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Garden Update Spring 2018

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been super busy with a new job but I still have plenty of malting projects on the go and many more ideas I want to try. I’m currently brewing an ale made from a malt that germinated for 14 days. I also made malt with an accelerated schedule that took only 5 days start to finish as well as brewing a small beer with 100% unmalted barley, but more on these later.

Firstly, I want to thank all the people that have purchased one of my books. I’m quite happy with how the Malting Log book turned out and I’ve been using it for the last few batches of malt that I’ve made. I have to say it’s pretty darn handy.

I did have some problems formatting the Malting At Home book as a reviewer on Amazon has pointed out (the rest of the review is very positive so thank-you Jeremiah!). For some reason, Amazon direct publishing does not, at this time, recognize Google documents. So I had to turn my google documents into  Word documents and when I did this the formatting gets really screwy. I’ve corrected the spacing issues as best as I can but it’s not perfect. I’m sure there are better ways to do this but if you’re planning on self-publishing I would highly recommend starting with Word right from the start. I also wanted more pictures but knowing I wouldn’t have the time available for at least four months I decided to get it out sooner than later. I am however very happy with all of the recipes I’ve managed to compile and I was pretty excited when I realized I could use Google translate to read some German and French texts that included some very useful information. I think having all these recipes in one book is handy because surprisingly most of the big expensive modern text books are kind of lacking in actual recipes or kilning schedules.

I managed to get to the garden yesterday to plant this years barley. I actually had more Chevalier seed than expected and managed to plant 3 beds with Chevalier. I planted another 3 beds with Maris Otter and there’s a narrow bed that I had planted with the small amount of Bere seed I had.

From the other side looking north.

 

As you can see I’m not taking any chances here and covered everything to prevent the birds and squirrels from digging out the seeds. I’ll remove the covers in about two weeks.

 

 

 

As I was prepping the soil and removing some weeds I pulled out some beets that were perfectly preserved from last year. They had been covered up with a pile of weeds and straw. We ate them that night and they were like new. We also had some kale shoots which are very mild and not bitter at all. Here’s a shot of the kale “tree” I left in the garden over winter. I also planted a Fuji apple tree on the north side of the garden.

More kale!

Kale shoots

Fuji apple tree

Beets

In total I have about 530 square feet of barley planted this year and I’m hoping to get about 40 lbs. of barley from this.

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Posted by on March 26, 2018 in Garden videos

 

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Brumalt, Honey malt, Melanoidin malt Part 2

Comparing some malts

Comparing some malts

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.

Barley recently emptied from the steep tank to a Saladin box at Gambrinus Malting Ltd.

Barley recently emptied from the steep tank to a Saladin box at Gambrinus Malting Ltd.

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.

Honey malt left, my brumalt center, batch #7 on right. 18 hr stew at 50C vs 8 hr.

Honey malt left, my brumalt center, batch #7 on right. 18 hr stew at 50C vs 8 hr.

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.

DSC02148

Comparing pH of my brumalt to Honey malt – just pure luck that they’re exactly the same, other batches are not.

DSC02150One 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%

Cure:

1 hour at 175F  79C

1 hour at 185F  85C

3 hours at 190C  88C

 

 

 

 

 
 

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New Malt Kiln

This project was way overdue, maybe a few years overdue, but I finally built something to kiln in besides my oven. As I stated in the video using the oven just became too inconvenient. My wife also makes custom order cakes and she’s been getting more orders lately so I had to free up the oven.

So far I’ve only done one small batch of Brumalt in it and I was impressed by how well it worked. The temperature stayed consistent and with only two vent holes open the heat stayed in and there was plenty of airflow. I didn’t even turn the fan on and I think I might only have to when I’m doing larger batches over 5 lbs. This small 2.5lb batch of  brumalt dried within 6 hours which is quite fast and it was so nice to have it stew for 18 hours without having to worry about someone turning the oven on accidentally (which has happened).

One thing I might add is something to disperse the heat when I’m using screens. The hot plate sits in the center of the kiln and it seems that the heat is more concentrated in the center although I haven’t measured this yet. I’m not concerned when the perforated steel tray is in there because these holes give an open area of 40% so the tray itself seems to disperse the heat well enough. I may just add a spare piece of the tray material under the screen to disperse the heat.

