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I'm wondering if I need to be mindful of how well my grains are crushed if I'm just using them for steeping.

Do I need to get my LHBS to crush my grains or use the rolling pin / bag method? Or can I just whiz them in my coffee grinder? Does it matter how crushed they are? What harm could I cause if I end up with a fine powder?

In this question, Denny mentioned a couple of things: that the crush is less crucial, but also that sticking to 1.5 qt/lb (~3L/kg) is important to regulate the pH for steeping. Does this change up or down based on how the grain is crushed? My coffee grinder is fairly inconsistent with it's grinding, so if I over / under crush I'd like to adjust if it's necessary.

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3 Answers

I disagree with Denny's assessment. Compare the theoretical results of not crushing them to grinding them into a powder. The the first case you'll get little flavor/color; in the second you get maximum flavor/color. So the crush does indeed have an important impact.

The key is to do it the same way every time for consistency brew to brew. That way an adjustment in amount of an ingredient becomes meaningful vs. it being how it was processed.

Regarding grain to water I generally always kept it similar to a mashing type ratio. But I have rarely heard of fellow brewers having problems with steeping their grain in the entire volume of wort, myself included. Generally its such a small amount the tannin and pH issue becomes a bit moot. YMMV

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I hope I didn't appear to say that crush doesn't matter at all for steeping. It's still important, although I feel it's a bit less important than for all grain. I do agree that the steeping ratio may have only a minimal impact, but I think it;s better to be safe than sorry. –  Denny Conn Aug 12 '12 at 16:08
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I upvoted your comment. I should have said I disagree with his assessment of your answer. I hope to make it to an NHC someday so I can meet you Denny. –  brewchez Aug 13 '12 at 0:55
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I like the high level of curtesy and respect we have here on this site. –  mdma Aug 13 '12 at 11:27
    
@ brewchez....I look forward to it! –  Denny Conn Aug 13 '12 at 15:08
    
Cool - what I take away from this answer/thread is that the consistency of the crush matters far more than the amount of crushing. If (hypothetically) I am using completely powdered grain for my recipes, that's OK but I will not match a recipe's flavour, though I could refine over time with varying quantity. I was mostly concerned about defects that may come from under/over crushing, aside from flavour variance. –  C4H5As Aug 14 '12 at 5:35
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I would be mindful, and I would go with the rolling pin method. I have done this before, and will most replicate the effect of the barley crusher at your LHBS. Also, do this, and there is no need to worry about steeping more/less when using the coffee grinder method.

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I think you have already gotten a couple great answers here but just to through my two cents in... From what I have heard a good average crush to shoot for would be breaking the grain kernel into about four pieces. That crush should give you a good extraction efficiency rate and still be large enough to filter itself without getting "stuck". But thats suggested for all-grain, so keeping in mind that you would get the best efficiency if you ground your grain into powder (but that would create some serious issues (don't do it)) I would find a crush that is giving you the results you are looking for and not giving you troubles. When I brew extract I do not worry about getting any fermentables from my specialty grains instead focus on getting the color, body, head retention, exc... and calculate your gravity based on the extract you use.

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Can you expand on the "serious issues" from powdered grain? I'm not actually going to powder my grain, but it seems a good extreme to identify worst cases. –  C4H5As Aug 14 '12 at 5:37
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