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If you are new to the exciting and creative world of home-brewing, then Lautering is something you certainly need to know about. Lautering is a vital stage in brewing delicious beer and allows brewers to effectively separate the residual grain from the mash, resulting in a clear liquid wort.
Lautering typically consists of three important steps: Mash Out, Re-circulation, and Sparging. Each step is vital and needs to be executed perfectly to ensure a quality brew. Effective Lautering will allow you to achieve high levels of consistency from batch to batch and simultaneously eliminate harsh flavors from your brew. The process also greatly improves both clarity, quality and saves you time. Before we go on to explain what is lautering, let’s look at the pros and cons of lautering.
Pros and Cons of Lautering
- Allows you to achieve high levels of consistency from batch to batch
- Eliminates harsh flavors from the brew
- Improves quality
- Improves clarity
- It saves you time (efficient)
- Modern Lautering equipment can be expensive for home-brewers.
Why should you Lauter?
Many novice and amateur brewers are under the impression that Lautering is simply a fancy term for rinsing the grains that you will be using in the brew. This is far from the truth, and it is slightly more complicated than simply rinsing. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but it is important that you take your time and do it the right way from the start (it’s a great habit to develop).
This will allow you to achieve high levels of consistency from batch to batch and simultaneously eliminate harsh flavors from your brew. Additionally, it improves quality, clarity and saves you time.
Where did the Lautering process originate?
Just like most things related to traditional beer, Lautering was first practiced in Germany. The exact period is unknown, but some experts believe it was between the 14th and 16th centuries (there are no official records to confirm this). Lauter is derived from the German word “abläutern”; when directly translated, it means “to purify” or “rinse-off.”
What is the purpose of Mash Out?
Mash Out is a process whereby the temperature of the mash is gently raised to 77 degrees C (170 degrees F). This process is important because once the mash is exposed to that temperature, it stops the enzymatic conversion of starches to fermentable sugars. Additionally, it makes both the mash and the wort fluid, which is necessary for the re-circulation process.
Can you Mash for too long?
In theory, beer cannot be mashed for too long, but there is no point in allowing beer to mash for more than 2 hours (120 min). Most of the enzyme conversion is already completed within the first hour (60 min) of the process. However, if the wort is allowed to rest in the mash for more than 24 hours, there’s a high probability that it will begin to sour and subsequently spoil your brew.
I recommend a mashing time of 1 hour (60 min); this will eliminate any chance of the brew being spoiled and also improve your consistency from batch to batch.
How much water should you mash with?
This is important because the mash thickness can have a huge effect on the beer. It can vary the recipe, the amount of additional mash water additions, the volume of sparge water, and the mash tun configuration. Home-brewers usually use a value in the range of 2.1 to 3.1 liters of water per kilogram of grain (1.0 to 1.5 quarts per pound.
What is the purpose of Re-circulation?
Recirculating the mash is a very simple process, but it can make a significant difference to the quality and clarity of your beer. To effectively recirculate, you will need to create a decent filter bed in your mash; the filter bed will remove unwanted proteins and solids from your brew.
It can take some time and investment, but if this process is perfected, it can make a considerable difference to the quality of your beer. Re-circulation is often referred to as Vorlauf; no need to be confused; this is simply the German word for this process.
What is the purpose of Sparging?
Sparging is an important step within the Lautering process. Sparging is the process whereby you thoroughly rinse your mashed grains. This is done to maximize the amount of sugar from the mash process without extracting any unwanted tannins. Tannins are a group of astringent and bitter compounds that give off a bitter and dry taste.
What is the difference between fly sparging and batch sparging?
Batch sparging is a process whereby the brewer completely drains the mash tun of all the liquid. The brewer then adds more water to the mash tun and stirs the mash periodically, the lid will be replaced, and the mash will be left standing for at least 30 minutes before the newly added water is drained.
Fly sparging works on the same principle except for a much-needed sparge arm. A sparge arm is a piece of brewing equipment used in the Lautering process. It is an adjustable unit that is fitted with a plate, disc, or another type of outlet port. It allows hot water to gently and evenly trickle into the mash tun, and this greatly assists in the extraction of fermentable sugars.
When should you stop Lautering?
To know the answer, you will need to know what your target Specific Gravity is. Once you know the target and achieve it, you instantly stop the Lautering process. When brewing more common styles such as Lagers, Pilsners, or pale Ale, the runoff should be cut once you achieve between 1.025 and 1.040 specific gravity.
If you happen to be brewing beers with strong tastes, aromas, and ABV’s such as Scottish Strong Ales or Barley Wines, you should cut the runoff just before the final 1.008 specific gravity is achieved. Specific Gravity is also called Present Gravity and illustrates the density of the wort at standard pressure and temperature (20 degrees C, 760mm Hg). Specific Gravity can be measured using a hydrometer, refractometer, or saccharometer.
