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What is cold steeping specialty grains all about? How do I do it? What does 'cold' really mean? How long does it take? Advantages and disadvantages?

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2 Answers 2

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Cold steeping is supposed to give you a smoother taste from dark and specialty grains that can impart ashy, acrid flavors when steeped in hot water.

Cold steeping means actually steeping your grain at room temperature (not in ice water), and steeping it for 6-12 hours. The process is very similar to cold steeping coffee (and it's also done for similar reasons).

Also remember that hot water is more soluble than cool water, so you might need to use more water to dissolve as much sugar out as possible. This article recommends 5X the weight of your grain in water.

So I would summarize:

Advantages:

  • Smoother taste
  • Ability to start part of your brew the night before

Disadvantages:

  • Would be hard to dissolve as much sugar as you get out of a hot steep
  • You have to plan ahead and start the cold steep a while before you begin brewing
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Here is info on cold steeping from the legendary Dr. George Fix...

"Question to Dr. Fix:

On the Brews & Views discussion board a couple months ago, someone mentioned a talk you gave regarding cold steeping of malts like Munich. I would very much appreciate it if you would elaborate on this technique. How do you do it, what does it do for the brew, what malts are good candidates for this technique.

Dr. Fix:

The talk was in the NCHF at Napa in October. Those folks on the left coast really know how to do a beer festival! The cold steeping procedure was designed to maximize the extraction of desirable melanoidins, and at the same time minimize the extraction of undesirable ones. The former are simple compounds which yield a fine malt taste. The undesirable ones come from more complicated structures. Polymers with sulfur compounds tend to have malt/vegetable tones. Others yield cloying tones, which to my palate have an under fermented character. The highest level melanoidins can even have burnt characteristics. The cold steeping procedure was developed by Mary Ann Gruber of Briess. My version goes as follows.

         (i) One gallon of water per 3-4 lbs. of grains to be steeped is brought to a boil and held there for 5 mins.
         (ii) The water is cooled down to ambient, and the cracked grains are added.
         (iii) This mixture is left for 12-16 hrs. at ambient temperatures,  and then added to the brew kettle for the last 15-20 mins. of the boil.

Mary Ann has had good results by adding the steeped grains directly to the fermenter without boiling, however I have not tried that variation of the procedure.

The upside of cold steeping is that it works. The downside is that it is very inefficient both with respect to extract and color. In my setup I am using 2-3 times the malt that would normally be used. As a consequence I have been using it for "adjunct malts" such as black and crystal. I also am very happy with the use of Munich malts with this process when they are used as secondary malts. "

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