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Many beers, especially German, are produced with a method called decoction mash. In that, the rising of mash temperature is achieved each time by talking a portion of the MASH, boiling it, and adding it back to the mash tun. This technique is very popular among helles and generally Munich beers and is said to produce a more malty character. Can you achieve the desired results of this technique at home and,thus, is it worth doing?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

You most certainly can do a decoction at home. And decoction does more than just increase the temperature of the mash. The primary reason for it is melanoidin production in the wort. This creates a complexity of malt flavors in the wort that might not be there otherwise. I have several friends that have done it. Watching it being done its not hard, just time consuming.

So to answer the question, yes you can do it at home.

Is it worth it, is a matter of preference, Some folks can't taste a difference. Others not so much. I think its worth trying in side by side trials to see if it makes a difference to ones individual pallete.

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Decoction mashing evolved in the days before thermometers were invented. It was a good way to reach appropriate mash temperatures without knowing the specific temperature of the mash. Those early brewers must have been through much trial and error before they figured out how to make decoction mashing work.

Many modern commercial breweries still use the technique--but more out of nostalgia than practicality. I don't think there is any real, scientific evidence that it is any better than step or infusion mashing, despite what the brewers who use the technique and the drinkers who like the beer may say.

However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the exacting nature of step and infusion mashing yields much more consistent, positive results than decoction mashing. Also, for the homebrewer, decoction mashing adds layers of unnecessary complexity and hours of time. Not worth it.

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