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What Is “Partial Mash” Home Brewing?

There are a few different methods to home brewing beer.

The simplest is called “extract brewing,” which means that you add extract from malted barley in a liquid or powder form to water to create wort. The sugars from the malted barley are extracted ahead of time and sold to you in a condensed form.

All the equipment you need to create this beer is a large kettle for boiling the water and the malt extract together.

Most home brewers start out with extract brewing.

The most complicated method of brewing beer is called “all-grain” brewing, which gives you more control over the flavor of the beer by allowing you to control the sugars that are extracted from the malt.

Extra equipment is needed for this style of brewing, requiring you to at least buy a couple of insulated coolers to perform the “mashing” and “sparging” processes. A quick primer on what “mashing” and “Sparging” are can be found here.

There is a lesser-known home brewing method that lies somewhere in the middle called “partial mash” brewing. This is not as complicated and does not require as much equipment as all-grain brewing, but it gives you more control over the beer than extract brewing.

How to Brew Partial Mash

Partial Mash Brewing Equipment

Partial mash brewing barely requires more equipment than extract brewing.

Alarge kettle, one that can hold at least four gallons, to serve as your mash tun and boil kettle, is needed.

In addition a second pot that can hold at least two gallons of water, a thermometer, and either a larger strainer or a nylon mesh bag for straining the grain during the sparging process are all required.

How Partial Mash Works

In partial mash brewing a mashing process is essentially performed in the brew kettle, not in an insulated mash tun. The process works like this:

  • Measure out a quart of water for every pound of grain that you will be using.
  • Heat the water to ten degrees F higher than the first specified mashing temperature in the recipe.
  • Add the grains to the water and make sure that the mixture stabilizes at the desired temperature. The grains should be crushed, meaning they are cracked open but not ground into powder.
  • Maintain the desired temperature for the specified time.
  • Use low heat to raise the mash to the second designated mash temperature in the recipe and then hold this temperature for the specified time.
  • In the second (smaller) kettle heat up an equal amount of water to what you started the mash with (a quart per pound of grain) to 170 degrees F. This will be your sparging water.
  • Raise the temperature of the mash to 168 degrees F (referred to as “mash-out”).
  • Use the strainer or mesh bag to separate the grain from the water (saving the water, which has now become your wort).
  • “Sparge” by slowly pouring the sparging water through the grain to rinse out the sugars. Add this water to the wort.
  • Add water if necessary to reach your normal boil volume.
  • Proceed as usual with the boil, adding malt extracts at this point.

You might be surprised at how simple this process is. Instead of solely pouring in malt extract, just heat water and grains to specific temperatures for a specific amount of time to alter the overall flavor of the beer and then add the extracts afterward.

This really lets you control the specifics of the beer’s flavor without the extra ¬†expenditures of all-grain brewing.

Have you tried partial mash brewing? How has it worked for you?

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