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Is taking the extra time to make a mash worth it?

I've only dealt with extracts so far, but will definitely experiment with a mash (at least for learning purposes).

I've heard various people saying they couldn't taste much of a difference... I've also seen many breweries with large bags of extract on the ground.

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I don't think commercial breweries use extract; the cost would be prohibitive. You sure those weren't bags of malted barley? –  Tobias Patton May 30 '12 at 14:03
    
Possibly.. it did seem odd. Plus I had a few drinks in me already :/ –  Adam Storr May 30 '12 at 15:49
    
There are indeed some commercial brewers that use extracts entirely. Some do indeed add a little extract to boost gravity occasionally especially if they have small systems and want to brew a big beer. –  brewchez Jun 1 '12 at 2:47

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The main gain with a doing a partial or full mash is control, and getting a fresh malt/grain taste in the beer.

With extract, you get what you are given. You can alter some parameters, such as color and bitterness by blending different extracts and adding hops, but you get far more control when doing a mash. Also, you can mash ingredients that aren't available as extract, such as raw wheat.

With the mash, you can also control fermentability, setting the dial where you like on the dry-sweet/thin-full bodied scale. Finally, doing a mash just smells wonderful! It makes you really feel like you are making beer.

But whether these things make doing a mash worthwhile compared to extract, well, only you can decide that. I think it is, as to many all-grain brewers, but everyone will have their own opinion as to what is the best time/flavor tradeoff.

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Also extract is essentially a reduced wort and tends to have flavors from carmelization. Mashing reduces these flavors and as MDMA says give you more control. All grain is well worth the trouble, and given the BIAB method it really isn't that Herculean an effort. –  Chris Plaisier May 30 '12 at 14:05
    
Thanks mdma! Looking forward to try it. –  Adam Storr May 30 '12 at 15:49

Aside from the control over what is going into your finished product, one of the biggest plusses for me doing a mash is cost. I can manage 2 or 3 brew days for the cost of 1 extract. There are some expenses up front when switching to all grain, but you can easily make those losses back if you plan to continue with the hobby. Mashing does require more time and effort, but it's a hobby, so that extra time is welcome.

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Thank you DHough! –  Adam Storr May 30 '12 at 15:50

Doing mashes introduces technique variability. Two brewers doing identical extract recipes will come out with very nearly identical beer. Two brewers using the same grain bill (doing all-grain) will not necessarily come out with identical beers, since mash technique, equipment and temperature will contribute quite a bit towards the qualities of the finished beer.

Don't neglect the fact that all grain is fun! I think more fun than extract (although more work).

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Really? -1 with no comment? Lame. –  bk0 May 30 '12 at 18:02
    
Not sure who downvoted you.. or really why.. but thanks for the answer! I've heard similar things as well. Excited to try a mash. –  Adam Storr May 30 '12 at 19:08
    
+1 because mashing is fun. –  Tobias Patton May 31 '12 at 0:00

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