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The saccharification step is a procedure in beer brewing in which the saccharification temperature is gradually increased through a series of rests. In this article, we look at the steps of mashing; what it is, why it is done and how mashing at different temperatures affects your wort.
The saccharification step is a technology developed when the malt is less modified than it is now. Therefore, you may wonder why you need to understand the process and science behind it? It's simple; it's an excellent technique for producing more varieties and more distinctive beers.
First, let's look at malt.
Malting is the process of soaking, sprouting and drying grains to convert them into malt. When grains sprout, glucans and proteins are broken down, which makes it easier for brewers to extract sugar. By taking different breaks at different temperatures, brewers can make some of these modifications in the mash. As a result, the amount and efficiency of sugar extraction from malt can be improved.
Nowadays, most home brewers don’t bother to follow the step-by-step malt schedule because the malt has been carefully modified. The general consensus is that stepwise saccharification will not significantly increase the conversion rate. However, in addition to conversion, there are other reasons why a saccharification step may be required.
What effect does saccharification have on wort at different temperatures?
Certain temperatures are considered to be key factors for breaking down β-glucan (the sticky part of the barley cell wall), lowering the pH of the mash or breaking down proteins. It all boils down to enzymes.
An enzyme is just a protein with a special structure that can accelerate the decomposition of different substrates-molecules on which the enzyme can act. Enzymes can accelerate chemical reactions without any permanent chemical changes. This means that the enzyme will not "run out" in the chemical reaction.
Brewers are interested in the "optimum temperature" of these enzymes. The optimal temperature is the temperature range where these enzymes function in the most effective way.
This temperature range usually rises to the temperature at which the enzyme begins to denature. The most important thing to note is that the enzyme will not "stop" at this temperature, because denaturation may take a while. Therefore, moving from one temperature step to the next does not mean that you have stopped working on one enzyme to support another.
Which temperature steps should we be interested in?
35-45°C (95-113°F) | acid break
Acid residue is a step aimed at lowering the pH of the mash (we mean making it more acidic).
Due to the temperature range, this step can also be used to decompose β-glucan. This is especially useful if you use a high percentage of wheat or oat malt. Acid break is effective because at this temperature, phytase will actively decompose phytic acid molecules. Subsequently, phytic acid is released and the pH of the mash decreases.
The heat used in the malting process is sufficient to destroy most of the phytase present, so the acid residue is only suitable for extremely light roasted malt. Acidification takes at least one hour before the pH of the mash has any significant change. This is why this remaining part is not used more widely today, or if it is, it is for the β-glucan decomposition effect rather than the mash pH effect.
43-45°C (109-113°F) | Ferulic acid rest
In beer, a molecule called 4-vinylguaiacol (tasty) is believed to give the beer a clove-like aroma, which is desirable in certain styles. Ferulic acid is the precursor of this molecule, and it is usually combined with other molecules present in the wort.
By resting in this temperature range, you can release more ferulic acid into the wort, thereby providing you with more 4-vinylguaiacol precursors.
44-59°C (113-128°F) | protein break
If your wort contains too much long-chain protein, if you store the beer for a period of time, you may experience protein turbidity and instability. Instead, you need some medium-chain proteins in your beer because they help keep your head and body in the finished beer.
Realizing this break theoretically breaks the protein chain into shorter chains. Unless you use malt with a high protein content, it is best to avoid it. As with most well-modified malts, resting at this temperature will only have a negative effect on head retention.
61-71°C (142-162°F) | Glycation break
As the rest time required by the winemaker, many home winemakers will use the extended rest time (60 minutes) only once in this temperature range. The purpose of saccharification residue is to convert starch into sugar. Two enzymes are important here, alpha-amylase and beta-amylase.
Alpha-amylase is most active near 68-72°C (155-162°F). It breaks down starch molecules at random points to form long chains. This will produce a sweeter, richer beer.
On the other hand, β-amylase is most active at 60-63°C and destroys starch molecules at the branches, producing shorter chains. This is a great way to produce highly fermented wort for dried finished beer.
If you have any questions about the saccharification steps and brewing equipment, please contact us.
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