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I have made a smoked porter batch from a concentrate my LBS was making and selling. Before fermentation, I could easily taste the smoke flavour, but 2 weeks after bottling I could no longer.

Later, I made a small (4L) all-grain smoked porter, in which I mashed half the smoked grain and steeped the other half. The smoked flavour was there after bottling, it was great. So I decided to scale up my recipe, and do a 20L batch. This time the smoke flavour is more subtle, perhaps because the process was longer for this bigger batch.

This leads me to think that smoke flavour tends to dissipate in the air during the brewing process, but I am not sure.

My goal is to keep that smoke flavour in the beer as long as possible.

Should I steep all my smoked malt, mash it all, or continue to do both ?

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Smoked malt is made from base malt...I've never seen it any other way. That means you should always mash it so you don't end up with unconverted starch in your beer.

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  • Since it is only a small part of the grain bill, unconverted starch should remain minimal. I am more concern about flavour extraction, but still, mashing seems the way to go. – Philippe Sep 30 '15 at 17:39
  • Even minimal unconverted starch can lead to infection. What kind of smoked malt did you use? Peated? Rauchmalt? Homemade? – Denny Conn Sep 30 '15 at 19:50
  • It was Weyermann's Smoked Malt imported from Germany – Philippe Sep 30 '15 at 20:59
  • The more I've read about mashing vs. steeping makes it seem like this is a pretty settled issue. I'm inclined to listen to @DennyConn and others about deciding on mashing or steeping in the future. – BBS Oct 1 '15 at 12:39
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    That said, it you steep for 45 min. or more at temps between 145 and 165F, you are in effect mashing. – Denny Conn Oct 1 '15 at 15:52
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I've never heard of smoke aromatics being driven off during the brewing process as much as you describe. However, if you smell the smoke while brewing obviously its coming out of the pot, much like hop aroma or malt aromas.

Rather than focus on a method that results in retaining the aromatics, it would be easier to just add more smoked malt to start with and dial it up each consecutive brew until its where you like it. Treat it as a recipe issue rather than a process issue. I have found that to be the easiest route to success when I am trying to ramp up or down a given characteristic.

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  • I can add more smoked malt, but the question remains, mash or steep? – Philippe Sep 30 '15 at 16:22
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    I'd say mash it. Usually smoked malt needs a conversion rest because it does have starch in it. – brewchez Sep 30 '15 at 16:37
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I typically do a partial mash, as I've found it to be a good balance of effort and results. So even when I say mashing, I'm describing more of a boil in a bag method than a proper mashing.

I made a smoked porter last year that I was very proud of. As I developed the recipe I steeped more of the grains and later versions had more depth to the smoke test. The early versions smelled very smokey, but had little of the taste, and later versions the smoke was more evenly distributed in the beer.

I also changed my grain bill with different versions so it's hard to say what the impact was exactly.

One more thing, I bought smoked grains instead of smoking them myself and I think the freshness of the grains made the biggest difference. The smoked grains tend to sit on the shelf for longer and appear to have a shorter than average shelf life.

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  • How long would you boil it, if you boil in a bag ? 30 mins? Same time you would steep? – Philippe Sep 30 '15 at 17:44
  • I usually leave it in for longer when I'm using more base grains for the mash. Between 45 minutes and an hour depending on the quantity of the grain. Honestly I'm really not sure if I should mess with the time at all. It just doesn't feel right to leave a relatively small amount of grains in for too long, which has been my only gauge for time. – BBS Oct 1 '15 at 12:35

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