Oat malt- Promising results with a higher pH steep

I’m very surprised and excited about the results of this experiment. If you’ve read my past experiments with malting oats then you’ll know the trouble I’ve had with it. Even though I’ve tried different brands and hulless vs. with hulls I’ve always noticed a grassy flavour to it, and by grassy I mean like freshly cut lawn clippings or even green corn husks. I still do not know what causes this but it seems to appear only 1 or two days after steeping. It has been suggested in this article by  E. Hosseini, M. Kadivar and M. Shahedi that rancid bitter flavours are due to the oxidization of free fatty acids and they show that increasing the pH of the steep water has a positive effect on enzyme activity which may have an affect on the development of rancid flavours. Though, I’ll admit I found this article confusing, maybe you guys can make better sense of it. The folks from Breiss malting suggest in this podcast that bacteria present on the oat husk is what caused off flavours to emerge in their trials.

Germination was not great at about 70% for all three batches

Steeped for only 4 hours to achieve a 42% moisture content.

So whatever the reason, I wanted to see if adjusting the pH of the steep water would have any effect on flavour. The first batch of malt would be my control using regular filtered water. The second batch had the steep water adjusted to a pH of 9.5 (only because I couldn’t hit 8 due to the small amount of Sodium Hydroxide used). The third batch was subjected to a 1 hour steep in a .2% lye solution which had a pH of around 13 in order to disinfect the grain from any mold or bacteria. Then it was rinsed and steeped for another three hours in regular filtered water.

0.4 grams of lye was added to 4 Litres of water to change the pH from 6.3 to 9.5
8 grams of Lye per 4 Litres was used for the third batch.


And the winner is … the 9.5 pH batch. Within a few days of steeping I noticed that it was not developing as much grassy aroma as the other two. Even after mashing this malt it’s tasting much more like a bowl of oatmeal than a bowl of cut grass. I still have to brew with it as a final test to see if this is actually working but I’m very optimistic. Also the brix of the 9.5 batch after mashing small 4 oz. samples was 13, both the normal batch and the disinfected batch were just 10. Of course these mash results could have been different had I adjusted the pH of the mashes.


All three batches were steeped at 12C 54F and germinated for 5 days at 16C 61F.

All three batches were also dried and kilned the same; 12 hours at 21C 70F with fan. 8 hours at 30C 86F with fan. 8 hours at 50C 122F no fan. 4 hours in the oven at 185F

Tomorrow I’ll start to malt another 10 lbs. in order to make another attempt at a 100% oat malt beer.


Mini-mashing 4 oz. batches.

After mashing for two hours it still did not pass the iodine test.

After mashing, before boiling. The 9.5 pH batch in the center had a brix of 13, the other two 10



Posted by on June 15, 2019 in Oat Malt


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Brumalt two ways: high moisture vs. low moisture hot couching

40% on left 27.5% on right

It’s taken a while to get this one to work. According to the descriptions I have, Brumalt starts with a high moisture content (48%) and is well modified. After a 6-8 day germination the malt is piled up (depths vary according to descriptions) and it’s allowed to heat up to 50C in about 24 hours. After the oxygen is consumed and enough carbon dioxide accumulates it eventually cools down with the whole process taking about 30-40 hours. According to Briggs “Under these conditions rootlet growth ceased, the starchy endosperm became pulpy and the sugars and amino acids accumulated…”  The malt is then dried at 65 C and kilned (or cured) at less than 100 C or 212F producing a dark malt at 15-30 or even 40 EBC units and yields a “sugar and melanoidin-rich malt when mashed”

Now this is the tricky part for the small scale home maltster but I’ve recently discovered that when “piling up”, the amount of malt used vs. the container size is very important, otherwise you may not reach 50C or it may take a long time, like 3 days. I’ve tried different amounts for different lengths of time in different coolers and containers and I’ve found that 10 lbs in a 5 gallon cooler works perfectly. The cooler mimics the conditions of a larger pile of malt and I’ve managed to reach a few degrees above 50C.