I don’t have any carpentry experience so I’m sure there are better ways to build a box but here are the dimensions that I used.  The front and back are 24″ by 24″  The sides are 20″ by 24″  Because I’m using 3/4 ” plywood the top and bottom dimensions are 20″ by 25 1/2″.  It’s held together with 1 1/2 ” drywall screws with a little bit of wood glue. The 6 vent holes are 1 1/2 ” which I used a hole cutter bit on my drill to cut out. I pre-drilled some holes for the vent covers and then on the on the covers themselves I drilled holes wide enough to accommodate the 1 1/4″ screws so the covers could move without releasing the screw from the main lid. I had the cutting done at the Home Depot because it takes them a few seconds to get a perfectly straight cut. The piano hinge is also from the Home Depot. For the fan hole I used a jigsaw to cut a round hole and it’s not pretty, luckily it’s covered up by the fan. 

 

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in Hop Oast / Malt Kiln, Malt kilns

 

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Home Growers and Maltsters

Thanks to this blog  I’ve talked to a lot of people who malt their own barley. If you check out the comment sections on these blog posts you’ll find a ton of shared information on malting from other home maltsters. So I thought I’d add a new section featuring people who grow and/or malt their own barley. This is something I should have started long ago, so if you don’t want to start your own blog (which you really should) send me your pics and I’ll add them here. I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting two home maltsters from opposite sides of the planet John from Oregon and Dimitris from Greece.

John has a beautiful piece of land in the Siskiyou Mts. in Oregon and I’m totally envious of his garden. He grows and makes 100 gallons of beer every year which he shares with his rather large extended family.

“I am 69 years old and retired. Gardening is my hobby. My family [I have over 100 nephews and nieces on my side alone] … my family visits me in the summer to carry home produce. I also graft or bud fruit trees for fun. I got my MS in horticulture long ago and have worked in agriculture the whole time until I retired in 2004.

When fall arrives I begin malting my spring and winter barley. This takes about two months because with limited facilities only about 6 lbs are done daily. None-the-less it gets done. I’ll tell you that I’ve a long way to go before I perfect this malting business.

My family up in Washington are big in hops. I really don’t need to grow my own because they are willing and do supply me with hops … a lot of hops [Yakima Chief Hops]. I use them for trade. I use their hops such as Simcoe and Mosaic because they are proprietary. Otherwise I grow my own.

Beers. Mine are almost entirely red or malty ales. I don’t use recipes as such, just use the grain I’ve malted and roasted to make well malted ales. Hence I don’t do IPAs even though I have hops aplenty. In brewing I generally I use 25 lbs of my
malt plus four or more lbs of heavily roasted barley [or barley malt] via decoction to make 10 gallon final volume beer. I do the decoction at home and collect the decanted liquid and then rinse it to gather as much as I can. This goes into the boil and not into the mash tun. It’s not all that difficult. I use various yeasts but Coopers is a great
work horse. My brewing buddies are more atune to recipes.”

Along with barley and hops John grows all sorts of fruit and vegetables. Check out the sickle bar mower adapted to catch grain. Sweet. This was made by a friend of his who is currently working on a threshing machine which I can’t wait to see. John sent me a lot of great photos of his farm. Here are just a few:

Bing & Van cherries I grafted this year

 

This rocks.

This rocks.

vegies 09

Produce I'm giving away to family.

Produce I’m giving away to family.

 

Alba winter barley

Alba winter barley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brewing buddy and brew day

Brewing buddy and brew day

 

 

 

 

 

vegies 01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dimitris who lives in Greece has just planted some barley on part of his families olive grove. These olive trees are about a hundred years old. He also has this awesome indirectly heated wood oven to play with for kilning. Dimitris is planning on utilizing an arduino micro controller to control the air flow in his kiln based on the humidity inside. How cool is that. Looking forward to seeing his updates.

“This is part of my field, that my father owns. In total it is 1 acre (1000m2) and has around 40 olive trees.
Also we have about 20 chickens that lay eggs, which we sell.
Every year, around October, i plow a part of it, about 0.25 acre, in order to seed oats for chicken feed.
We don’t let them grow and produce grains, but we let the chickens eat the oat plants while it is green. Then we keep them from entering the area in order to let the plants grow again etc.
You could say that chickens are also a lawn mower 🙂

As far as barley, i’ll seed a smaller area. I’d say it’s almost as big as your new plot. (800 sq. ft.) It extends from the point I shot this picture, up to a few feet next to the olive tree in the foreground.”

20151020_105144

Planting

20151009_172505

Wood fired oven for kilning

Wood fired oven for kilning

Greek cat supervising

The supervisor

“So my plan is to keep the door open, and make a new door, from wood and insulation that will fit snug at the opening.
The new door will have two pipes (2-3 inch diameter), one on top and one on the bottom. Each of the pipes will have either a small fan inside, or some flaps that shut off the openings.
For the barley, i’ll create a wooden crate with a perforated bottom made out of mesh and fabric. On the top there will be a lid, with a fan.
It will go inside, the fan will be constantly running making air flow recirculate from the bottom of the barley towards the top.
I will be measuring the temperature and relative humidity of the air flow that enters the barley, and perhaps exiting as well (in order to watch the state of drying)
When the humidity rises, arduino will open the pipe fans/or flaps, so that drier air will enter the oven and humid air will exit.
That way i think i will have a very good control as far as drying is concerned. And of course i can raise the temperature up to higher values for making special malt.
Perhaps, i could replace wooden fire with a gas burner that could fit inside the fire chamber, for better temperature control, although it would cost more.
We’ll see.” Here’s Dimitris blog: From Plants to Beer
Thanks for the photos guys!
 
