WHAT?! Harvest time already?! I only get to my garden once a week because it’s a 40 minute drive away from where I live so I was shocked to see a lot of the barley ready for harvesting today. Last week I figured it was 3 weeks from harvesting, I’m loving this Chevallier barley. However it does have a fatal flaw, it’s BIG, big and tall. This trait is probably why it fell out of favour with growers. There’s a much higher risk of lodging with tall stalks and the heads are quite heavy which also doesn’t help, but it does make for a high yield compared to other varieties that I’ve grown. The two beds that didn’t have chicken wire lodged and have been munched on by various critters. Even two beds with the chicken wire fell over to some extent but not enough to crease the stalks, they were just leaning to the side. I wasn’t planning on harvesting today so I had to improvise with a heavy duty garbage bag. I picked about 15 lbs worth today and there’s still another 60% which was still looking too green. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to pick all of it next week.
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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)
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!
I recently read an interesting research article pointed out to me by Bleepbloop, thanks Bleepbloop! The article is from China and published in the Wiley Online Library by The Institute of Brewing and Distilling. The title is a doozy: “Optimization of kilning progress for equilibrating multiple parameters that strictly affect malt flavour and sensory evaluation” The researchers objective was to determine what times and temperatures create the “perfect malt”. Unfortunately, to read the whole thing you have to rent it for $6 but you can get the main idea from the summary.
In their experiments they measured the levels of positive and negative flavour compounds in relation to drying times (referred to as withering time in the article) and curing time and temperature. The compounds they were measuring were lipid oxydation or LOX activity, nonenal potential, TBZ (content of carbonyl compounds) methional, furfural, hexanol and phenylacetaldehyde. All of which I believe contribute to either stale or cardboard flavours. They also measured levels of H-hydroxy-2,5-dimethyl-3(2H) or HDMF which is the main contributor to sweetness and malty aroma. As well malt samples were given a sensory score rated by 7 professional sensory panellists from the Tsingtao Brewery
After plotting their data they’ve concluded that the ideal drying time is 14 hours: 1 hr at 45C, 5 hrs. at 55C, 5 hrs. at 65C, 3 hrs at 76C, 50% re-used air at 76C. Note: given the high temperatures I’m assuming that these would be the kiln temperatures below the bed or the “air-on” temperatures. Curing temperature is 86.35C for 3.19 hours.
Most of the article describes their methodology and what kind of testing was used for each flavour compound and it doesn’t go into that much detail about the effects of each compound. They also specify that these results would be different for different varieties of barley. The variety they were using was Gairdner barley grown in Australia. There is a lot of information in this article I don’t understand but the conclusion is interesting. I wish they had included the malt temperature during the kilning because without it, it’s impossible to replicate exactly. I do wonder how detectable these flavours are and at what point are they noticeable? The curing temperatures tested ranged from 84C to 90C, curing times ranges from 2.5-3.5 hours and drying times measured ranged from 10-14 hours. Not a wide range at all, in fact, they kind of seem on the low end of the scale. Unfortunately, there was no mention of diastatic power in the article as the study just focussed on flavour and there was no mention of moisture contents. I also find it strange that they did not include the kilning schedules for the 10 and 12 hour kilned malts. Are we to assume that the temperature increases coincided with the same moisture contents in each sample? There seems to be some key information missing here that would have made this article more useful.
This research paper makes me wonder if “perfect” is something that is worth achieving or does this goal bring with it the risk of industrial uniformity. It still seems to me that there are enough variables involved that what is considered perfect is still subjective. Of course, it’s interesting to see what is at play when making malt and it’s good to know that the levels of those flavour compounds that cause stale or cardboard flavours are measurable. However, I have never noticed these flavours in my malts so it’s not something I’ve ever worried about. I have tried this schedule with my barley, knowing that I couldn’t actually replicate their conditions without using the same equipment, and I found I needed another hour or two curing time to become more friable, meaning my malt was not dry enough. As it was, the roots were still a little flexible and hard to shake off. It would be interesting to see this same experiment done on a greater scale, that is with wider temperature and kilning time ranges. I’m sure for large scale maltsters this is a useful article but for myself I think I prefer variety, good or bad. The best beer I’ve ever had was the pale ale I made from the diastatic brown malt that was dried over fire, very far from scientifically “perfect” I’m sure but beyond perfect in my mind.
This malt has been a real challenge. I’ve tried to make it 10 times varying the process each time. My goal has been to make a malt that tastes like Honey malt. So far I’ve come close but not close enough. I wanted to re-do this one as well because a few people had asked me and I was wondering myself, what the difference was between Brumalt and a dark Munich or Aromatic malt. I don’t have much information on Brumalt in the textbooks that I have so I’ve been doing this mostly by trial and error. I’ve been measuring my results with store bought malts (Honey and melanoidin) comparing pH, colour, extract and flavour.
