Decoction or Not? Brewing a German Helles

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by RobertE, Oct 27, 2017.

  1. RobertE

    RobertE Member

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    I have read where people say to decoct lagers especially, darker lagers to help with attenuation and to build layers of malt flavor. I plan to brew a Helles style and can't decide if I should utilize a single or double decoction to give the beer some extra body and flavor. I worry about making it too dark, but it seems that if I go easy and take care not to boil the decoction mash too much I should be fine. What does the brewing community think? My grain bill is mostly pilsner with a little vienna and maybe 2-3% carapils. I am looking for that full bodied profile while also preserving the pale color. I plan to step mash, perhaps using the Hochkurz method. I like the idea of trying a decoction just to experiment, but don't want to ruin the beer. Suggestions??? Thanks
     
  2. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    I've decocted a brew twice one just a standard pale ale the,other a Pilsner brew. Don't worry about supposed melanoidin reactions in the decoction my understanding is this colour change happens above 100c. I got some great head retention from memory. Not better efficiency or attenuation. But they were lovely beers that decocted ale didn't last very long at all. I just noticed the beer was heaps smooth.

    But you need to try the decocting and see for yourself.
     
  3. CRUNK

    CRUNK Well-Known Member

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    I have not YET performed a decoction mash, but one day I will attempt it, just for shits and giggles.
     
  4. HighVoltageMan!

    HighVoltageMan! Well-Known Member

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    I have decocted about 8-10 times over the years for various German beers and I was not impressed. I have gotten beers to be more malty from selecting different grains (Bohemian Pilsner is very malty) and making sure my ingredients are very fresh. Oxygen ingress will also ruin beer and reduce the malt charecter.

    Dectoction mashing is not a silver bullet. But give it a try to see for yourself.
     
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  5. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Unless you got your hands on some undermodified malt, i'd recommend against it. You won't get appreciably different results and may even harm the beer by destroying head proteins. And those melanoidens taste a bit like a ball point pen. Not worth the effort.
     
  6. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Get your fermentation situation figured out first. In your last post you were considering ice bottles to cool your chamber. Temp variation can have a negative effect and anything you might gain from decocting will be erased by the slightest flaw in flavor caused by fermentation problems.
    You can make very good lagers simply and easily with a good single infusion or a stepped-temp rest schedule. And, as Nosy says, specific malts are better for producing the benefits of decoction.
    Keep it simple...Very little specialty malt, straighforward mash, steady fermentation temp (even if it's slightly high) and very careful sanitation will give you a clean, malty beer to be proud of.
     
  7. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    Bohemian Floor Malted Pilsner Malt from Weyermann is a slightly under modified malt good for decocting my go to malt for Pilsner. Like high voltage man said a really nice big malty flavour love this malt...

    I'd go a swamp cooler water bath over frozen bottles in a chamber simply water changes temperature slower than air. Throw them frozen bottles in your water bath. And fermentis 34/70 doesn't mind a higher stable ferment temp if you can't get it down to them low lager temperatures.
     
  8. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Second that.^^^
     
  9. RobertE

    RobertE Member

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    Thanks. My first marzen lager was fermented in a swamp cooler and turned out fine, from a fermentation perspective. You are right. I have been experimenting with 5 gallon pales of water in my chamber and the temp deltas are all over the map. My thermostat will read 60 degrees and the water will measure 64. Without a dedicated refrigerator my options are garage, swamp cooler, homemade fermentation chamber. The forecast over the next week calls for temps in the upper 40s so my garage should be right in the sweet spot temperature-wise. However, I'm concerned about the temperature deltas. Using Fermentis 34/70 can I get away with my carboy in the garage or would you leave that option out? Any other tips for keeping temps stable would be appreciated. As always, I appreciate feedback from the brewing community. Thanks
     
  10. CRUNK

    CRUNK Well-Known Member

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    I have seen the brewjacket advertisement but I haven't seen in first hand, might be something to look into, but for the price, there are other options.
     
  11. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    2nd option is a free fridge/freezer on your american sale website there are plenty on gumtree here in us. Then hook up one of them inkbird or stc 1000 temp controllers and your laughing.
     
  12. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    If you've got temps in the upper 40's and your garage will stay a few degrees warmer and not fluctuate more than about 10 degrees, put your carboy in a tub with enough water to come to the top of the wort inside the carboy. You can use ice or frozen water bottles to cool the water bath as needed or just cover with a tee-shirt that will wick the water and cool with evaporation, but you shouldn't need to after the initial cool-down. The thermal mass in the water will even out the temperature swings and stay pretty consistent for you. At wort temps in the 50s, you shouldn't have to worry much about exothermic action.
     
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  13. wobdee

    wobdee Member

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    I use to decoction mash all the time before I bought a Braumeister, now I use a step mash at 55c dough in, 62, 65, 67, 72, all 20 min then 76 mashout for all my Lagers and my beers have never been better.
     
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  14. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    That is one complicated mash schedule... Keep in mind decoction was once a necessity. As soon as German brewers could get away from it, they did. It's not necessary or even desirable for malts today.
     
  15. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    I think part of the fun for some brewers is to make the process complicated so they can tell others how complicated it is to make beer. My strategy is to tell my friends who drink my beer how easy it is, so I can start drinking theirs and brew less!
     
  16. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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    call me lazy, I'm proud of it, i just push a couple of buttons and walk away lol
     
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  17. wobdee

    wobdee Member

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    Yeah, but easy peasy with the Braumeister. That schedule is straight from Brauwelt International. It emphasizes Beta for a high attenuation when the Gelatinization temp is unknown or a little high like last year's German barley crop.
     
  18. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Fair enough. My only use for decoction is to raise temps without adding volume. I'm a cooler mash tun guy so I'm schlepping and stirring manually-takes some of the romance out of it.
     
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  19. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    That's a lot of steps...I do a slow-rise from 136F to 148F that probably accomplishes everything you're able to get from that sort of schedule. After a short rest at 136, I'll take about 20 minutes to creep up to 148, do a long rest and then move on to a dextrine infusion. I'm doing that manually, so on an electric system, setting those short mashes would be the closest approximation of that process.
     
  20. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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