Equipment Glossary Acknowledgements


Site Map
Introduction
Section 1
Brewing Your First Beer With Malt Extract
Section 2
Brewing Your First Extract and Specialty Grain Beer
Section 3
Brewing Your First All-Grain Beer
14 How the Mash Works
15 Understanding the Mash pH
16 The Methods of Mashing
17 Getting the Wort Out (Lautering)
18 Your First All-Grain Batch
Section 4
Formulating Recipes and Solutions

 

 

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Chapter 14 - How the Mash Works

14.1 Mashing Defined

Mashing is the brewer's term for the hot water steeping process which hydrates the barley, activates the malt enzymes, and converts the grain starches into fermentable sugars. There are several key enzyme groups that take part in the conversion of the grain starches to sugars. During malting, the debranching (chainsaw), beta-glucanase (weed whacker) and proteolytic (lawnmower) enzymes do their work, preparing the starches for easy access and conversion to sugars. During the mash, a limited amount of further modification can be accomplished, but the main event is the conversion of starch molecules into fermentable sugars and unfermentable dextrins by the diastatic enzymes (hedge trimmer and clippers). Each of these enzyme groups is favored by different temperature and pH conditions. A brewer can adjust the mash temperature to favor each successive enzyme's function and thereby customize the wort to their taste and purpose.

The starches in the mash are about 90% soluble at 130 F and reach maximum solubility at 149F. Both malted and unmalted grains have their starch reserves locked in a protein/carbohydrate matrix which prevents the enzymes from being able to physically contact the starches for conversion. Unmalted grain starch is more locked-up than malted. Crushing or rolling the grain helps to hydrate the starches during the mash. Once hydrated, the starches can be gelatinized (made soluble) by heat alone or by a combination of heat and enzyme action. Either way, an enzymatic mash is needed to convert the soluble starches to fermentable sugars.


Figure 79 - Typical Enzyme Ranges in the Mash

Table 11 - Major Enzyme Groups and Functions

Enzyme

Optimum
Temperature
Range

Working pH Range

Function

Phytase

86-126F

5.0-5.5

Lowers the mash pH. No longer used.

Debranching (var.)

95-113F

5.0-5.8

Solubilization of starches.

Beta Glucanase

95-113F

4.5-5.5

Best gum breaking rest.

Peptidase

113-131F

4.6-5.3

Produces Free Amino Nitrogen (FAN).

Protease

113-131F

4.6-5.3

Breaks up large proteins that form haze.

Beta Amylase

131-150F

5.0-5.5

Produces maltose.

Alpha Amylase

154-162F

5.3-5.7

Produces a variety of sugars, including maltose.

Note: The above numbers were averaged from several sources and should be interpreted as typical optimum activity ranges. The enzymes will be active outside the indicated ranges but will be destroyed as the temperature increases above each range.

Previous Page Next Page
How the Mash Works
14.0
An Allegory"
14.1
Mashing Defined
14.2
The Acid Rest and Modification
14.3
Doughing-In
14.4
The Protein Rest and Modification
14.5
The Starch Conversion/Saccharification Rest
14.6
Manipulating the Starch Conversion Rest
Real Beer Page

Buy the print edition
Appendix A - Using Hydrometers
Appendix B - Brewing Metallurgy
Appendix C - Chillers
Appendix D - Building a Mash/Lauter Tun
Appendix E - Metric Conversions
Appendix F - Recommended Reading

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All material copyright 1999, John Palmer