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Step Mashing – German Style Kölsch

March 24, 2013

I have been all grain brewing for a couple of years that started with a 10 gallon round Rubbermaid cooler from Home Depot that I modified with a brass drain valve and thermometer.  Since I was batch sparging, I never had complete control over more involved mashing techniques that one might do for lagers or beers with a lot of adjuncts.

I finally reached a point where I was tired of lifting vessels to transfer, sparge and boil wort so I took advantage of a sale on a More Beer 1550 sculpture.  No more lifting hot stainless vessels and now I could easily perform more advanced step mashes.  Not that I really need to do that to make decent beer, but since the brew rig is set up for it, I figured I would give it a try.

1550 More Beer Sculpture

During the first year of having the sculpture, I spent each brew session trying to “dial-in” all the losses from cooling and transfers.  When I finally got that nailed, I entered the profile into the Beer Smith software and was finally on track – well, with exception of figuring out how to get the best performance out of the float switch.   So, on my last visit to my LHBS Smokin Beaver, the guys showed me how they set up their More Beer flat sculpture and float switch.  When I got home that day, I modified my sparge set-up to match their specs and was ready to brew the following morning.

Sparge Ring & Float Switch

Sparge Ring & Float Switch

For the sake of changing up my brew day, I wanted to brew a beer that could possibly benefit from a multi-step mashing schedule.  With spring among us and warmer weather on the horizon, I chose to brew a German stlye Kölsch.  The recipe was extremely simple with Bohemian Pilsner malt (95%) and a small percentage of Vienna (5%).  I made a 1 liter yeast starter using WLP 029 German Ale/Kölsch from White Labs which I had picked up fresh directly at their tasting room four days earlier.

With the brew rig set up, brewing water measured and filtered, and grain crushed, I fired up the mash tun and hot liquor tank to get this thing underway.


Mash tun under fire!

For this brew, I used a water to grist ratio of 1.5 liters per pound of grain; which in the end, allowed me to achieve a planned total brew house efficiency of 70%.  A couple of great resources for multi-step mashing schedules and techniques can be found in John Palmer’s book How to Brew and a few of the shows from The Brewing Network.

Here is a step-by-step account of how my mash attempt went:

Step 1:  Protein Rest for 20 minutes at 122F.  I heated the strike water to 126F to dough in and hit a temperature of 118F.  With the recirculation of wort going through the heat exchanger, I was able to level the temperature at 122F within a couple of minutes and maintain it for the duration of the rest period.

Protein Rest

Protein Rest

Step 2:  Beta Sacch Rest for 30 minutes at 149F.  Once 20 minutes has passed, I adjusted to temp control to 146F and began to raise the temperature (I set the temp control 3 degrees below the target temperature because once the pumps shuts off, the temperature continues to creep higher).  It took about 15 minutes to reach 149F and from there, I let it rest.

Beta Sacch

Beta Sacch Rest

Step 3Alpha Sacch Rest for 30 minutes at 158F.  Following the Beta Sacch rest, I made the adjustment on the temp control to 155F and the pump kicked on to re-circulate wort through the heat exchanger.  Again, 15 minutes later, I had reached 158F and allowed that to rest for 30 minutes.  Easy.

Alpha Sacch

Alpha Sacch Rest

Step 4:  Mash Out for 10 minutes at 168F.  The final step of the schedule was to do a mash out.  I set the temp control to 165F and the pump fired right up and began to re-circulate wort through the heat exchanger.  It took about 10 minutes to reach temperature, and once there, it was held at 168-169F for 10 minutes.

Mash Out

Mash Out

Step 5:  Fly Sparge for 60 minutes.  Throughout the mash schedule, I had the sparge ring sitting about ¼ inch above the grain bed and the float switch positioned about one inch above the ring.  I switched the control box to begin sparging; the pump kicked on and began filling the mash tun with 170F water until the level reached the float switch.  This leaves about 1 inch of water on top of the grain bed and the sparge ring submersed.

From here, I opened the drain valve on the mash tun and began to gravity feed the wort into the boil kettle.  For this particular brew, I planned to boil for 90 minutes, so I collected about 9.37 gallons of wort.  For each brewing session, I target the sparge to take a total of 60 minutes, which equates to about 0.5 – 1.0 quart per minute.  I have learned that slower is better.  The great thing about using a float switch is that as the mash tun drains, the pump will automatically kick on and add more sparge water.  Thus, maintaining a one inch water line above the grain – keeping it undisturbed.

Early runnings from the mash tun.

First runnings. Gravity feed from mash tun.

And that’s it.  That was my first attempt at a multi-step mash schedule and overall, I found it to be simple, straight forward and a fun way to change up an often times monotonous brew day.

Pre-boil gravity.  8-9 Brix

Pre-boil gravity. I’ll call it 8.5 Brix or approx. 1.033


I transferred 5.5 gallons into the fermenter and had a starting gravity of 1.051.  I cooled the wort, added 1 minutes of oxygen and pitched the yeast at 60F.  I checked on the status 12 hours later and saw no activity.

Specific Gravity

Specific Gravity. I’ll call it 1.051.

I decided to add 30 seconds of more oxygen and within 4 hours, fermentation began.  Throughout fermentation I held the temperature at 60F for the first couple of days and then brought it up 2 degrees for the next two days.

I plan to hold the temp at 65F and allow the beer to finish before cold crashing and transferring to a secondary vessel for a lagering phase.


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