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Home Brewing: What are “Mashing,” “Sparging,” & “Lautering?”

Most home brewers start out with basic extract brewing equipment and then over time, if desired, improve their gear and move into all-grain home brewing.

All grain brewing gives the brewer more control over their beer, but it is more complicated and requires extra equipment.

Extract brewing means creating the beer with malt extract, a liquid or powder that contains the sugars from malted barley in a condensed form.

In all-grain brewing you create these sugars yourself through a process called “mashing.”

What is Mashing?

In the mashing process malted barley is heated in water to a certain temperature and kept it at a certain pH level to convert complex starches in the barley into simple sugars that can be used by yeast to create beer.

When barley is malted (before you buy it) the enzymes are created that are needed to break down the starches that are already present in the barley. Those enzymes are utilized in mashing to get the sugars that are needed to ferment beer.

The enzymes are active at certain temperatures and pH levels, so great care must be taken to control these variables during the mashing process.

A table explaining the temperature and pH levels needed to activate certain enzymes is provided in the classic home brewing book How to Brew by John Palmer.


“How to Brew” is a great resource for every brewer to have at the ready when they brew, but you can also find it online at www.HowToBrew.com and the table referenced above can be found Here.

What Brewing Equipment is Needed for Mashing?

Mashing, at least for home brewers in the early stages of their brewing, usually requires the use of insulated coolers with a false bottom and a ball valve.

The vessel in which the mashing takes place is called the “mash tun.” Such setups are sold at any home brewing store and look like this:

These coolers come in different sizes, typically varying from five to ten gallons. The size needed depends upon the batch size and type of beer being brewed.

Stop in to your local home brewing store and talk to one of their experts to determine the exact setup that will meet your desired standards.

You may also need to add an instrumentation for monitoring temperature and pH to your home brewing arsenal to ensure a high-quality mash.

What is Sparging or Lautering?

Sparging and lautering are two words that refer to the same thing.

After the mashing process the sugars that were converted from the barley are in suspension in the water in the container. Hot water (usually at a specific temperature) is added to the mash tun to run through the grain and pull all of the sugars along with it as it runs through the false bottom (which allows the water out while holding the grain back) and out through the valve in the container.

This creates the wort that is then boiled and hopped to make the beer.

Are you planning on making the jump to all-grain brewing soon?

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