Interestingly this technique is mentioned in the London and Country Brewer of 1736  in Chapter 2. “Now when it is at this degree and fit for the Kiln, it is often practised to put it into a Heap and let it lye twelve Hours before it is turned, to heat and mellow, which will much improve the Malt if it is done with moderation, and after that time it must be turned every six Hours during twenty four; but if it is overheated, it will become like Grease and be spoiled, or at least cause the Drink to be unwholsome”  Also in this text is this description of the malt near the end of germination: “and when it is fixed and the Root begins to be dead, then it must be thickened again and carefully kept often turned and work’d, that the growing of the Root may not revive,” This quote describes the withering of the roots which is more evident with traditional longer germinations. Purposely withering the malt on the floor was also a common practice when floor malting and this was done by spreading out the malt to a very thin layer of 1 or 2 inches. Just for fun I thought I’d try drying out the malt a little by spreading it out to see if using a somewhat dryer malt had an effect on this process. I was thinking that this hot couching process might be the way to add more colour to my diastatic brown malt. Unfortunately, when the malt has undergone a long traditional germination or has been withered the moisture content will be lower, 27% in my case. I believe that with a lower moisture content the proteolytic enzymes are not as effective as a malt with a higher moisture content when the temperature rises.

I’ve created dark malts before by stewing the malt in my kiln at 50C immediately after germination. 16 hours of stewing seems like the magic number and then drying and kilning as you would for a pale malt. But I wanted to see if I could get a very dark malt naturally with this hot couching method instead of stewing it in my kiln. The second batch uses the same Skagit Valley barley as the first one given to me by Skagit Valley Malting. Both started with a 46% moisture content using 8 hour steeps and 8-12 hour rests. Both were well modified with acrospires reaching the full length of the grain having germinated at roughly the same temperature. The only difference is that the first batch withered for 28 hours before being put in the cooler.  To wither I simply spread it out to an inch depth on window screens with space under the screens for air-flow. After withering it had a moisture content of 27.5% whereas the un-withered batch had a moisture content of 40%.

The first batch reached 51 C, its maximum temperature, after 32 hours in the cooler. The malt was covered loosely with dish towels for insulation but allows for some oxygen. (I’ve tried it with an airtight lid but it doesn’t work)  I then let it cool down for another 16 hours, for 48 hours total. When I took it out the temperature was at 47 C. It then went in the kiln to dry at 65 C (air on temp). The second batch went into the cooler at 40% moisture having gone through the same germination regime minus the wilting. It was a little faster and reached 51C right around 24 hours, just like the textbook says! I then let it cool down to 45 C for a total of 39 hours in the cooler. This malt was then dried for 12 hours under 50C which also makes a difference due to the fact that the enzymes are still active during this time especially at the beginning.

There’s huge difference in colour due to the difference in moisture content at this “hot couch” stewing phase. Not only are the enzymes more effective with more moisture but continue their activity during the longer drying phase after the “hot couch”. Perhaps if a traditional floor malt was not as dry as my “wilted” malt that this method played a role in adding colour to the diastatic brown malt of the past.

Malt # 1 Withered                                                                                 Malt # 2 Not Withered

  • 46% moisture                                                                     Same
  • 5 day germination acros. full length                                   Same
  • Withered 1 ” depth on screens 28 hours
  • 27.5 % moisture content
  • In cooler 48 hours max temp 51 C                                     In cooler for 39 hours max. temp. 51 C
  • 4 hours drying at 65 C (air on temp)                                  12 hours drying (malt temp. 40-50C)
  • 4 hours at 205 F                                                                 3 hours 65 C (Air on temp) 55 malt temp.
  • Not much colour (even after another 3 hours at 200F) .    4 hours 200F (malt temp max 168)
  •                                                                                            3 hours 200F on shallow pan (malt temp 200)

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Posted by on April 20, 2019 in Brumalt, Uncategorized


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Short trip to Skagit Valley Malting

I’ve been wanting to visit the Skagit Valley Malting facility for a while, mostly because it’s only an hour and a half away from where I live. In a relatively short time span, they’ve expanded to the point where this year they will be able to store 12 million pounds of grain in their silos. They’ve got quite a few videos on their website FAQ section describing their operation if you haven’t seen them already they’re worth a look. They’re also on Facebook where you can see lots of video footage and photos.

