Monday, December 14, 2009

Malting Barley In Mexico IV (the mash)

I have to begin by saying that malting barley is hard work. I have to give a lot of credit to the professional maltster out there, and in the future will find it easier to pay what now seems like a very reasonable price for a bag.

From the original five kilos (11 lbs.) of raw grain that I purchased at the beginning of this project, I ended up with 9 lbs of malt. Once my malt was ready to mash, I set about milling it severely in the hope of exposing as much of the interior of the grain as I could in an attempt at extracting as much sugar as possible. I found this mill at the hardware store for $25usd and it did a great job but I wouldn't want to use it to mill more than a few pound as it was difficult to crank and there is no easy way to motorize it. On the other hand if you need a starter mill for cheap, this is one way to go.

I used a plastic bucket with a braided hose attached to a spigot as my mash tun and (don't tell my wife) insulated it by securing a couple pillows off our bed, held in place with a piece of rope I found on the roof. This worked suprisingly well at maintaining a temperature of 150f. I let the grain mash for and hour and a half before performing a batch sparge. Normally, I mash for an hour but in this case I did an iodine test after an hour and found that there was still a lot of unconverted starches. Then I sparged by draining the mash tun completely once, filled it again with 170f. water, stirred, let rest for ten minutes and drained again.

The results? In a beginning boil volume of six gallons my specific gravity was 7 brix or 1.028. At this point I have to make some assumptions in order to figure how well I did in the malting process and how efficient I was at extracting the sugars from the mash. I am going to use my personal historical records of previous brewing sessions as a data point to make comparisons. Unfortunately, I am unable to determine exactly how effective I was at malting the grain but if I make another assumption that my mashing procedure was 71% efficient then I can also assume that in my malting process I created a potential of 1.0265 instead of the commercial malt that typically is 1.037

Here's the numbers as I figure but tell me if I'm off base here:

6gal. x 1.028 (6 x 28 = 168)

9lbs. x 1.026 (9 x 26 = 234) (168/234 = 71%) or 10% less potential sugar than commercial malt.
In conclusion, this was a great way to learn about the malting process and I can see that with practice one could increase the yield of sugars, but in the end, with the amount of time and energy that I put into this effort I think it's a small price that we pay as homebrewers for consistent quality and yield that the professionals can provide.

Mash Tun

P.S. I went ahead and brewed a batch of beer with some additional ingredients. If you're interested in that recipe, leave a comment and I'll include it there. Cheers!
For the previous steps in malting barley go to here for step I and here for step II and here for step III.

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