As you may know Honey malt is made by the Gambrinus malting company right here in my home province of British Columbia Canada so I had to ask if they would give me any information on how it’s made. They wouldn’t of course, the recipe is a closely guarded secret but they were nice enough to give me a tour of the plant which you can see here. Like the name says it tastes like honey but it’s a dark honey flavour and has an almost wine-like fermented quality to it.
The first thing I noticed when comparing malts is that store bought melanoidin and Honey malt have a lower pH than Aromatic malt or a Munich of a similar Lovibond. So what causes this low pH if it’s not the colour?
According to the descriptions I’ve read, after a 6 day germination the green brumalt is piled up and covered with a tarpaulin or if it’s made in a box system all ventillation is cut off and the malt heats up to as much as 50C due to respiration, usually within 24 hours. (Munich is only allowed to reach 25 C). Once enough carbon dioxide builds up the malt stops growing and cools down but the enzymes continue to develop which create a malt with a lot of “low molecular weight sugars and amino acids” (Kunze 2004 p.180) In Malts and Malting, Briggs states that this phase lasts 30-40 hours (Briggs 1998 p. 714) Kunze states 36 hours.
A few more details in Brewing and Malting include a moisture content of 48% and an increase in temperature during the last 36 hours of germination to 40-50C. Sometimes heat was added “…with a low flame” Kunze also states “Melanoidin malt… contributes, by virtue of it’s low pH to flavour stability…” (Kunze 2004 p. 180)
In Jean DeClercks A Textbook of Brewing he describes the practice of “Thickening the Piece” “…used for the preparation of malts with a rich aroma. It simply consists of making the piece into a thick heap on the last two days of flooring. The temperature rises to 50C and enzymatic activity becomes very intense. Pre-formed sugars are formed in large amounts and there is considerable proteolysis.” (DeClerck 1957 p.177) Something else jumped out at me in the DeClerck text when he described an investigation carried out by Luers and Gottschneider on the effects of different proportions of CO2 on malting. With 20% CO2 in the air during germination the presence of ethanol was detected. (DeClerck 1957 p 175) Is this why I’m detecting a wine-like fermented flavour and aroma from Honey malt?
A while ago I made an acid malt by placing green malt into a sealed ziploc bag keeping it warm at 35-40C for 36 hours. The ideal environment to promote the growth of Lactobacillus bacteria which is naturally present on the husks, is at 37C in an anaerobic environment. So it makes sense that some amount of acidification is happening during this couching phase of the brumalt process.
In order to mimic these natural occurrences on a small scale I had to enclose the malt in a ziploc bag to seal out the oxygen. I then added some heat to keep the temperature at 37C This worked well and I was able to get a malt with the pH at the same level as Honey malt after 16 hours at 37C before raising the temperature to 50C to stew. But I wanted to see if I could make it in a way that was closer to the descriptions. I tried it once in a small cooler loosely covered and the temperature rose to 42C due to respiration, but it took three days and I was concerned that the malt would overgrow. When this happens the malt will taste bitter and sprouty. I then bagged the grain for a period to acidify it just like before but this time it didn’t work. After kilning the pH was not lower, I thought that perhaps the hot couching may have killed off the bacteria.
PH is also affected by colour of course, generally speaking the darker the malt the lower the pH, but a characteristic of Honey malt is that it lacks the roasted or toasty flavours you would get from a dark malt due to the lower curing temperature. The colour comes from the melanoidins developed during stewing. When you add a stewing phase at 50C 122F proteolytic enzymes break down the proteins into sugars and amino acids which when combined with heat in a moist environment create melanoidins which give you malty flavours and colour. You can control the amount of colour by varying the time your malt spends at this stewing phase. After experimenting I found that 8 hours at 50C will give me a colour around 25-30 L, similar to Honey malt. Of course that will vary with the barley used and the amount of protein in the grain. Roasted malts on the other hand which are created when the malt is dry and at a higher temperature will give you more roasted flavours, sort of like the formation of toast vs. bread crust.
One test that I’ve been using to compare malts is meant to measure the soluble sugar and extract potential (sort of). It’s not a scientific test and not very consistent but since it’s just comparative it does give some insight as to how a malt is made. I’ve been using this test because it’s quick. A measured amount of grain (1.6 oz) is weighed and crushed and mixed with 250 mL of boiling water. The use of boiling water was meant to inactivate the enzymes but since the temperature of the water drops as it’s added to the sample some of the enzymes survive and end up converting some of the starches.The sample is allowed to settle and cool and then is measured with a refractometer.
In a true cold water extract test the water is mixed with a solution of ammonia to inactivate the enzymes. Cold water extracts are used to measure the amount of soluble sugars or “pre-formed sugars” there are, which tells you how well modified a malt is, the higher the number the more thorough the modification.