What I think is very cool about this place is they’re malting locally grown grain, all grown within 12 miles (except for some organic grain which is grown in Delta B.C. which is literally a stone’s throw away from my garden!). The Skagit Valley is mostly known for it’s seed and tulip bulb production. Most of the barley grown here used to go to the commodity feed market. Now Skagit Valley Malting gives local farmers a new and better market opportunity. As it turns out because of the temperate summers this area is very well suited to grow barley and since they buy the grain directly from the growers they can work together to select and grow the best malting varieties for the area.

The Silos

How they malt their grain is truly innovative. This is the really cool part, their patented single vessel units do everything from steeping to finishing, what comes out of the vessels goes right into the bags. These things are huge and were designed and built on site. Each one holds 9 tons of barley.  Firstly, water enters the vessels through a pipe in the side. The grain is steeped using an absorption method, that is, only the specific amount of water is used that will achieve their desired moisture content. Because the vessels are being rotated the barley absorbs the water uniformly. The vessels continue to rotate throughout the germination. Temperature and airflow are controlled through more pipes that run the length of the vessel inside. This is how the grain is kilned and finally the wedge-wire screens inside provide enough abrasion to de-culm the malt once it’s dried. Air is then sucked out of the vessel taking the root material through the waste port and leaving the grain clean and ready to bag. How awesome is that! I had asked if they sold bags of raw barley which they do but I would have to buy 2,000 lbs of it hmmmm, I considered that for a minute. Instead they gave me a 50 lb. bag to play with in exchange for blog posts, fun.Special thanks to everyone at Skagit Valley Malting and to Adam Foy and Scott Pelton for answering all my annoying questions

The malting vessels








They’re planning to fill this space with more vessels. On the right side is the original pilot vessel which is now used for test batches.


My big bag o’barley

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Posted by on March 27, 2019 in Malt houses


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New Facebook Group

I’ve recently joined the Home Maltsters Group on Facebook to talk about all things that are malty. Join the conversation and share your malting adventures or learn about the best hobby to have besides brewing. This page was set up earlier this month by Riley Porter, Ben Pelletier and Greg Cossey, you guys rock!

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Posted by on March 24, 2019 in Uncategorized


Planting day March 20 2019

The snow has finally melted so it’s time to plant. This year I’m growing mostly Chevallier with one bed of Jet (Thanks John!). It was a super nice day and I managed to get it all done before lunch. Here’s the process in pictures:

First step: Remove the straw mulch which worked really well for suppressing the weeds. I put it on my other plot.

Step 2: Dig up the beets and carrots I had overwintering in the ground

Too many carrots.

Next job, spreading the compost piles and sifting out the woody material, rhizomes and weeds.

The rows worked well last year and makes it easier to weed. These rows were 8 inches apart with 5 rows per bed.

Here’s the Jet barley sent to me from my buddy John.

After I put the seed in I push my foot between the rows which pushes the soil into the rows.

Then I walk on top of it to make sure the seed has good contact with the soil.

Finally I cover all the beds with Remay for two weeks to protect the seed from the crows. After two weeks it should be up a few inches, I’ll take off the Remay and put up a scarecrow.


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Posted by on March 21, 2019 in Garden Updates


This beer was made without roasted malts!


Not yet fully carbonated but I couldn’t wait any longer!  This beer was made with a single malt sent to me all the way from Montana from Ryan Pfeifle at Farm Power Malt.  Ryan your “samples” are on their way!  I’ve been talking to Ryan about diastatic brown malt and the theory that a lot of colour can be achieved with a stewing phase at around 122°F 50°C. The question that I’ve been trying to find out lately is whether or not this was part of the malting process for brown malt back in the 18th century or was most of their colour achieved by high temperatures while there was some moisture present thereby partially caramelizing the malt like a Munich malt. This may be an impossible question to answer but it’s leading to some fun experiments.

