavor of the beer.
As a result, brewers use elaborate mashing schemes to achieve that fine balance. Step-up mashing protocols with rests at 40c, 65c, 70c, and more, help the brewer achieve his goals. And since most distillers didn't know much about mashing, many have used brewer's protocols. And that's wrong.
Mashing from a distiller's perspective
Distillers aren't interested in sweetness in their distillers beer. Sweetness is a flavor that does not come across, when the base beer is distilled. So instead of focussing on getting both fermentable and unfermentable sugars, distillers should only focus in converting as many of the starch into fermentable sugars.
The consequence? Distillers do not need a brewer's approach to mashing. No need for difficult step-up mash schemes. Instead, always do step-down mashing. Like this:
Step-down mashing single malt
If you are planning to make whisky from malted barley only, your procedure is very easy:
You see how you only need to step-down? And remember: no heating is required.
Step-down mashing for other grain bills
Any other grain bill goes like this:
Anything more than that is overcomplicating things ...
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