Steeping/Sparging vs Mashing Dark Grains
As I covered in this original article on the topic, all grain brewers can be well served by separately steeping their dark roasted grains for certain beer styles to minimize harsh, tannic roast flavors. The idea being that you could separately steep your dark grains into a tea and incorp
orate them into the wort before boiling. Much like percolating coffee too long, mashing dark grains for an extended period can result in harsher roast flavors. By separating the dark grains in a tea steeped for a much shorter time you can reduce these off flavors. Depending on the style of beer, this can be a great technique.
Later, in a newer article, I covered a simpler method for reducing harshness which involves simply adding your dark grains to the top of the mash tun at the end of the mash and leaving them in there during the sparging stage. This accomplishes the same effect as separately steeping the dark grains, but is much simpler to do on brew day.
Handling Steeped/Sparge Grains in BeerSmith
Starting with the BeerSmith 3.1 update (to include BeerSmith Web), this technique is properly supported by the software. To separately mark a dark grain addition as a steep/sparge addition in an all-grain batch, first open the grain entry in the recipe by double clicking on it. In the grain editing dialog, set the Use In field to be “Sparge”. The “Sparge” selection reflects the fact that most brewers now add these grains at the beginning of the sparge rather than as a separate tea.
When you mark a dark grain as “Sparge”, the program will no longer include that particular grain in the grain water infusion calculation up front so you will get the correct mash volumes and temperatures for mashing in without the dark grains. However the grains will still be incorporated from the sparge forward, so you will get correct color and gravity estimates for your beer.
So that’s today’s quick tip – to separate your steep/sparge dark grains in BeerSmith, all you need to do is mark the grain as “Sparge” in the Use In field for the grain within the recipe.
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