Get on with it! - Decreasing mash times

Get on with it! - Decreasing mash times

Mashing is essential to brewing. It is where your product first begins to define character. Color, flavor, aroma, calorie content, alcohol percentage and final clarity are all impacted by the mash, so care should be taken to design intent. Optimizing your mashing procedure is an essential part of overall efficiency. It literally requires waiting time, so minimizing it will open the door to increased production.

Saving 30 mins on a mash is the equivalent to canning over 1,000 cans on a modest 35 CPM line. Do not waste time when you could be making money. Analyze your mash regime and results for improvement. Even a small decrease can add up significantly.

In order to shorten the mashing process, you must first understand what you would like to achieve. In most cases, brewers are looking to split long chains and branches of glucose (amylose, amylopectin) into smaller fragments of glucose chain (maltotriose, maltose, glucose). The process of heated water breaking down a substrate is called hydrolysis. In beer, hot water swells granulated starch molecules and expands the tight-linked network of chemical glucose bonds. With the bonding sites more easily accessible, specific shaped amino-acid based protein complexes, called enzymes, can shape-fit onto the branches of glucose molecules. Depending on the shape of the enzyme, it can fit at different points on the glucose network. 

The disaccharides shown are connected with different molecular bonds. Sucrose and maltose can be split by Saccharomyces cerevisiae via invertase and maltase respectively. The bond between galactose and glucose cannot be broken by naturally occurring  enzymes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, so it is considered “unfermentable”. This sugar is ideal for increasing mouthfeel and residual sweetness.

When an amylase enzyme contacts and “fits” into a glucose network structure, it reduces the required activation energy for a reaction to take place, and splits the glucosidic bond. This frees a link between specific molecules creating two separate pieces of substrate. These separated pieces of substrate may be further acted upon by the same or more enzymes, reducing the molecules even more. Yeast (and many microorganisms) will metabolize glucose, and many will also metabolize simple glucose chains by way of enzymes (maltase, invertase, etc.).

The largest factor influencing mashing is temperature. An increase in temperature means more molecular movement, which should lead to more physical contact between substrate and enzyme complexes. This will allow for faster bond-breaking, and ultimately a shorter mash. At a certain point, increasing temperature can permanently disfigure the enzyme structure, denaturing the enzymes. Exogenous enzymes can offer a wider range of thermostability over endogenous varieties, and therefore may be more forgiving to alternative mashing procedures. 

Here we can see a separation of high and low molecular weight substances. The starch is being hydrolyzed and solubilized into the water, exampled by the colored wort. The high molecular weight solids, like rigid cell walls and pericarp are sinking to the bottom while light weight protein fragments are floating towards the top.

In order to catalyze reactions, many enzymes require the presence of mineral elements such as calcium or chloride ions. These ions shape the bonding and splitting ability of the enzyme, helping to define its function and efficacy. In a similar fashion, pH can affect the shape of an enzyme by changing the polarity of its amino acid components. Since enzymes require a “lock and key” type fit, pH changes can have a large effect on enzyme activity. Generally, these can be corrected without issue, however extremes can lead to irreversible changes in the shape of the protein complex. 

Proper hydration of your grist is something that should not be overlooked. It is important to consider gelatinization and hydrolyzation of the starch, but also consider the temperature stability and fluidity of the mash. The water should act as a substrate for the enzymes to move through, allowing the chemical reactions to take place repeatedly. Mixing your mash will increase enzymatic activity, however only up to a point. Over mixing can cause issues in the lautering process if particle size is too small. It can also cause B-glucans and arabinoxylans to release into the wort, and these may agglomerate later causing turbidity or resistance in the lauter bed. A gentle mixing is preferred, as to not introduce shearing forces. If mixing causes temperature instability, a closed static rest is perfectly acceptable. Steps can be made when desired, by way of hot water infusion or steam jacketing.

Conversion of starch can be verified with an iodine solution. If there are amylose chains present in the liquid wort, iodine will become trapped inside the helical structure. This becomes visible as a very dark stain. If wort samples are tested throughout the mashing process, comparisons can be made, identifying the moment of no significant change. This would be a good suggested starting point for mashing rest times. Each recipe can vary, primarily due to the enzymatic power of the malt used, but also due to the factors mentioned herein. In nearly every case, a balance must be chosen between maximizing conversion and minimizing labor hours. Supplementing with additional enzymes can ensure abundant enzymatic activity, even in less-than-ideal circumstances. With proper targeting of hydration, temperature, mixing, and water ions, mashing rest will be reduced as much as possible.

Making large amounts of beer in short order has proven a necessity due to demand. Short cuts are unacceptable when quality is the top priority, so how to do you shorten the process legitimately? Take a look at Attenuzyme® Pro. This is a product that can help reduce your mashing times as well as target your real degree of fermentation. During hydrolyzation of amylose and amylopectin, the combination of pullulanase and glucoamylase will break more bonds, creating free glucose and maltose. This leads to a more fermentable wort, and increases the overall attenuation. A dose of 0.1 ml per pound of grist might land in the 75-80% attenuation range, while upping it to 1.0 ml per pound might push you to 80-90%. Relax, over-dosing the product will not cause a major problem, so don’t worry if you mix up 0.1 and 1.0 often. These are only suggested guidelines, so expect to dial in a balance between any enzyme you might choose to use. 

Unfermentable sugars contribute to the overall presence of the product, so care must be taken to balance recipe with enzymatic activity. This is similar to increasing dextrin malts in a brew with a long beta amylase rest temperature. The rest will encourage a thinner body due to a breakdown of amylose and amylopectin, however it will be compensated by an increase in dextrin malt components. Starch conversion is not the only concern. Brewers must also consider the Free Amino Nitrogen content. The addition of certain enzymes may allow for bypassing stepped mashes, since proteolytic action can be enhanced at different temperatures. 

In reality, proper mashing has evolved since before ancient Sumerian times through trial and error. Centuries of experiments present valuable scientific evidence for what works, but now we have a much deeper knowledge. Having the ability to target a wide variety of enzymes based on your grist composition is an invaluable tool. Now, we can choose to enhance specific parts of the mashing procedure, ultimately leading to more product with a more exacting quality standard. Reducing labor costs is always popular, but a reduction in energy input is equally commendable. If you are like me, a reduction in input energy is unrealistic, but getting one more brew in the week is still a win!