A Brewing Puzzler

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Thurston Brewer, Dec 4, 2016.

  1. Thurston Brewer

    Thurston Brewer Active Member

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    In thinking about how people brewed hundreds of years ago - without the benefit of modern technology - I wondered how one might get the mash temperature correct with having a thermometer. I spent some time puzzling over the issue, then came upon a solution. I thought I'd post it here as a puzzler to see if anyone else could come up with the solution (or a different one, possibly).

    So, assuming you know with reasonable accuracy what the current temperature is in your brewhouse, how could you get your strike water to the proper temperature, without any means of actually measuring it?
     
  2. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    I'm thinking time. Given the time it takes for your kettle To boil. you could work back from this to try to achieve mash tempo_O. I've no idea really. How did they even know what range to try and,mash,in? If they didn't have thermometers
     
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  3. Gerry P

    Gerry P Active Member

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    I think they came up with decoction mashing back in the day to solve this.
     
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  4. Mark D Pirate

    Mark D Pirate Well-Known Member

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    X volume of boiling water with Y volume of cold water would get you very close
     
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  5. Mark D Pirate

    Mark D Pirate Well-Known Member

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    Remember brewing is as much art as science
    A brewer I know has placed well and even taken a national title without using software to create recipes , guys like me need the software to back up my gut instincts
     
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  6. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    Too true yep I'm thinking decoction mashing ya smarty pants ha ha
     
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  7. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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  8. Gerry P

    Gerry P Active Member

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    :D
     
  9. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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  10. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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    lets have some fun

     
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  11. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure that, like a lot of things, there was a lot of trial and error when people started brewing using "modern" methods such as metal pots and covered vessels for fermentation.
    The earliest beer wouldn't have been much more than a lot of starch and whatever sugars converted almost by accident and fermented naturally to keep other organisms from making the stuff poisonous to humans.
    When early Europeans started refining the process, they could have used heated stones to control water temp, the way a lot of food was cooked. They would have used their own hands to feel the water or the mash vessel to read temperature. I can tell when water is hot enough to mash out and when it's not just by looking at it and sticking my finger in it.
    A good brewer with a lot of time on his hands could come up with a pretty fool-proof method. The introduction of decoction mashing would probably have followed as a way to more accurately and consistently reach the "right" temperatures.
    The Monks got it right because they had God on their side. :)
     
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  12. Thurston Brewer

    Thurston Brewer Active Member

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    This could work. You'd need to know with reasonable accuracy with the current temperature was (at least empirically) since that would affect how quickly the water cooled. The main difficulty is that it would take a long time, but patience is key to brewing, right?

    Knowing what range (and therefore how long to wait) would be just a matter of trial and error - and a bit of luck!

    I'd call this a correct answer ;). Good thinking, TB :D
     
  13. Thurston Brewer

    Thurston Brewer Active Member

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    Also a good, workable solution. Removing a fixed amount of mash, bringing it to a known temperature (boiling) and putting it back would certainly be effective. The brewer would need to control quantities and timing, but those were both doable back then. Again, a great deal of experimenting - trial and error - would be needed, but once you had it down, you could certainly brew consistently this way.

    The article I was reading about medieval brewing stated that they used single infusion, though, so I was thinking more along those lines.

    Another correct answer ;). Thanks, Gerry :D
     
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  14. Thurston Brewer

    Thurston Brewer Active Member

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    This is the method I was thinking of. In fact, I worked out an equation just to verify that it would work:

    x = (Ta - Tm) / (Ta - Tb)

    where:
    x = percentage of total water that is boiled
    Ta = temperature of ambient water
    Tm = desired temp of mash (actually of strike water)
    Tb = temperature of boiling water (212 °F at sea level)​

    example:
    Ta = 60 °F, Tm = 166 °F, Tb = 212 °F

    x = .697, so 69.7% of the total water amount would be boiled, the rest would be at ambient temperature.

    checking:
    .697 * 212 + .303 * 60 = 165.9 °F​

    Of course, medieval brewers knew nothing about algebra and only knew the ambient temperature in general terms (cold, really cold, not so cold, kinda warm, etc.) but with trial and error and learning from the work of others, they could brew consistently.

    ...OK, so i was bored last night :confused::rolleyes:
     
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  15. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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    #15 Ozarks Mountain Brew, Dec 4, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2016
    back in the old days they just used the sun and open fermentation with no hand produced yeast, it was wild

    Ive done it before in a 55 gallon drum, set in the sun for the mash all day and night, lit a fire to boil
    as primitive as this sounds it works great
     
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  16. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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  17. Gerry P

    Gerry P Active Member

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    #17 Gerry P, Dec 4, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2016
    Different time period here, but if you guys are into historical brewing stuff you might find this interesting. It's a PDF of "The Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland", written in 1890.
    http://www.askaboutireland.ie/readi...industry-and-trade/barnard-the-noted-breweri/

    Btw...if you want an actual copy of this book, it'll set you back up to $2000. Hopefully that's for all 4 volumes.
    https://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=9213970000&searchurl=tn=noted+breweries+of+great+britain+and+ireland&sortby=17&an=alfred+barnard
     
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  18. GPA

    GPA Active Member

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    Definitely must have been bored . :confused:
     
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  19. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    It's easy to underestimate the degree of calibration the human brain and the nuances of the sense of touch. T
    he old school way of keeping a big smoker pit the right temp for perfect brisket is to hold your hand on the lid or the side...when it's right you have to pull your hand away in certain amount of time.
    A good chef knows just by the amount of ambient heat if a pan is just right to saute fragile vegetables and how to bring out the perfect flavors.
    Given any reasonable reference and consistent equipment and heat source I think just about anybody could develop their feel for the process and deliver great beer every time without a thermometer.
     
  20. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    Yea eventually. I suppose if beer brewing was an household chor the wife most likely partook in, I guess she would of given her daughters instructions in making the family brew:p and therefore passing on the knowledge in brewing practices to her daughters . I suppose if your wife made lovely beer your household would be packed.
     

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