Barley Malt and Malted Grains for Homebrewing

barley grains

Malted barley is a naturally processed form of barley. The grain is steeped in water and allowed to begin sprouting. This germination creates enzymes which are required to convert starch to fermentable sugar later in the brewing process. The extent of germination is referred to as modifying. The longer the barley germinates, the higher the degree of modification. Germination is stopped by drying the grain.

There are a variety of malting and drying methods used. Each lends characteristics to the final product; they range from light air-dried to roast. The combining of different malt varieties into formulas or recipes is where brewing begins. These formulas are called grain bills. The grain bill will determine important factors for the finished beer. These include color, potential alcohol, sweetness and mouth feel.

Mashing is the first step in brewing. The malted grains are crushed in a mill which is designed to crack the hard starch center of the grain while keeping the husk as whole as possible. The crushed grain is called grist. The grain must be crushed in order to aid the conversion of starch to sugar. The idea is to provide as much surface area as possible for the enzymes (which were developed by malting) to attack the starch. Mashing is a highly controlled process of heat, time and moisture. The crushed grain is combined with hot water and held at specific temperatures for set amounts of time. There are three main types of mashing. Single infusion, step infusion and decoction. Each method has its place in brewing different beer styles.

Sparging is the next step in brewing. The results of the mashing process are rinsed to wash the converted sugar away from the husk and into the brew kettle. Sparging is a process which allows fresh, temperature controlled water called sparge water to slowly trickle through the mash grain bed. This is done in a brewing vessel called a lauter tun. The lauter tun is a container which is fitted with a false bottom. The false bottom prevents the grain from plugging the outlet while allowing the sweet liquor to flow freely. The sweet liquor draining from the lauter tun is called ‘runnings’ or run-off. The first runnings tend to be cloudy with husk material and are re-circulated back through the grain bed. The husks act as a filter and help clarify the run off. The collected runnings are now called malt extract. For more information, check out Blogging with Briess

homebrewed beer with malted grains and hop flowers

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