Is the simplest answer: "if it has a husk and its dark, add it at sparge"?

I have made 40 or so batches of beer, but not a lot of stouts. I have heard Jamil and others saying that they mash all grains for the full 60 minutes, but have heard of others adding dark grains at sparge. Supposedly, doing this imparts a more subtle roastiness without an acrid/burnt/ash taste. Maybe the sparge add is a better move for Black IPAs, porters, and beers with the guidelines calling for a more subtle roast character?

I have a batch of Canadian breakfast stout conditioning where I added all dark grains at sparge (carafa III, black patent), and it doesn't have much roast in my preliminary samples. Maybe I need to wait until its carbed and ready for serving until I decide which suits my palette.

BTW, I typically BIAB and do a single batch sparge in a spare ale pail with 168-170 water with a mashout prior.

  • What makes it Canadian? As a native Canuck, I rarely drink stout at breakfast. Dec 1 '12 at 2:01
  • FWIW Gordon Strong recommends steeping dark husked grains instead of mashing them like you have outlined. I have never done it myself, but he has won a few more competitions than me ;-)
    – Jason V
    Dec 1 '12 at 13:33
  • Maple syrup, coffee, chocolate, home-toasted oats. Founders does one that is delightful.
    – Pietro
    Dec 3 '12 at 16:09
  • Ok tried this again on the carb and it is pretty damn solid. It has a nice roast backbone, but is in no way acrid like some other stouts I have made. Might try the same 'add at sparge' method next time, and as Graham says below, dial in the recipe without the roasted grains, and powder them up in the mill prior to adding at sparge.
    – Pietro
    Dec 5 '12 at 21:29

To put it another way, what Gordon and others are recommending is that you get your 'base' beer (base malt + any toasted + any light crystal) dialed in for the mash. Without a lot of roasted malt or dark crystal, mash pH typically isn't something you need to worry about, and you can follow general guidelines like "1 tsp Calcium Chloride all beers", "1 tsp Gypsum hoppy beers", and "Double the Calcium Chloride & Gypsum for minerally beers". Gordon specifically says to take any dark crystal or roasted malt, mill them separately, and add them in the last 10min of your mash, so their acidity does not drag down your mash pH for long enough to cause problems.

There is a slight problem with this philosophy though, in that I am not sure how long Gordon's vorlauf, run-off and sparge take. For him, this process must take long enough to extract the character from those grains. I was talking to a brewer friend 3 days ago who said that he just wasn't getting enough color from that technique. I suspect that his mash run-off and sparge happen much quicker than Strong's, so he didn't extract as much color as he wanted.

I brewed a brown ale yesterday, and kept the Crystal 120, the CaraBrown and the Carafa malt separate from the main mash, and just steeped them alongside the mash. I poured the dark steeped liquid/grains into the mash at the very end. My run-off + sparge only takes 15min or so. I figure this will extract the color/flavor from those dark grains.

  • 1
    I have to take exception to the statement "Without a lot of roasted malt or dark crystal, mash pH typically isn't something you need to worry about". An all pils grist could present as many, if not more problems. In short, know what the pH is for any grist and know what you need to do to make it correct.
    – Denny Conn
    Dec 3 '12 at 16:12
  • Denny, I use the "EZ Water Calculator Spreadsheet" with all RO water, and the room temp pH difference between an all-Pilsner mash vs an all-Maris Otter mash is about .02 (5.77 vs 5.75). Do you think there is some inaccuracy here that I'm not accounting for?
    – Graham
    Dec 3 '12 at 16:29
  • Hard to say. I do know that I haven't found EZ Water to be as accurate as Bru'nwater, but I haven't directly compared pH estimates. I was speaking more about comparing an all pils mash to one with dark grains in it.
    – Denny Conn
    Dec 3 '12 at 17:05
  • I believe the point from Gordon and others is that if you exclude the dark grains, then most mashes of any base malt plus a 'reasonable' amount of crystal malt are fairly easy to handle using the general guidelines ("1 tsp CalChlor") instead of specific measurements.
    – Graham
    Dec 3 '12 at 19:07
  • But AFAIK he uses RO water. That's about the only way a "formula" like that would work. Not to mention that I'm not certain I agree with him, despite his record!
    – Denny Conn
    Dec 3 '12 at 20:40

It completely depends on your water and how you treat it. If your alkalinity isn't very high, or you take steps to reduce it, there's no problem adding them for the whole mash. I've done that for years. But if you have high alkalinity or are concerned about your pH, adding them later will reduce those effects. Either way works, but you have to find out what works for YOU!

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