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.