Re: 100% homegrown

Mon Jun 04, 2012 7:07 am

drummstikk wrote:Sure, it's a lot of steps, but each one of them is easy, just like brewing. You'll be surprised at how good the beer is from the malt you make yourself, even the first time you attempt it.


Can't wait to give it a try. Thanks so much for the information.
skibikejunkie
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Tue May 08, 2012 5:22 pm

Re: 100% homegrown

Tue Jun 05, 2012 1:15 pm

A few things I forgot to mention / maybe weren't clear:

Drying the grains with a box fan will take a few days. When the grains are properly dried from this step, the rootlets should be so crispy that they break off easily. After that, the grains will still need to be dried in the oven on low with the door cracked. And after that, they will need to be kilned at 90-105C for pale malt. Why the two drying steps before kilning? It really helps me because I don't have ventilation in my oven, and when I attempt to dry or kiln wet grains, they always end up caramelizing a bit. The pre-drying steps will help you to achieve a caramel-free pale malt.

Also, when you do the stewing step involved in making a caramel malt, you may find that you get a temperature gradient along the length of your mash tun. This will make the grains at the bottom underconverted, because your temperature probe is probably at the top of the vessel. You can eliminate the gradient by putting an aquarium pump in the tun. Put the pump's inlet at the top and a tube from the pump running down to the bottom.

Finally, for the roasting involved in making malts like caramel, biscuit, aromatic, chocolate, and black malts, there is quite a bit of variation in the actual heating that occurs in radiant ovens. If you have access to a commercial convection oven, you can probably use the temps that maltsters put on their websites. Otherwise, experiment with times and temperatures to get the level of color you want. This applies to the last step of making a caramel malt, as well as the last step of making a toasted or roasted malt. I have found that my oven will toast malts even at low temperatures, 215 F / 100 C. But for a ballpark figure, you can probably start your oven at 275F and check it at 30 minute intervals. Black malts need to be made at higher temperatures, but should be made outside anyway because of the smoke. I haven't tried these yet, but you can use your outdoor cooking skills here -- just make sure the malt is smoke-free for a clean-tasting porter or stout.
User avatar
drummstikk
 
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:32 pm

Re: 100% homegrown

Thu Jun 21, 2012 10:51 pm

First, the hops:

The yellowness I observed led to the death of the yellow bines:

Image

I think they simply got too much fertilizer too quickly. They received 5g of 15-5-15 within an 8 day period. I haven't fertilized since May 24th, and I haven't seen any signs of disease since then!

I have been training 6 bines per plant and pruning every other shoot below 3 feet above the soil. Recently, the strongest plants have been sending out lateral bines above 4 feet or so:

Image

The Chinook bines that I decapitated at 6 feet high have not sent out lateral bines! But they have produced burrs from their last several nodes. My Columbus plant has also produced some early burrs:

Image

which are now cones.

Now that the summer solstice is past, what should I be doing differently? Is it time to stop giving Nitrogen and switch over to Potassium? Should I change my pruning strategy?

On to barley:

I've settled on a threshing technique: I just bang the plants on the inside of a plastic garbage pail. Then I climb in the pail and stomp on the material to finish breaking up heads and awns.

Image

To winnow, I pour the grains + chaff to another pail in front of a strong fan:

Image

Image

This slowly purifies the grains:

Image

After just a bit of manual stem removal,

Image

you're left with a nice end product and a lot of hay:

Image

So far, I've found than an hour of work produces one pound of grain. Oy, it's slow work! It really makes me appreciate how much labor this all took before industrialization. Here's to beer, which never ceases to open my eyes to the world!
User avatar
drummstikk
 
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:32 pm

Re: 100% homegrown

Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:10 pm

I can't seem to get more than 1 lb grain / hour when I'm threshing by hand. I do not want to go this slowly. I could go faster by spreading out a bunch of plants on the ground and beating the hell out of them, but then I'll lose some grains that get scattered, or that I can't sweep up afterward.

Looks like I'm going to have to make a tough decision, and increase throughput at an albeit small but real loss in yield. Still thinking about how to do it, but leaning toward spreading out a tarp on pavement and walking all over the plants. I'm going to put on some boots and just tear their a$$es up. Seems simpler than using a flail, and less prone to projectile seeds.