What is a Lauter Tun?
A Lauter Tun is an incredible invention used by intermediate, advanced, and commercial brewers. It is a circular vessel that has been designed to assist brewers in effectively separating and removing the wort and solid materials in the mash. It basically works like an oversized sieve and features a perforated and slotted floor, also known as a false bottom.
The false bottom houses all the spent grains and uses these grains to efficiently filter the delicious wort. There is convenient storage space below the grain/filter bed, which collects the wort and directs it to the brew kettle for the next brewing process.
If you are a novice or newcomer to the brewing world, and you haven’t invested in a Lauter Tun, don’t despair. You can still brew quality beer at home without having to invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars. It will require you to do extra work, but it is well worth it.
The key is to ensure that you effectively heat your mash to the required 77 degrees C (170 degrees F) in the Mash Out process. This will halt the enzymatic conversion of starches to fermentable sugars.
When done, there are numerous ways that you can separate the wort from the mash, even using a large kitchen sieve or fine netting (the more you filter the wort, the better the end product). When you are satisfied, thoroughly rinse your mashed grains.
What is the difference between a mash tun and a Lauter tun?
Mash tuns are designed similarly to Lauter tuns and, in most cases, are made from the same materials but tend to be narrower and deeper. Additionally, mash tuns feature clever filtration slots in the false bottom where the grain bed is housed.
Lauter tuns are designed and best suited for high adjunct rates (secondary supplements) and under-modified malts such as Pilsner, Munich, and Vienna.
What is the Wort?
The wort is the precious sweet liquid extracted from the mashing process when brewing beer. Once your brew water has been mashed out, recirculated, and sparged, what’s leftover is referred to as the wort or, in some cases, as the beer water. The wort (beer) now contains the essential sugars (maltose and maltotriose) that will produce alcohol while being fermented by the brewing yeast. At this point, the wort will undergo the boiling process where all bacteria will be killed, and additional ingredients like hops will be added.
Quality Lautering Equipment for Home-Brewers
Below are three quality products that can greatly assist home-brewers to perfectly execute the Lautering process:
Ss Brew Tech T.C. InfuSsion Mash Tun Set-up
The gorgeous InfuSsion Mash Tun Set-up from Ss Brew Tech is the ideal Tun for home-brewers to start their brewing process. It is loaded with intelligent features to allow for ease of mashing and also eliminate any room for mashing error.
It features a double-walled 304 stainless steel construction, solid one-inch thick lid and walls, gasket sealed stainless steel false bottom, and a five-degree sloped floor with center drain. Additional features include a redesigned LCD thermometer, etched volume markings, and redesigned feet with locking screws.
- Quality built-in insulation on lid, sides, and bottom
- Riveted handles on the smartly located
- Gallon\liter markings allow you to easily keep track of the volume of water you have added
- Consistent temperature
- Fantastic attention to detail
- The InfuSsion Mash Tun Set-Up is a fantastic product but can be expensive for beginner and novice home-brewers
Convoluted Copper Heat Exchanger
The Copper Heat Exchanger is a wonderful product to assist in the Re-circulating process and can be used as an immersion wort chiller or as a HERMS coil. The complex, convoluted design exposes more wort or water to the walls of the copper tubing and encourages the transfer of heat, and it does this by breaking up the laminar flow in the tubing. It features 25 feet of 5/8 inch copper tubing, and the coil is 9 inches tall and nine inches outer diameter.
- Excellent heat exchange recirculating mash system
- Breaks up the laminar flow in the tubing to encourage heat transfer
- Ideal for HERMS set-up
- Quality copper design
- Copper is more vulnerable to corrosion when compared to stainless steel heat exchangers.
Brewers Edge Sparge Water Heater
This water heater is a fantastic design by Brewers Edge. It is easy to use and is available in 750 watts or 2500 watt options. It features a 4.8 gallon capacity with Heat Ready Lights, a built-in tap, and a lovely sight glass.
- Quality double-wall stainless steel construction
- Extremely efficient
- Simple and easy to use
- No adjustments required
- Built-in tap
- Sight Glass
- It takes a long time to heat the water to the required temperature
Seven easy steps to brewing quality beer
Below are seven simple steps to producing your own delicious beer:
- Milling: Milling is the most laborious part of the entire brewing process and involves physically crushing malt kernels into much smaller particles. This is done in preparation for the Mashing (Mash Out) and Lautering processes that follow.
- Mashing: Whether you are brewing beer or distilling spirits, the process begins with mashing. Mashing is the process whereby all the grains are mixed. Usually, malted barley is the primary supplement that is mixed with numerous secondary supplements such as wheat, corn, sorghum, or rye. Once these grains are combined, it is known as the grain bill. The grain bill is then mixed with water and heated to the required mashing temperature.
