Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Partial Mash Brewing Guide

The image above of the cooling down of a partial mash boil in the kitchen sink full of ice likely brings back fond (or frustrating) memories for brewers of when they first got started.

Why Partial Mash?

Most brewers are introduced to the hobby by wandering into a local home brew shop and getting a starter equipment kit (normally under $100 USD depending on what's included), and an extract recipe kit to use with that equipment.  The most basic of the kits are cans of pre-hopped liquid malt extract with an extra bit of fermentables in the form of dry malt extract.  These are very easy to use (basically sanitize everything and mix with warm water then pitch the yeast) and generally produce a drinkable product for very little effort.

On the other end of the spectrum are the all grain brewers that perform a mash on malted barley and convert their own sugars to a fermentable state. Boil the full volume of wort, design recipes in software to style guidelines, and all sort of other things that require an incredible amount of effort compared to the extract kits.

Somewhere in the middle of these two is the partial mash brew.  Originally I viewed it as a step between the simple extract kits and the full commitment to all grain that was simply another step in the process.  I personally only did around six partial mash brews (and only two extract brews before that) before jumping to all grain.

Recently however several friends have shown interest in the hobby but don't quite want the full commitment of purchasing the equipment and keeping up with the details for an all-grain brew day (around 7-8 hours for my setup).  So they would try a simple extract kit from the local shop with the plastic bucket economy equipment kit.  Sure enough they loved having their own beer to drink at home but wanted more control over the process/beer that wasn't offered in extract kit form factor.

This is where the partial mash shines, great control over the process (relative to extract), wider selection of styles, low equipment costs, and a much shorter time commitment for each batch.  With the addition of a small amount of specialty grain to the extracts that contain many of the fermentable sugars you can achieve the body and depth that's often missing from extract only brews.I am actually a very big fan of the partial mash process now for the casual brewer. Not everyone needs a miniature commercial brewery in their basement, and truth be told you can make incredibly good beer with the process.  The guide below lays out the general process of completing a partial mash kit I purchased for this post.

More after the Jump