At least winnowing is 100% solved.
User avatar
drummstikk
 
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:32 pm

Re: 100% homegrown

Wed Jun 27, 2012 5:10 am

Have you tried using the mechanical thresher again since modifying some of your other processes to remove some of the straw and chaff?
Spiderwrangler
PFC, Arachnid Deployment Division

In the cellar:
In the fermentor: Belgian Cider
In the works: Wooden Cider
User avatar
spiderwrangler
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 4663
Joined: Thu Jun 03, 2010 2:09 pm
Location: Ohio

Re: 100% homegrown

Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:31 am

spiderwrangler wrote:Have you tried using the mechanical thresher again since modifying some of your other processes to remove some of the straw and chaff?


I haven't tried it in a while -- maybe it's worth a revisit.

The big problem with the machine I have access to is that it doesn't do well with straw. It's really designed just to deal with heads, and even then it leaves long awns on 10-20% of grains. So sad.

I'm going to head over to the field on my lunch break and try something new. Don't know yet what it will be...
User avatar
drummstikk
 
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:32 pm

Re: 100% homegrown

Wed Jun 27, 2012 2:44 pm

Would removing the heads from the straw manually then feeding them through the thresher until the come out clean be more time/labor intensive than how you are currently doing it?
Spiderwrangler
PFC, Arachnid Deployment Division

In the cellar:
In the fermentor: Belgian Cider
In the works: Wooden Cider
User avatar
spiderwrangler
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 4663
Joined: Thu Jun 03, 2010 2:09 pm
Location: Ohio

Re: 100% homegrown

Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:19 am

spiderwrangler wrote:Would removing the heads from the straw manually then feeding them through the thresher until the come out clean be more time/labor intensive than how you are currently doing it?


It would be about as time-consuming as what I'm doing right now. See below!



Almanac recently let me know that their brewday is August 8! Oh boy, it's time to cram in a lot of malting.

Actually, rewind -- it's time to finish the threshing! When I got the email from Almanac, I had only threshed 16 lbs! I've now worked my way through the whole field, and it produced 175 lbs of Conlon 2-row.

The trick was not trying to get every last grain. Previously, I was separating out each bundle and getting all the heads. I switched to spreading the bundles out on a tarp and stomping them en masse:

Image

Image

But even this was pretty slow. Now I'm taking the whole bundle of grain, shoving it head-first into a plastic pail, and using my hands to tear off the heads that are exposed. I don't untie the bundle, and I don't go after any heads on short late tillers. With this technique, my speed went up tenfold to about 10 lbs/hour. The efficiency has dropped a bit -- I know because I can see heads that I have missed, and they are everywhere!

But hey, I'm done. I have a feeling that even people who grew grains for a living before industrialization didn't go after every last head of grain. They threshed on the dirt by dragging a wooden sledge over their grains with a donkey. Surely some grains were lost during this process, and surely some grains were never separated from the plants. I am convinced that threshing is like any other industrial process -- you balance throughput with accuracy, pick some point you're happy with, and call it a day. I just don't have 180 hours to put into it -- I barely even have 18, so I went for speed.



Now, on to malting. The first step is to wash the grains. I put them in plastic buckets and turn on the carbon-filtered water:

Image

Image

This washing step cleans the dust and dirt off the grains, but it also serves as the last stage of winnowing. There is a ton of chaff that didn't blow away -- it now easily floats to the top of the water while the grains sink:

Image

Unfilled grains also float up along with the chaff. You just skim it off the top:

Image

Eventually you're left with grains, very small pieces of chaff, and dirty water. You can pour off the chaff + water and wash the grains 2-3 more times:

Image

The water should be clear after the last wash. A little yellow color from the grains is okay, but any turbidity in the water is dirt that you haven't washed away yet. Keep on washing until the water turns clear.

The next step is to soak the grains for about 24 hours total without depriving them of oxygen for more than 8 hours at a time. Sound tricky? One potential way to do it is to bubble air through the soaking water:

Image

This is what commercial maltsters do, but I have since stopped doing it. I am worried that some grains may have suffocated in the first batch, maybe the grains that were stuck down in the corners at the bottom of the buckets. To be very sure that the grains get enough oxygen, I just drain the grains after 8 hours of soaking by dumping them into a keg tub with a crack in the bottom. It works like the biggest colander I've ever seen:

Image

After an 8 hour soak, the grains should get at least 6 hours of breathing time, and more is okay. Total soaking time should be 24 hours, so they need three soaks of 8 hours each. Make sure to use water you would brew with, because any solids in malting water (like chloramines!) will make their way into your beer.