- Lautering: Lautering is an important process whereby brewers effectively separate the residual grain from the mash resulting in a clear liquid wort. Lautering typically consists of three important steps: Mash out, Recirculation, and Sparging. Lautering will ensure high levels of consistency from batch to batch and simultaneously remove harsh flavors from your brew.
- Boiling: The boiling process involves the wort simply being brought to the boil. This process is important because bringing the wort to the boil kills off any living bacteria. The primary wort bacteria is Lactobacillus which is a probiotic that metabolizes sugars as its main source of energy. However, unlike yeast, these bacteria produce lactic acid instead of alcohol. Boiling the wort is a simple and effective way to eliminate this bacteria.
- Fermentation: Fermentation is a wonderful process whereby the sugars in your beer are converted to heat, carbon dioxide, and alcohol. These essential sugars are converted by the much-needed brewers’ yeast; it does this by feeding on the sugars (the main source of energy) and, in doing so, converts them to heat, carbon dioxide, and alcohol. When brewing traditional beer, the essential sugars are usually sourced from natural ingredients such as cereals, various plant sugars, and malted barley.
- Conditioning: Conditioning is an interesting process and defines how the beer is carbonated. How the beer is carbonated can greatly affect the outcome of the entire operation. It can assist in muting flavors, enhance mouthfeel, and also help the beer develop lovely tastes while aging.
- Packaging: Packaging can account for up two-thirds of the cost of the entire process and is possibly the most important stage of the brewing process. Packaging is important from a functionality aspect and similarly from a branding or marketing aspect. However, the most important aspect of packaging is hygiene. All bottles or cans must be adequately cleaned, sterilized, and stored to prevent contamination from rogue yeast and exposure to oxygen. Either of these can spoil the brew and drastically reduce shelf life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: Is Lautering the same as Sparging?
Answer: This is a question that I get all the time. Lautering is simply the essential process of filtering your medium by using the grain bed to rinse and drain the delicious wort. Sparging is a step within the Lautering process whereby the medium is rinsed. Once this process is complete, the clean sweet wort will move on to the boiling step of the brewing process.
Question: What does boiling do to wort?
Answer: When the Lautering process is complete, you have to boil the wort. This step is important because boiling the wort will provide sufficient heat to eliminate any bacteria that may be present. The main type of wort bacteria is Lactobacillus, which is a probiotic that metabolizes sugars as its main source of energy. However, unlike yeast, these bacteria produce lactic acid instead of alcohol. Not only will this affect your ABV (Alcohol by Volume), but it can also result in an acidic off-taste in the beer. Boiling the wort will effectively kill this unwanted bacteria.
Question: What is a sparge tank?
Answer: A sparge tank is essentially the container where the brewing water is carefully heated to the required mash temperature. Advanced and experienced all-grain brewers use an HLT (Hot Liquor Tank) to heat their strike and brew water. Brewing salts are added to the source water while it is in the Hot Liquor Tank. The sparge tank can be heated from an external source such as LP Gas or even a wood-burning fire. Modern Hot Liquor Tanks are extremely advanced and feature internal heating components, built-in thermostats, and sensors to carefully monitor the tank.
Question: Do you need to Sparge if you recirculate?
Answer: Yes, you still need to sparge even if you recirculate. This needs to be done with either a Herms or RIMS setup. The Herms and RIMS set-up eliminates the need to vorlauf, and they do this by allowing you to maintain a consistent mash temperature through the slow circulation of the wort.
Question: Does recirculating mash improve efficiency?
Answer: Recirculating the mash greatly improves both the quality and clarity of the beer, but just as important, it also saves you a significant amount of time.
Question: When should you stop sparging?
Answer: You should stop the sparging process once your runoff has reached 1.010 or achieved a PH level of 6.0 or greater. Over-sparging can release unwanted tannins from the grain, which give off a dry and bitter taste. If you are using the fly sparging method, you can approach up to 90% efficiency before cutting the runoff.
Lautering is a vital stage of the brewing process and allows passionate brewers to effectively separate the residual grain from the mash, resulting in clear liquid wort. Lautering will allow you to achieve high levels of consistency from batch to batch and remove harsh flavors from your brew. Lautering consists of three stages: Mash Out, Recirculation, and Sparging. These three steps need to be executed perfectly to ensure a smooth, clear, and quality brew.
Lautering is necessary to ensure quality beer and a process that I enjoy. Numerous novice and amateur brewers don’t give it the credit that it deserves and simply see it as rinsing the grains. Like anything in life, the more you put in, the more you get out. This is especially true when Lautering produces quality beer. The only thing more rewarding than a cold refreshing beer after a long day is a cold refreshing beer that you carefully and painstakingly brewed yourself.