In the battle for time efficiency, as well as mash efficiency, I often find myself asking such questions: “Is this step necessary?” or “Does this need to take so long?” or “What are my other options?” After a few all-grain batches, where I didn’t hit my target mash out temperature, I found myself asking these questions once again.
What is mashing out? It is the process of raising your mash temperature to around 170°F. This serves two purposes: 1) Make the grain bed more fluid so sugars can be more easily run off, and 2) to stop the conversion process. Since I don’t have the kind of mash tun I can heat on the stove, I have to add a calculated amount of hot water to change the temperature. I previously thought that not hitting my target mash out temperature was lowering my mash efficiency, but I was mistaken. The only way it would affect my efficiency is if the temperature were to fall back into the conversion range, which could clump up the sugars and reduce my yield via the lautering process.
So, why the hell am I worried about mashing out in the first place? According to John Palmer’s “How to Brew,” a mash out is not needed for mashes with a ratio of 1.5+ quarts of water per pound of grain – the grain bed will be loose enough. Many homebrewers don’t mash out, apparently. I suppose the reason I always did was because I start with a thick mash – 1 quart per pound – which requires less strike water. I use an 8 gallon pot on an electric stove, so you can imagine it takes a long time to heat such amounts of water. While the mash is converting the starches, I take the time to heat up all the water for the mash out and sparge.
I think for my next batch, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to use a thinner mash, which will account for a larger portion of the total water (liquor) needed and then do a continuous sparge as I always do. If it requires too much sparge water (my hot liquor tank [HLT] is only 5 gallons), letting the grain bed run dry at the end will hopefully be enough. All this should hopefully take less, if not just as much, time as what I normally do. I will take note of my yield/efficiency and see how I feel about it.