Top mashing with dark grain - does it work?

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Agentgonzo

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I'm not a huge fan of porters/stouts, but do like dark beers like Dark Island, Old Peculiar and Dunkelweiss that don't have the same bitter/burnt/coffeeish flavours associated with Porters/stouts.

I'd read that by top mashing, you throw in the grains at the end of the mash just before the sparge and extract the colour, without a lot of the roasted/bitter flavours. I don't understand how you get the colour without the roasted bitter flavours, but that's what the internet said happens 🤷‍♀️.

So I figured I'd give it a short try. I don't need to do a full brew to test this out, so I got a small amount of chocolate malt (what I had on hand), crushed it and put a small amount in the bottom of two insulated cups, then poured hot water on them to emulate a mash.
One cup I let sit/steep for about a minute before I strained off the 'wort' through a fine tea strainer to remove the grain particulates. The other, I let steep for 45 minutes (the length of the cleaning cycle on my coffee machine) before doing the same.

This is what they looked like (top-mash on the left, normal steep on the right)
1642510290985.png


Obviously, the top-mash is a bit lighter in colour (which is not surprising given it sat on the grain for a shorter amount of time). So I topped the normal-mash up with water until they were the same colour:
1642510342413.png


Then I set about tasting them.
Interesting note, the roasted/bitter/coffee flavours associated with dark malts lingers on your palette for a long time and so it's hard to distinguish the aftertaste of one from the taste of another. I drank a lot of milk to cleanse my palette between tasting.
As expected, both tasted like thin watery 'beer' without any sweetness and with a roasted flavour and an aftertaste that lingered for quite a long time (which is what you get with stouts/porters).
But were they different? No. After diluting them to the same colour, I couldn't tell the difference. They both tasted exactly the same, both in initial taste, mouthfeel and roasted aftertaste.

So does top-mashing extract the colour but not the roasted/bitter flavours? In my experience, no. In my very quick and unscientific experiment, top-mashing is pretty-munch the same as just using less roasted grain.
 

Sadfield

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Agree. My feeling is it extracts less of everything, somewhat equally, but you'll still get the flavours associated with colour extracted. Swapping Roasted Barley or chocolate malt with Simpsons DRC (double roasted crystal) may be a better option for you, if you want colour without the bitter, coffee flavour. Or, dark invert/brewers caramel.
 
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raymondo

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Have you tried Carafa 2, or Carafa 3 - both will give colour without excessive bitterness?
 

the baron

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Use de-husked grains such as Carafa Special as they are the ones that have been de-husked and will give the colour and taste without the acrid bitterness you can get sometimes.
I also use dark grains for colour and usually throw them in while I am doing a 10 min mash out so as to extract some colour with the acrid/bitterness
 

foxy

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I'm not a huge fan of porters/stouts, but do like dark beers like Dark Island, Old Peculiar and Dunkelweiss that don't have the same bitter/burnt/coffeeish flavours associated with Porters/stouts.

I'd read that by top mashing, you throw in the grains at the end of the mash just before the sparge and extract the colour, without a lot of the roasted/bitter flavours. I don't understand how you get the colour without the roasted bitter flavours, but that's what the internet said happens 🤷‍♀️.

So I figured I'd give it a short try. I don't need to do a full brew to test this out, so I got a small amount of chocolate malt (what I had on hand), crushed it and put a small amount in the bottom of two insulated cups, then poured hot water on them to emulate a mash.
One cup I let sit/steep for about a minute before I strained off the 'wort' through a fine tea strainer to remove the grain particulates. The other, I let steep for 45 minutes (the length of the cleaning cycle on my coffee machine) before doing the same.

This is what they looked like (top-mash on the left, normal steep on the right)
View attachment 61399

Obviously, the top-mash is a bit lighter in colour (which is not surprising given it sat on the grain for a shorter amount of time). So I topped the normal-mash up with water until they were the same colour:
View attachment 61400

Then I set about tasting them.
Interesting note, the roasted/bitter/coffee flavours associated with dark malts lingers on your palette for a long time and so it's hard to distinguish the aftertaste of one from the taste of another. I drank a lot of milk to cleanse my palette between tasting.
As expected, both tasted like thin watery 'beer' without any sweetness and with a roasted flavour and an aftertaste that lingered for quite a long time (which is what you get with stouts/porters).
But were they different? No. After diluting them to the same colour, I couldn't tell the difference. They both tasted exactly the same, both in initial taste, mouthfeel and roasted aftertaste.

So does top-mashing extract the colour but not the roasted/bitter flavours? In my experience, no. In my very quick and unscientific experiment, top-mashing is pretty-munch the same as just using less roasted grain.
I do it all the time. There are 3 ways which you can achieve it, cold steep for 24 hours, hot steep for 1/2 hour add grains at mash out for 20 minutes. Makes the water additions easy as well, the none fermentables are left out of the equation and it does make for a smother drink. Though for some stouts I like a bit of astringency.
 

Agentgonzo

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You'll have to try cold steeping next for a full comparisons experiment
I'll give it a go! It's probably similar to cold brew coffee where you theoretically get the flavour without the bitterness... Though to me it's just a process waste coffee beans and turn them into swamp water
 

isitbeeroclock

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Another vote for cold steeping, its has worked well for me and is easy to do. I'm not a fan of porters/stouts being too burnt and roasty, its like drinking the liquid from a beer garden ashtray on a wet and rainy day.
 
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This is a subject with about as many opinions as there are brewers. I try to treat everyone as if they know something I don't. It doesn't always pan out but on occasion, it does.
Take a look and I may have something worth thinking about.
 

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