The results that I’ve gotten just using boiling water are quite telling. Honey malt gets a very high brix number similar to a pale malt that I made. My Brumalt was a close second, Munich scored lower and caramel malt scores very low. So since this test is actually showing us the diastatic power or even the extract potential it would lead me to believe that honey malt is kilned at lower temperature than Munich. Keeping the kilning temperature below 50C until the moisture content is below 10% will not destroy as many enzymes.
In a true hot water extract test the malt is mashed according to a very specific schedule and what you find out is the potential extract of a malt. I tried my own version of this test as well with small 50g samples comparing Honey malt, Munich 30L, Aromatic, Melanoidin and my own. Although my test was crudely done Honey malt still came out on top with the highest brix reading, mine was still second.
Here are some of the things I’ve tried with these these test batches:
Germination temperatures, 1. warm throughout, 2. warm during the last 3 days and 3. warm for the last day only. Warm germination temperatures during the final phase of germination promote the development of proteolytic enzymes, the enzymes which act on proteins. From what I’ve read the longer the germination the more enzymes will develop and to have a long germination the temperature must be kept at 13C or 55F. The warmer the germination the faster the grain grows. What seems to work best (for my barley) is 6 days at 13 then a day at 22C.
Couching, I’ve tried a few different lengths of time to get a lower pH and determined that with my barley, 16 hours at 37C with a shorter rest at 50C for 8 hrs, both in a sealed ziploc bag and low kilning temperatures gives me the same pH and colour.
High kilning- raising the temperature to 60C while there is still 25-30% moisture. Usually done with Munich malt for maltier flavour and for colour, this will lower the diastatic power of the malt. I don’t seem to be having any problems achieving colour with kilning temperatures below 50C, the amount of colour is dependant of the length of time it spends stewing at 50C. This could be an indicator of a high level of protein in my barley. So I settled on using low kilning temperatures to maintain the enzymatic power as much as possible. As well I’ve also tried different curing temperatures and I’ve found to minimize the roasty character the curing temperature must be kept below 200F. The biggest changes in colour and pH occur during the curing phase, a half hour can make a huge difference.
What I’ve achieved so far is a sweet malt, not roasty and with the same pH and colour as Honey malt. It’s very unique and I’ll be using it whenever a recipe calls for melanoidin malt but it has more of a tart flavour and is missing the deep honey-like and almost vinous flavour characteristic in Honey malt. I am not going to give up trying to figure out this malt but there are a lot of variables at every stage. Along with my procedure, the variety of barley and it’s protein content could be affecting my results as well as the scale at which it’s produced. As well since bacteria seem to be involved it’s flavour characteristics could be due to the local environment in which it is malted or where the barley was grown which is literally 1000 km away. Unfortunately I have to put this malt on hold since I’ve used almost all of the barley I grew last year. This is the schedule that comes closest so far:
This will give you a sweet yet sour malt (low pH) that’s around 30L and maintains it’s diastatic power.
Steep until 48%
Germinate at least 6 days at 13C, acrospires at 3/4 then 24 at room temp. 22C (acrospires on average are now the full length of grain)
Couch (lactic acidification phase) in a zip-loc bag sealed for 16 hours at 37C
ramp up temp to 50C (proteolysis phase) and hold for 8-10 hours for about a 30L colour, Add more time for more colour 16-18 hrs = around 60L
Kiln at 40-45C for 24 hours or until moisture is below 10%
1 hour at 175F 79C
1 hour at 185F 85C
3 hours at 190C 88C
Looking pretty good so far. I’ve rigged up the chicken wire like last year to prevent lodging. It worked well last year, this time I’ve added a little more support with a bamboo cross bar in the middle to keep the centre up. Check out the video:
Last Thursday night I got to go to a presentation by renowned beer historian Ron Pattinson who was in Vancouver promoting his book The Homebrewers Guide to Vintage Beer. Chances are if you’re reading my blog you’re interested in all things beer and already know who Ron Pattinson is. If you don’t, get the heck off my blog right now! Go to Shut Up About Barclay Perkins for some serious reading – then come back to my blog. The event was organized by Vanbrewers and took place at the Cobalt on Main street. The focus of the talk and the book was on historical english beers and many of the facts were quite surprising to me. I had no idea that English brewers used invert sugar to such an extent and often used caramel to adjust colour. He also eplained that the purpose of the parti-gyle method of brewing was for efficiency and to allow the brewers to be able to blend the different worts in order to acheive a consistent starting gravity for every brew. Another surprising fact was the use of attemperators (which sound like large scale immersion chillers) to control the temperature of fermenting beer during the 18th century. The book is full of recipes from 1804 to 1955 based on the actual brewing records of the breweries and are all scaled down for home brewers. I can’t wait to try some of them! Of course I got him to sign my copy – it says “Hope you make nice porters with your diastatic brown malt” How cool is that?