Mashing is the process of combining a mix of milled grain (typically malted barley with supplementary grains such as corn, sorghum, rye or wheat), known as the grain bill, and water, known as liquor, and heating this mixture in a vessel called a mash tun. Mashing is a form of steeping, and defines the act of brewing, such as with making tea, sake, and soy sauce. Technically, wine, cider and mead are not brewed but rather vinified, as there is no steeping process involving solids.
Mashing allows the enzymes in the malt to break down the starch in the grain into sugars, typically maltose to create a malty liquid called wort. There are two main methods – infusion mashing, in which the grains are heated in one vessel; and decoction mashing, in which a proportion of the grains are boiled and then returned to the mash, raising the temperature. Mashing involves pauses at certain temperatures (notably 45–62–73 °C or 113–144–163 °F), and takes place in a mash tun– an insulated brewing vessel with a false bottom.
The end product of mashing is called a “mash”. Mashing usually takes 1 to 2 hours, and during this time the various temperature rests activate different enzymes depending upon the type of malt being used, its modification level, and the intention of the brewer.