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The wort is cooled, the yeast is pitched and the decocted Oktoberfest is sitting downstairs after what can only be described as an epic brew day.  So now the questioning begins; was it worth it?  Obviously without the final product here in front of me there is no real way of knowing but at least I can talk about it from the perspective of someone who just finished the process so I’ll briefly run through some pros and cons of my decoction mash today.  If you are reading this and don’t know much about decoction mashing here are some links I looked up to do my research:


1.      It was fun!  Honestly I like the homebrewing process as much as if not more than the finished product so I like to do things hands on when I have the time.  Decoction mashed definitely fit the bill.  It sounds weird but I feel more connect to this beer than any other because it was as hands on as you could without actually sticking your arms in your wort.  Endless stirring while standing directly next to a flaming burner was so much more work than any other normal, single infusion beer.

2.      My efficiency was through the roof.  Ten percentage points above my expected brewhouse efficiency to be exact which yielded me an Oktoberfest starting at 1.062 when I was shooting for 1.053.  Imperial Fest? 

3.      I got to sound cool talking to my friends about the history of the decoction mash and thoroughly enjoyed the process of learning more about it.  As a history buff this is the kind of stuff I like so when I combine it with beer I’m pretty much in heaven.


1.       It really, really, really took a long time.  I did a protein rest which I normally bypass, pulled and boiled a ton of grist to get up to 147*, let it sit, pulled more and boiled to get up to 156*, waited, pulled the wort which I heated up for a mashout addition at 168* and then did my normal batch sparging routine.  For someone who has been working on transforming their brew day into an efficient well oiled machine this was definitely different.

2.      I struggled to hit my temps and needed additional boiling water each time to bring them up.  I need to do some research on this but I took the lazy route and let Beersmith dictate my schedule for me and it did not work out well.  I’m not positive in this but my hypothesis is that I pulled to thickly from the grist without enough liquid which caused unequal heating when adding back the boiled grist. 

3.       I burned through a ton of propane today.  Because I like to conserve energy sources as much as possible and because I’m super cheap I’ve been trying to cut back on propane usage lately which has resulted in heating strike water on the stove top instead of on the propane burner.  I guess I could have boiled my decoctions on the stove tops as well but it was such a nice day outside that I did it on the burner and when combined with a ninety minute boil I really put a dent in my propane supply.

So that leaves the lingering question; was it worth it?  In the end I think it was simply because of the first pro that I listed; it was fun.  With today’s improved malt quality, the invention of the thermometer and the ease of a “normal” brew day I’d say there is no way a decoction mash could be worth it if you are not enjoying the added work.  Like I said, it really, really took a long time to do and was very intensive both mentally and physically so if you aren’t interested in adding a somewhat unnecessary historical method to your beer I don’t think you should do it.  If you’re a hands on beer nerd who likes to do more than what is required than this might be for you to try at least once. 

Just finished up what seemed like an epic brewday

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