Tag Archives: growing grain
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.”
It took me a while to find a good description of Vienna malt. I recently posted a good one from the American Handy Book of the Brewing Malting and Auxilliary Trades by Robert Wahl and Max Henius, so I thought I’d give it a try.
There are three differences between Pale malt and Vienna. First of all Vienna starts with a lower moisture content at 38-42%, like a lager malt. Pale malt is typically 42-44% It also has a slightly warmer germination during the last 4 or 5 days. A warmer germination will promote the development of proteolytic enzymes, the enzymes which act on protein. According to the Handy book the last 5 days of a 10 day germination for Vienna is no higher than 19C or 66F but the example given does go up to 20C. Pale malt is typically germinated at 15-18C 59F-64F or cooler in the example of English malting. Vienna malt is then kilned at a low temperature until it’s at what I’m going to assume is 10% moisture and then cured at increasing temperatures up to 100C 212F for the last hour. So a little hotter than pale which is cured at 80-90C 176F-194F. I often see Vienna malt lumped together with Munich malt in descriptions of malts but judging by this process it’s much closer to pale malt than Munich. Munich malt is more highly modified, it starts with a much higher moisture content. It’s also germinated at warmer temperatures which reach 25C 77F and when kilned it undergoes a stewing period to partially caramelize the malt.
Here are my notes from the book:
Moisture 38-42 % Couch temp. No higher than 66 F or 19 C
Germination period 9-10 days malt never allowed to mat depth 4.5-7 inches
Floor record example:
Temp. Day 1 50-57 F 10-14 C 7- 6.3 inches deep
Day 2 57-63.5F 14-17.5 C 6-5.5 inches deep
Day 3 66-68F 19-20 C Next 5 days temp maintained at 68F or 20 C 4.7-5.5 inches deep. Turned every 6-8 hrs. Never allowed to mat.
Kilning: 24 hrs.
The malt is loaded on the upper floor at 95-100 F 35-38 C all draughts being open until it is “air-dry” Unfortunately it does not state what the moisture content is at this point but seeing as how the temperature is increased only during the last 6 hrs. It’s pretty safe to assume that it’s under 10%
“The draught is checked and temperature raised to 144-156F 62-69 C”
However, an example of a kiln record is shown which states that the air temperature goes up to 183 F 84 C during the final 2 hrs. and the malt temperature goes from 149 – 212 F 62-100 C during the last 6 hours. This doesn’t make much sense but the malt temperature is what we’re most concerned with and 100 C sounds about right for a malt that’s slightly darker than pale malt.
The last 6 hours of malt temperatures go like this: 149F 65C, 156F 69C, 171F 77C, 185F 85C, 200F 93C, 202F 95C, 212F 100C.
With my batch of Vienna I brought it inside at room temperature for 5 days after being in the garage at about 16C 61F for the first 5 days. The temperature in our place ranges from 17C 63F at night to 21C 70F during the day so a little on the warm side. It’s a kind of tricky trying to extend the germination to 10 days without the malt becoming over-modified and the acrospire growing too much. On day 6 I saw a couple of acrospires breaking through the husk so I spread the malt out on a screen at a 1″ depth for two days. This dried out the malt enough to halt the growth. After that I put it back into a bin. At day ten I spread it out again with a fan on it at room temperature overnight. I did this instead of drying it at 35-38C 95-100F. By the next day the moisture content was around 10%, just the right amount to start curing. Small amounts of malt spread thin will dry much faster than the larger amounts stacked up in a real malt house kiln. I also skipped the first two temperature increments in the schedule and started the first hour at 170F 77C. That’s the lowest my oven goes, I could have used the hotplate but I was being too lazy to bring it out, I figured it would not make a huge difference. I cured it for six hours raising the temperature every hour from 170F to 180F, 190F, 200F, 205F and finally 210F ( 77C, 82C, 88C, 93C, 96C, 99C ) It’s only slightly darker than my pale malt but the aroma is quite different. It’s a very rich smell like toasted almond butter, nutty and sweet. It has a nice toasty bread crust flavour. I imagine this would be a great base malt for darker ales, I haven’t tried this yet but drop me a comment if you’ve used Vienna as a base malt in an ale or stout.
This years crop is going to be fantastic. I’ve taken out a little over 30 lbs of grain (not yet threshed) and I’m guessing there is another 5 lbs still in the garden that’s not quite ready yet. So I’m thinking once it’s dry, threshed and winnowed I’ll have 30 lbs of grain ready to be malted. This is pretty awesome for 200 sq ft. of garden. Normally 12- 15 lbs on 200 sq ft. is pretty good. We had some great weather this summer but what really made this possible was the chicken wire set-up which allowed the barley to grow very thick and not fall over. Of course this system is totally impossible on a large scale but well worth it for a backyard gardener. I’ve recently read that many barley farmers spray their crops with growth inhibitors to prevent lodging. This combined with wide spacing of plants and low nitrogen soil prevents lodging on a large farm and keeps the protein levels low in the barley. But I want to grow as much barley as nature will allow in a very small area. I won’t know what my protein levels will be but I’ll probably get an idea when I brew with it.
I was worried, we had two days of solid rain on Wednesday and Thursday but a nice sunny day on Friday. Rain is bad at this time of the year not only for lodging but for mould and fungus. When I got to the garden this morning I was so relieved to find the barley looking very healthy and quite perky. I’m having a hard time being patient though. A lot of the barley is ready for harvesting but there are also a lot of heads that still have some green on them. You can see the green hairs in the pictures below. I hand picked some ripe heads, about 5 lbs. in an hour but it was difficult not to accidently grab a green one in the process, so I’m going to have to wait. Something very cool I’ve noticed with the Maris Otter is that it has strong roots which makes it easier to harvest. With the Conlon I found that when I tried to use a sickle it would pull the straw out of the ground without cutting it, so I had to use the shears to cut the heads off which is much slower. We’ve got some perfect weather in the forecast so I should be able to harvest more next week.