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Posted by on October 29, 2015 in Home growers and maltsters

 

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One beer per square foot!

This year I’ve had a stellar crop of barley, nearly 40 lbs! I can’t tell you the exact final tally because there is still some barley ripening in the garden but I do have over 38 lbs. here at home. A big part of this success I can attribute to the lack of mice, rats and birds. I can only guess as to why they left everything alone this year. I think the main reason is timing, not that I planned this, but we’ve had a very hot dry summer and everything is ripening early around here, even the blackberries are already ripe. So this means there’s a lot of food for the critters and I guess barley is not on the menu. The chicken wire also worked well again keeping the barley upright. Most of it would have lodged without it. So what about the quality? Usually when growing barley for malting you want low protein levels so the nitrogen levels in the soil are carefully controlled. I recently found a place in my area that will test my barely for protein content.

The claim I’ve made – ” a beer per square foot” is based on 4 19L batches of brew using 8 lbs of grain and an 80% efficiency. This would give you an S,G. of  about 1.046. (a little low I know)  Bottle size would be the small European size at 330ml. 228 bottles from 226 square feet of barley, not bad at all!  This would make approximately 214 standard 355 mL bottles and 222  341 mL bottles.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Garden videos

 

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1804 Porter

What a disaster. This beer was loosely based on the 1804 Barclay Perkins TT recipe from Ron Pattinsons book The Home brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beers. I didn’t think I was going to use the whole batch of brown malt in one recipe but this gave me a perfect excuse to do just that. So 4lb of non-diastatic brown, 2 lbs of my diastatic brown malt samples in place of the Amber malt in the recipe and 6lb of pale malt. I also added 1 lb of pilsner malt just because I had some and to help with conversion. Everything was going great until I tried to sparge. This mash got stuck and I mean really really stuck. With brown malt being roasted it is very friable, the husk breaks down in to very small pieces and the inside is a fine dusty powder which turned into cement at the bottom of my mash tun and completely plugged the false bottom. A larger mash tun would have helped and definitely more rice hulls, a lot more, I would suggest one pound minimum. I tried giving it a stir – nothing, I tried blowing some air through it – still nothing. I finally ended up ladling it out into a bucket and throwing all the sparge water in, sort of a batch sparge and then just pouring it through a strainer, what a mess. I’d be very surprised if this turns out. I ended up with 4.5 gallons of a decent looking dark beer with an O.G. of 1.064.  It’s been bubbling away nicely and has just started to slow down, my fingers are crossed. I thought this post might at least be useful for anyone else trying to make this recipe,  Cheers!DSCN1180

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2014 in Brown malt, Diastatic Brown Malt, The beers

 

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New malt kiln

Still on the quest for a more authentic diastatic brown malt. I was pretty disappointed with the soot that appeared on my last batch and I wanted to play around with using higher temperatures so a new kiln was in order. Unfortunately I live in a townhouse, otherwise I would have built one by now using cinder blocks or anything I could get my hands on. Instead I had to settle for something on a more portable scale. I had originally thought of using a barrel so that I could take it to a campsite close by and put it over a fire pit, that way I could try using straw as a fuel. Then I figured why not use the gassifiers in the barrel, it’s clean, very safe, and I get one hour of burn time for each load of pellets. Every time I try burning straw it burns faster than paper, I still don’t get how this was used in the early malt kilns.

As I mention in the video I just didn’t have the time to perfect the design and my malt was at 10% moisture level after air drying for two days, it was more than ready to be kilned. The temperature crept up to 250 by the end of the first hour, there was still steam coming off at this point. During the second hour the temperature rose to 275 and then to 300 during the third. I knew this would probably be too hot for the malt to have any diastatic power left to convert itself but I wanted to see how a faster and hotter kilning would affect the colour.  My results were most likely inaccurate because even though my oven thermometer read these temperatures the heat coming out of the small holes in the barrel was much higher. The 4 oz. test batch came up with a 1.020 original gravity after an 8 hour mash.

Well at least now I know I can make a pretty descent blown malt, check out the snapping action in the video. As well this would be a great way to roast your grain outside, you could easily do 7 pounds at a time this way.

 

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