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Everybody can buy a certain number of specilaty grains and combine them, but in a way it seems to me this way I will do something that someone else can do just replicating my grain choice. On the other hand mash process seems to be much more complex and with infinite variation in temperature values, time, with even more variability added by different processes (standard vs decoction for example).

How much mash temperature and process can influence malty/sweet aroma of the final beer compared to specialty grains? (I am talking about light specialy grains, obviously there is a wide range of grains with aromas that can't be compared to those that mash develops). Which one of the two is the most powerful, or they can be equivalent?

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3 Answers 3

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A mash is certainly more flexible and gives the brewer the most freedom, while extracts+steeping grain is far more convenient and requires much less equipment.

In the mash, you can achieve a more malty beer simply by using more malt, or using a variety that has a strong maltiness to it. (I'm thinking Maris Otter, but also Munich malt) It would be hard to approximate this with speciality grains or extract, even extract made from MO/Munich malt, since the process of drying (DME) or concentrating (LME) the extract reduces the maltiness and fresh taste.

Light speciality grains are not really malty, more sugary/caramel oriented, so we're not comparing like with like here. When you use speciality grains in the mash, they function just as if they were being steeped.

So, mashing is more flexible and can allow you to create very malty beers without them being excessively sweet. But not all styles require a sweet malty backbone, and when that's the case, then mashing vs using extract plus steeping grain produce more or less the same results. E.g. an IPA or a Porter can be brewed well without mashing.

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As has been stated already, you are talking about two completely different things

from "How to Brew chapter 13.1"

there are basically two kinds of malts: those that need to be mashed and those that don't. ... Specialty malts like caramel and roasted malts do not need to be mashed. These malts have undergone a special kilning process in which the starches are converted to sugars by heat right inside the hull. As a result, these malts contain more complex sugars, some of which do not ferment, leaving a pleasant caramel-like sweetness.

As far as your question regarding which is most "powerful" I would ask what you mean by power. The specialty grains provide little to no "power" as far as fermentation is concerned. They add a depth and complexity to an extract brew that you will not have using extract only. They also will lend a bit of a fresh taste that you wont get otherwise.

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They are 2 different things. Specialty grains will have a direct impact on the flavor of the beer, with a secondary impact on body and mouthfeel. Mash time, temp, and process will have a primary impact on body and mouthfeel and secondarily on flavor. But specialty grains and mash manipulation can have large effects on the beer that will overlap to some extant, but each also has it's own primary impact.

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True to this. No matter the mash schedule you're never going to make a stout without any roasted barley in their. –  brewchez Mar 6 '13 at 23:37

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