Pre-Boil Fermentables

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Zak2428, Sep 9, 2020.

  1. Zak2428

    Zak2428 New Member

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    Relatively new at brewing, I've been utilizing the end of boil and secondary for most of my flavor additions, but recently - after looking at a recipe for a Graham Cracker type beer specifically - I noticed there are people who put fermentables like Graham Crackers into their mash, or pre-boil. My thought on that is, what's the purpose of this besides adding sugar to the wort? Wont the flavor completely boil out?

    In addition to that, if adding things pre-boil is really a common practice for flavor, what are some examples of good ingredients that you'd add and want to sit through a 60min boil?

    Edit: I can't find many articles on this (which could be my answer to the questions above) so if anyone has any they want to share that'd be awesome.
     
  2. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Adding to mash makes the starches (carbohydrates) in the crackers, cereal, etc convert to fermentable sugar. In terms of flavor impact, it's mostly subtle and mostly adds to the novelty factor and little else. Newer brewers are drawn to the notion that they want to do "something different" or "make it their own" but the truth is that if you managed to truly re-create an existing commercial beer, you would have accomplished something worthwhile in your quest. When you concentrate on simple, proven methods and ingredients and learn to brew really clean, well-crafted beer you can go on to experiment with other things, better understanding the subtle changes that may turn up in the finished product.

    When adding flavor adjuncts like spices, herbs, fruits, etc, additions are most often made late in the boil (last 5 or 10 minutes) so the volatile flavor esters don't boil away completely.
     
  3. Zak2428

    Zak2428 New Member

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    That's what I figured - I've just been trying to release more flavor from my adjuncts and came across the idea of mashing with them and didn't understand how exactly that imparts flavor since it then needs to go through an entire 60min boil. Wasn't sure if I'm missing something, so figured I'd post. Appreciate the input.

    If anyone has had success with a certain adjunct in the mash bringing a unique flavor, I'd still be interested to hear :).
     
  4. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Graham crackers would. I've gotten flavors out of cereals - the breakfast kind - before. Key is as JA said: If the addition is fermentable and starchy (graham crackers, Life cereal, flaked grain, popcorn, etc.) it needs to be added to the mash and mashed. I tend to add spices at or less than 5 minutes remaining on the boil to keep from boiling off the volatile flavors. Sugars added with the purpose of adding flavor go into the fermentor after high krauesen.
     
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  5. Zak2428

    Zak2428 New Member

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    Thanks Nosybear, always appreciate the input! So, in the graham cracker example, it would not be wise to add some 5-10min left on the boil, or at flameout. Maybe that would just create a burnt cracker taste? Just stick to mash and secondary?
     
  6. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    No, mash the graham crackers. They contain starch that needs to be converted. Graham is a coarsely ground wheat meal. Graham crackers contain wheat flour, graham flour, oil, a bit of honey and salt, leavening agents and some sodium sulfite as a preservative. The box I have lists "natural flavors" as well, who knows what those are. The flours will convert to sugars, the honey will ferment, the oils will stick to the spent grains in the mash tun and not affect your head retention, the salt and leavening agents will remain in your beer. If you add them to the boil, you'll get the flavors, the honey and the salt but none of the starch and the oil may stay in your beer, hampering head retention. They might also leave a starch haze if not mashed. To create "graham cracker taste", you might be just as well off adding some graham flour or Durham wheat meal to your mash tun, some vanilla and caramel flavoring, which seem to be what the main flavors in graham crackers are but for this batch and for fun, crush the graham crackers and add to the mash tun for conversion.

    I've done it with Life cereal and it works.... And, you knew it was coming, Mikey liked it.
     
  7. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    For me it's a layering of flavours approach. Fermentable and non-fermentable flavourings added to the mash don't completely boil away, but they are greatly reduced. You can add them back in at later points in the process to refresh the flavours you boil off, but it's next to impossible to get some of the characters that survive from the boil added at later points in the process. This obviously depends on what you're adding.

    For me coffee is one that benefits from being put in at 1-3 different points in the process. You can try mash, boil and post-fermentation. Any one of those points you can probably taste the coffee, but it's more obvious if it's at two points. And, again this depends on what you're going for. Subtle, barely noticeable coffee may be better added at just one point, pre or during the boil (or using roasted grains instead).

    Just another tool in the process that may or may not be appropriate.
     
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  8. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Yes...when it comes to baked products, all the flavors you're likely to get are available from the grains that were used to make them. Toasted wheat or pilsner will give a lot of crackery-bready flavor and Cara malts are great for any of the sugary, caramel, toffee notes found in cakes, candies, cookies, etc. Even baking extracts can be used (very judiciously) to mimic, and in most cases may do a better job of conveying, the flavors from certain "dessert"-type items.
     
  9. Zak2428

    Zak2428 New Member

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    Thanks everyone! It's been super helpful. I'm going to start with graham crackers in the mash, while also using other grains that exhibit those flavors and see what comes out of it. If it's not strong enough, i'll try adding it also near flameout.

    When it comes to putting graham flour (that type of consistency) into the mash, how do you go about doing that? I can't imagine it'd be an easy process..
     
  10. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    If you use flour, use rice hulls. And don't add starches late - they won't convert to sugars and will give you a haze - think adding cornstarch to make hazy beers.
     

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