When it comes to brewing an all-grain beer, there are small differences compared to extract brewing. One key difference is the grain usage – extract brew uses a grain extract while all-grain uses the whole grains. For the brewing process to be successful, all of the grains need to be submerged in the water. If the grains are not soaking in the water, they are not able to convert their starches into sugars, which is required later on in the fermentation process. Sometimes it can be difficult getting proper mixing of the grains and water if you don’t have the right equipment. You could use a regular kitchen mixing spoon however, that can prove to be difficult when mixing such a large amount of material. Instead, you should use a mash paddle which will make the mixing task much easier!
What is a Mash Paddle?
A typical stainless steel mash paddle
A mash paddle is exactly what is sounds like – a giant paddle used to mix the mash so it can become wort. There are many different types of paddles out there but for the most part they all get the job done. Paddles come in varying sizes, on average they range from 20 to 36 inches. They also can be made with different materials, the most popular choices being plastic, stainless steel, or some type of hard wood. There are also manual and automatic paddles, the manual you stir yourself while the automatic can be attached to a drill and does the stirring for you. They also can come specially designed with holes and slots in the paddle head to achieve better mixing, or just a solid paddle head. I would recommend choosing one with holes. The holes allow for the mash to pass through the paddle, which creates a better mixing environment along with preventing clumps from forming.
Mash Paddle Benefits
The design of the paddle it promotes good mixing by the transfer of mash both through and around the paddle. While stirring the mash, it creates a more turbulent flow which gives you a higher mixing efficiency. A normal spoon would just create a vortex and not provide as good mixing results compared to a mash paddle.
As mentioned previously the brew paddle reduces the formation of dough balls. In all-grain brewing, you have the protentional of forming dough balls while mixing. These dough balls are gains clumped together and they greatly affect your brewing efficiency. The grains on the outside are getting wet, but the ones trapped inside are staying dry. Since they are surrounded by other grains, they are not getting exposed to the water. Therefore, they can not produce their sugars. So, even if you have the right amount of grains, the sugar levels will be much lower which will have a large impact on the fermentation step later on.
Another benefit of the paddle is the ability to fix a stuck mash. Sometimes while sparging you get a clog, slowing the collection down to a slow trickle. With a mash paddle, you can give it a quick stir to remove the clog. However, you will need to recirculate the wort again to get your grain bed to form again.
Where to Buy a Mash Paddle?
You can find a mash paddle anywhere you buy your homebrewing supplies at. NorthernBrewer has a great stainless-steel mash paddle. It is 30 inches long and very durable, it can handle any size batch you are making. Another popular option is this hard-wood mash paddle from MoreBeer. This one is 36 inches long and has slots in the paddle head instead of holes. Another feature of this paddle is the T shaped handle, giving you more control and maneuverability with the paddle. Finally, for those who are creative you can always design and build your own paddle. There are tons of guide on google for DIY mash paddles that walk you through the entire build process. Building your own custom mash paddle can feel rewarding and may even be cheaper depending on what you spend on the materials.
How to Take Care of a Mash Paddle
Taking care of a mash paddle is fairly easy, as they are a low maintenance piece of equipment. Once you are done stirring with the paddle soak it in a sanitizer for a few minutes. After soaking it, hang it in a cool and dry location to dry. If you own a wooden mash paddle, another option would be to treat the paddle with butchers’ oil. This step is not required and some homebrewers prefer to have an untreated paddle that way no chemicals come into contact with the mash. If you choose to leave it untreated, you have to make sure to take extra care of the paddle otherwise mold may form. If mold does form, you can scrub the paddle or use sandpaper to remove it.
Mash paddles are a very useful tool for homebrewers who do all-grain brewing. They promote good mixing which is crucial to the success of your beer. Even though you could use a regular spoon, the paddle is a much better mixing tool and it is definitely adding to your homebrewery setup.