Believe it or not, this malt was kilned under 200°F and does not have any caramelization.  However, it did undergo a proteolytic stewing phase at 120F 49C after germinating which obviously after kilning has produced a wack-load of melanoidins. Talk about rich wow! This beer is super malty, full of dried fruit flavours like prunes, raisins, and cherries which are covered in caramel. Unfortunately, I made the shameful mistake of underpitching my yeast and the fermentation stopped at 1.029 (O.G. was 1.075). It tasted great, not too sweet for me, so I bottled it. In hindsight, I should have given it a stir and another week. Luckily I reserved some yeast with some of the beer and I left this at room temperature to see if it would ferment down and it did! After one more week, the gravity is 1.018.

This sample fermented down to 1.018. Attenuation =76%

My numbers were very surprising. With 11.85 lbs. of malt used in this recipe my gravity should have been around 1.062 at 75% efficiency, according to my brewing software, but I ended up with a whopping O.G. of 1.075. With a potential final gravity of 1.018, my ABV would have been 7.45%.  As it stands now the ABV is at 6%. I gave it a one hour mash at 150°F. Note:  I started with a high kettle volume (7 gallons) and boiled for two hours leaving me with a final volume of just over 5 gallons.

The flavour reminds me of beer made with a lot of Special B malt which makes me think this malt would be perfect for a Belgian Dubbel or perhaps it would be well suited for a dark lager, smooth malty and dark but not roasty. Or perhaps since the flavour is so bold it would be great in a barleywine. At the moment this malt is still being developed so they’re still tweaking the recipe. Ryan’s got a very cool malting system which he built from scratch on their farm so be sure to check out their website!


Posted by on January 25, 2019 in Diastatic Brown Malt


New Improved Malt Kiln for Diastatic Brown Malt

So you want to dry your malt with a wood fire (because it’s awesome) but you live in a townhouse, what to do?

I recently received some questions about diastatic brown malt from Ryan Pfeifle at Farm Power Malt in Montana who is experimenting with making it on a larger scale. His interest inspired me to give it another go. It’s been a while since my last experiments and I’ve learned a lot since then. I also figured it was about time I fix this darn barrel kiln sitting in my garage. My next post will be about brown malt and the beer I’ve made with it, this one will just focus on the kiln which is working really well. The “air on” temperature sits solidly at 225F with one large gassifier. I’ll be tweeking this perhaps with some venting to make it more adjustable. The malt temperature did not go higher than 206F which is great, it’s where I want it, hot enough for colour but low enough to preserve the enzymes.

So this is more like how I imagined it in the first place. The top of the original barrel acts as the heat disperser and the new half barrel sits perfectly inside the outer rim. I placed 4 bolts 9 inches up from the bottom of the half barrel to hold the Webber grill which is a good width to fit in a barrel. You can buy these at the Home Depot, they’re a little pricey for what it is at $30 but since I didn’t have any other ideas for the “grain basket” I had to buy it. I placed the thermometer just under the grain bed to measure my “air-on” temperature and I’ll use my probe thermometer for the malt temp.

The insulation was also a little pricey, there are probably other options for insulation. The stuff I bought is called Fiberfax which I bought at Greenbarn. For the inch thick blanket it’s about $8.50 a linear foot (comes in 2′ wide rolls) For the 1/2 inch it’s about $5 per foot. It’s rated to 2400F so it’s definitely good enough for this application. I bought 6 ft. of the 1″ thickness but I would have been fine with the 1/2 inch stuff. Beware though that this stuff is seriously toxic, you can see the fine silica particles in the air when you handle it. I wore a respirator and goggles when I worked with it. I originally glued the insulation to the inside of the barrel with something called sodium silicate which worked but I wanted to protect the insulation and I wanted to protect my malt from any particulate matter that the insulation might impart so I bought some steel sheet metal thin enough to bend into a circle to cover it. The sheet metal is just sitting on three 2″ bolts.

Once I make or find a proper basket for the grain I’ll be really happy with this kiln. There are times in my life when I feel like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters with the Third Kind, the part where’s he’s obsessed with constructing Devil’s Tower in his living room.  “Well I guess you’ve noticed something a little strange with Dad” That’s when I know I’m doing something worthwhile, at least that’s what I tell myself.


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Posted by on January 5, 2019 in Brown malt, Malt kilns


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