By the end of the last soak, the grains should all have rootlets beginning to emerge from one end, and the grains should be soft enough that you can crush them with your fingernails. They should have about the consistency of an unchewed stick of gum. Not bazooka joe (hard as a rock), and not trident (pretty soft), but maybe more like the consistency of old-school juicy fruit. Definitely not mushy, but...compliant. That's the texture you're shooting for. If you bothered to weigh a sample before and after the soak, you should be looking for a moisture % in the upper 40's, calculated by (wet weight - dry weight) / wet weight.

Now the grains should continue to germinate outside of water for several days. They will be generating heat and carbon dioxide during this time. To allow both to escape, the grains need to be in a relatively thin layer -- 6 inches deep at the most. I began by lining a large cardboard box lid with a garbage bag and putting the grains in it:

Image

This may have actually been okay, but laying the garbage bag on the floor and putting the grains in a pile in it works equally well:

Image

One thing is for sure -- that first batch of malt was not right.

It didn't smell right. That was my first clue that something was wrong. During the first few days of germination, when rootlets are first emerging, the malt is called chit, and it should smell like fresh cucumbers. As the rootlets grow, the malt switches to smelling more like alfalfa sprouts -- a pleasant but decidedly vegetal aroma. As the shoot (locked inside the hull) makes it way toward the end of the seed, the malt can begin to smell slightly earthy, like wet loamy dirt. It can even have a slightly sour note to it like fertile soil sometimes does, but it should never smell unpleasant or rotten.

I believe that I accidentally killed some grains during the soak for the first batch, because in addition to the normal aromas, the malt occasionally smelled like farts, and toward the end, it had a distinct rotting garbage smell to it. So wrong. To top things off, the entire batch began showing the fruiting bodies of white and blue/green molds just as it was finishing up, with the accompanying putrid smells. Needless to say, I threw it out, all 69 lbs of it! So sad!!!!!

I have malted grains successfully about 10 times now. But I've never malted 69 lbs at once. I should have practiced at that large scale with the inexpensive 2-row that I buy from Colorado Malting Company. Man, I sure would have minded throwing out 69 lbs. of that 2-row a lot less than I did throwing out my hard-earned grains.

I haven't completely identified what the problem was, but I have fixed it. The current batch of 60 lbs. of malt is going beautifully:

Image

Moving on! How do you know when the grains are done germinating?

The rootlets stick out of the grain, and their presence tells you that the malting process is working. But rootlet growth is affected by things like moisture content and the type of material the rootlets are growing into. For example, the rootlets in contact with the plastic liner always tend to grow longer. You really shouldn't pay any attention to the rootlets as an indicator of malt conversion.

Instead, you should be watching the shoot, called the acrospire, which is visible underneath the husk. You don't need to slice open grains or tear them apart to see the acrospire. You can judge the length of the acrospire through the husk. Check it out; this grain's acrospire has grown to 75-90% of the total length of the grain:

Image

You can see it as the elongated lump that extends from the rootlets in a straight line to the other side of the grain. I layed an arrow over the acroscpire to show its location and length:

Image

This grain's acrospire has grown to over 100% of the length of the grain, and it has just begun to poke out the other side:

Image

Image

Once you look at 10-20 grains, you will begin to be able to see the acrospire's length every time. Now, if I were making Pilsner malt, I would stop the entire batch right now by drying. 75% of the grain's length is long enough for the acrospire to grow for Pilsner malt.

But I'm making caramel malt for Almanac. For caramel (crystal) malt, you don't need to worry as much about the consequences of overmodificaiton (high free amino nitrogen). Still, this batch is almost done. When the acrospires of most grains get close to 100% of the grain's length, it is fully modified.

(BTW, most of the advances in malting that the British accomplished, allowing for efficient single-infusion mashing, were actually genetic changes in malting barley strains that cause the grains to be highly synchronized in their germination. In nature, some grains should sprout early while others wait, hedging their bets in case there is a late frost. As you might guess, this trait leads to more than a few undermodified grains, requiring a decoction. But all of our malting grains today, including Conlon, have been selected for synchronous modification.)

I will probably stop this batch tomorrow by spreading it thin and turning a box fan on it. This won't dry the grains completely, but it will slow down their growth enough while I take them through the next step, which is unique to caramel malts: converting starches to sugars in the husk. More on this when I know whether my current method for taking grains through the 68C temperature rest works or not!
User avatar
drummstikk
 
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:32 pm

PreviousNext

Return to Homegrown

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users

A BIT ABOUT US

The Brewing Network is a multimedia resource for brewers and beer lovers. Since 2005, we have been the leader in craft beer entertainment and information with live beer radio, podcasts, video, events and more.