Un-aerated steeping Part 1

12 Feb

Ok, mind blown, and I don’t know how I’ve missed this key piece of information. Sometimes I feel like the world of malting is shrouded in so much mystery that you have to be a detective to figure it out. The data in the Scotch Bigg Report provided the biggest piece of the puzzle that was missing for me: that long germination times are only possible with un-aerated steeps. The report gives us actual recorded steep times, which are shockingly long 40-118 hours. What may be even more important was the observation in the report that some maltsters only changed their steep water once or twice and some not at all. But how is this possible? Most texts I’ve read state that the grain will die if submerged for over 24 hours, I’ve told people this myself (my apologies). In fact, I believe it’s only been in the last 150 years that aeration has been used in the steeping process – but I’ll have to do some further investigating to confirm this. In part one of this project, I do a side by side comparison of malt steeped with air rests and malt steeped for 72 hours without. Results in a nutshell: the un-aerated tastes better, but I haven’t brewed with them yet, that’s part two. One factor that may skew the comparison is that I malted these barley samples at the same temperature, which was lower than I would normally malt aerated barley – this may have affected the flavour of the aerated malt. This will be addressed in part three – how does historically malted barley compare with modern malt (malted at warmer temperatures – 15C, 59F)


Posted by on February 12, 2017 in History, un-aerated malt


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19 responses to “Un-aerated steeping Part 1

  1. Duke Nukem

    February 12, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    Excellent video and thanks for taking this upon yourself! It’s awesome to see when myths get busted.

    • Duke Nukem

      February 12, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      Also I hope some professional maltsters watch your videos, it’d be interesting to see someone do this on a micro-malting facility with all the analytical equipment :D.

      • Duke Nukem

        February 12, 2017 at 5:24 pm

        Don’t suppose you are in contact with any maltsters which you could ship a sample to? 🙂

      • jfdyment

        February 12, 2017 at 5:47 pm

        Hey that’s not a bad idea, it would be nice to see a scientific analysis.

      • Duke Nukem

        February 12, 2017 at 6:38 pm

        I used to watch the malt academy on youtube, I know they have a research dept in Canada, I don’t know where else it could be sent apart from commercial places.

      • jfdyment

        February 12, 2017 at 7:21 pm

        Yes the cmbtc is in Winnipeg, I looked into it once and I remember it being pretty expensive but I’ll look again, might be worth it.

      • Duke Nukem

        February 12, 2017 at 8:25 pm

        Maybe there’s a maltster on the milkthefunk group, even a micro/craft malster with a small lab. The new yeast companies with labs are very open to receiving samples so maybe the maltsters are too…could be an amazing niche :). Hope it all works out!

      • Duke Nukem

        February 13, 2017 at 7:26 am

      • jfdyment

        February 13, 2017 at 3:45 pm

        Thanks for the link!

      • Duke Nukem

        February 20, 2017 at 6:38 am

      • Wololo

        February 27, 2017 at 8:43 am

  2. Graham Arthur Yoon Anderson

    February 12, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Brilliant! Keep up the detective work. It is really great to see science being done. So much of what we do in brewing is simply copying what others before us have done. In the case of malting, we are often copying an industrial process, while the traditional process (which may work better at home) has been lost, or nearly-lost in this case. Will look forward to more results!

    • jfdyment

      February 12, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      Thanks Graham, I was kind of hoping there wasn’t a difference so that I wouldn’t have to spend the three weeks malting each batch from now on!

  3. Demy

    February 12, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Compliments! I also run my barley gapless air: temperature 10 ° C water – germination 15 ° C. white tips appeared only after two days, slightly slower germination until acrospire 3/4, after germination seems to be very slow . I sprayed lightly (like you) ‘s barley because the roots have become dark. I taste always my malt, this time (after drying) seems to be sweeter. These are typical things that create confusion in my mind (and in those of us who seek to understand the mechanisms ….)

  4. Christopher

    February 13, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Nice job, Detective Francois!

  5. Arman

    August 7, 2017 at 7:39 am

    Hey Francois, anxiously awaiting your article on how the unaerated malt turned out when you brewed with it. Could you give us a sneak preview?

    • jfdyment

      August 7, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      Hi Arman, I’ve put off posting about this because the experiment was somewhat flawed but I’ll post it soon. The reason being is that to get the best malt with aeration you need those warmer temperatures 15-17C whereas to get the best malt without aeration you need temperatures in the 10-12 range. Since I malted these at the same low temperatures I was comparing a poorly made aerated malt to a well made un-aerated malt. The aerated malt at these low temperatures does not develop the enzymes that it would at higher temperatures in the short time it takes to germinate. But the un-aerated malt grows slower and develops these over the longer germination period. So I was comparing apples to oranges in a sense. Couple that with a disastrous brew-day (the aerated took a long time to convert because of the lack of enzyme development) and there was just too many variables. The end result in a nutshell, the un-aerated malt tastes awesome, really malty, you can taste the difference between the two beers. I’m going to do this experiment again for sure but with improvements, better yeast etc.. Thanks for writing! I’ll get on it as soon as I can. Cheers! Francois

      • Graham Anderson

        August 8, 2017 at 5:28 pm

        This is a very exciting nugget of information. Where do you think the extra maltiness of the un-aerated malt is coming from? Perhaps extra-thorough modification? How long of an un-aerated soak at 10C was required?

        Looking forward to trying your rediscovered method! If all commercial maltsters perform aerated soaks, then this is something fundamentally different we can do at home. For many brewers, it may be what they need to try malting for the first time.

  6. jfdyment

    August 9, 2017 at 1:48 am

    Hi Graham, one theory, which makes a lot of sense is that when using an un-aerated steep the grain absorbs water more thoroughly because it doesn’t chit. Often as I’m sure you have noticed when steeping with aeration the grain chits before being fully steeped. Water then gets absorbed at a faster rate through the germ or embryo and does not fully saturate the endosperm as evenly as the un-aerated steep would. I noticed with the un-aerated steep that chitting doesn’t even start until day 2-3 of germination. I think I did a 72 hour steep changing the water once. I think it is something worth trying and also something a craft maltster could market as something unique but sometimes I think I’m just bent on trying to make my life as difficult as possible. Cheers!


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