|The basic principle of decoction is to remove a part of the mash, boil it, and return it to the main mash, which is
held at a constant temperature. Old World brewmasters developed the techniques of decoction mashing centuries
ago. If many European breweries that formerly used decoction have long-since moved over to infusion mashes,
so why should we waste our time and energy on an outdated technique? For brewers and drinkers who truly know
the traditional styles of Bavaria and Bohemia—pilsner, bock, tmavé pivo, schwarzbier, hefeweizen, and others—
there is no question - you can’t get there, at least not all the way, without a decoction mash. For me, decoction is
like an amplification of the malts,” Dredge says. “It makes them richer, fuller, toastier, almost a little chewy, and it
gives some extra texture to the beer.
Spend time in cities such as Prague or Pilsen, and you’ll hear brewers claim that decoction raises brewhouse
efficiency, bumps up hop isomerization, boosts wort clarity, increases head retention, and improves pretty much
everything up to and including life expectancy, blood pressure, and self-esteem.
While there are scores of traditional decoction mashing schedules, I recommend the hochkurz technique—from
the German words for “high” and “short”—for homebrewers. Hochkurz is a standard decoction, just set up faster,
England says. “It works really well for pale lagers and weissbier.”
This approach skips the protein rest with a standard infusion mash starting at 144°F (62°C) for 30 to 45 minutes.
To hit the next rest, pull about a third of the mash to a separate pot, boil for 5 minutes, and then return it to the
main mash until you bring it up to the target temperature of 160–162°F (71–72°C). After holding the main mash at
that temperature for 30 to 45 minutes, another decoction of the same size is pulled and boiled for 5 minutes,
returning to bring the main mash up to mash out at 170–172°F (77–78°C).
Other decoction techniques depend on the equipment in use. Brewers who can directly heat their mash tuns might
try the kesselmaische technique, employing an infusion mash that starts with a protein rest at 122°F (50°C) for 10
minutes, followed by directly heating the mash up to 142°F (61°C). At this point, the thin, liquid portion of the
mash—roughly 20 percent—is pulled out and held at temperature while the thick mash itself is boiled as a
decoction for 10 to 30 minutes. The thin part of the mash is then added back to mash tun for a saccharification
rest at about 162°F (72°C) for 30 minutes before continuing to mash out.
While decoction is a key component of the taste and mouthfeel of many Central European beers, it’s not the only
influence. The impact of a decoction mash varies with the yeast used, the fermentation vessel, and other
traditional techniques, ingredients, and equipment used by brewers in the region.
I hope the above answers the question several readers sent in. I also got a question asking about my liking of
sour beers. Cantillon was the one that took me from ‘I don’t like sour beer’ to ‘I love sour beer.’ It was actually
Cantillon Fou’Foune that did it, but that opened the door to Cantillon Gueuze, which is something I could drink
daily. Lambic in general showed me that all sour beer isn’t one dimensional lactic or any single character—not all
of them are. But Cantillon Gueuze is one beer that I could drink all the time and a beer that was important to my
career in general. There are many excellent sour beers made in the USA give them a try.
Hope you found this month's column of interest. If you have any questions about beer or brewing
or just want to submit a word for me to discuss here just e-mail it to me.
Thanks and Cheers!
|Decoction For Home Brewers / Great Sour Beer
|A new column by
|Jack O'Reilly attended the
famous Siebel Institute/ World
Brewing Academy in Chicago.
|I'm very excited to be part of the BeerNexus team. I think my many years in the
beer business both as a brewer and manger will enable me to explain and
investigate many topics of interest for those who really love craft beer.
Hope you join me every month.
More by Jack: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14,
#15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30,
#31, #32, #33, #34, #35, #36
|Techniques and insights
for the serious ceft beer
fan and home brewer.