Introduction: Malting Barley for Homebrewing

Picture of Malting Barley for Homebrewing

Thanks for taking a look at this instructable, liking it and voting for it if I put it in a contest :)

I really enjoyed this process and hope that you do too!

Three very important things to be aware of:

1. In order to malt a grain (definition to come) it must have the germ still attached. Pearled barley, roasted barley and most other processed barleys have had the husk and germ removed. I contacted the seller of this particular barley to find out for sure before purchasing it. These are basically seeds that will grow into stalks of barley grain if I were to plant them in good soil. 2. There are great barleys available that are specifically grown to malt and make beer out of. I am aware that this barley is not likely going to make a traditional beer that would fall into a mass produced category. I'm making this for fun and to see if I even can :) 3. Only attempt the malting process with Barley, Wheat or Corn. Some grains like Rye and Oats are very likely to develop a specific and toxic mold on them during the malting process and need to be done by malting companies that can control for absolute decontamination.

Step 1: Find a Barley

Picture of Find a Barley

This was a neat find- a somewhat local source of barley! This particular barley, grown in Oregon is an heirloom variety from Nepal called "Purple Karma" With a name like that and the fact that nobody has likely tried malting it and adding it to home brewed beer (at least in the USA) I had to try.

Step 2: Malting 1: Soak the Grains in a Bucket of Water

Picture of Malting 1: Soak the Grains in a Bucket of Water

The malting process is, at it's most basic, the process of tricking seeds into turning their starches into sugar (maltose) by way hydration, therein utilizing their natural sprouting process, then stopping that process by drying out the grain.

There is a lot more going on biologically and I think the wiki article on malting is a fairly good one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malt

The process that we will use is a bucket hydration method.

Soak the grains in enough room temperature water to fully cover all grains in a 5 gallon food-safe plastic bucket (a large cooking pot will work in place of a bucket if you can do without it for a few hours).

Let sit in room temperature water for about 2 hours and then pour out the water using a strainer.

Let sit with access to air for at least 5 hours (this keeps the grains from drowning or swelling too quickly).

Repeat this process for a minimum total of 2 soaks and rests (you are welcome to go with 3 total soaks and rests if you have the patience, I live in a high desert climate and my barley only needed 2 soaks)

Step 3: Malting 2: Rest in the Dark

Picture of Malting 2: Rest in the Dark

You will then spread the damp barley grains out into a flat baking sheet- try to keep it about 1 inch thick so as to keep the grains oxygenated and to keep them at a consistent temperature (about 60 degrees F worked well for mine) as there is heat created in the germination process.

Step 4: Malting 3: Keep the Grain Hydrated

Picture of Malting 3: Keep the Grain Hydrated

I picked up a $2 spray bottle to spray slightly warm water onto the towel covering the grains. Because I live in a dry climate, I had to do this at least once a day for 3 days.

Step 5: Malting 4: Gently Aerate

Picture of Malting 4: Gently Aerate

Once a day, gently run your fingers through the malting barley- this will help to aerate the grain and also give you a good idea of how hydrated it is. If you find them to be drying out, simply spray them with a bit of water. Never let standing water accumulate in the bottom of the pan though, this can be an open door to mold.

You will see little rootlets start to show on the grain throughout the germination process- this means it's working!

Step 6: Malting 5: Drying

Picture of Malting 5: Drying

After about 3-4 days of germination, the grains should be ready.

When the rootlets have reached the same length as the original grain itself, they are about ready to start drying.

Drying out will halt the germination process and leave you with malted barley to crush and make into beer!

To dry the malt, I used my oven- I would set my oven to it's lowest setting- 200 F and then when it registered 130 F I would cancel the oven heating and then I set the baking sheet with the germinated grain (without the towel of course) inside. I would then let it sit at around 100-130 F for 3-4 hours. It takes a while when your oven doesn't have a low setting (ideal is about 125 F) but it's worth it to keep the temperature low and have your oven off so you don't forget about it and burn down your home.

Once the grain is dry, it will be much lighter in weight and feel dry and hard to the touch. If you think it may still be wet inside, just keep drying it. The low heat at long lengths of time will not hurt the grain, however the necessary enzyme (amylase) that was created in the malting process will be destroyed if the temperature gets too high- so don't dry your malt too hot!

Step 7: Malting 6: Grind Em' Up

Picture of Malting 6: Grind Em' Up

Once dry, your local homebrew shop should let you use their grain mill, or you can split the grains open using a tough plastic bag and rolling over it with a rolling pin. This allows more surface area for the hot water in the brewing (mash-in) process to pick up maltose sugars. You do not want to grind it into flour- this will create little barley dumplings that will not be accessible to your yeast in fermentation- just crack them open.

Step 8: Make Some Beer!

Picture of Make Some Beer!

There are many great Instructables on homebrewing beer, wine, cider and mead that I will certainly not be able to improve upon. Have fun with it, and please post to the comments if you've tried this method or have done it differently. Happy Malting!

I will update this instructable as to final color and tasting notes of the beer when it is finished- likely late March 2016

Comments

AdamC116 made it! (author)2016-02-24

I've been doing this in Africa for 4-5 years now. Everything in here seems accurate. The only issue I see is the scale. If you are going to all the soaking, germinating, drying and roasting, you may as well do enough for multiple batches. Most all-grain homebrew recipes call for 12-15 lb of malt. Malting doesn't add or subtract much weight from grain. Go big.

jjthephotoguy (author)AdamC1162016-02-24

That is awesome! This instructable was just for the small amount so that I could see if it was a good addition to a mostly two-row barley grain bill. I'm excited to see if it works and then I'll start ordering the 25lb bag and hitting you up for your tips and tricks :) Are you malting two-row or do you have access to fun African varietals of barley? Thanks so much for sharing your photos- I'm excited to take it to the next level like you have done.

this is ace! I have an allotment in the UK and will be growing my own hops and hopefully barley soon. do you have any idea on scale of grown barley to yield? I'd only really want to grow enough for 25 litres of beer and to re-sow the area.

Hi Stekahedron, Thanks for the comment and encouragement!

I have often thought about growing my own barley as well! I think you're on the right track to try for one 25L (~6.5gal) batch. I hope that what I'm about to share doesn't hurt that dream. But regardless of your plot size, you might be able to brew a micro-batch of 1-2 gallons :)

It will certainly depend on the variety of barley you have available to you. What I've read and loosely translated from imperial to metric and using liberal estimates for production, it looks like you would need about 15 square meters of properly spaced barley grown in good soil to yield enough for a 25L project.

Would LOVE to see updates and an instructable on this growing project as I hope to try this someday as well. Cheers!

Jobar007 (author)2016-02-26

He also grows his own hops. There are only three breweries that have their own grain and hop farms: Rogue Brewery, Sierra Nevada Brewery, and him. It is a real neat experience to work with him on his farm and drink the beer that his land produced.

jjthephotoguy (author)Jobar0072016-03-04

Nice! I grow 7 varieties (and counting) of hops at my house too. I would love to have enough property to grow my own grain as well. Does your friend live in the Klamath Basin area or in the Willamette Valley?

Jobar007 (author)jjthephotoguy2016-03-07

Neither. He's in Central Oregon. Is that where your grain came from?

mrgw98 (author)2016-02-24

I am such a nerd. When I first saw homebrew I thought of videogames! Haha

jjthephotoguy (author)mrgw982016-02-24

Video games and delicious home brewed beer go well together!

mrgw98 (author)jjthephotoguy2016-02-24

I am underaged and will not drink either way so I do not know how well they go together. Haha

jjthephotoguy (author)mrgw982016-02-26

And for folks under-age for alcoholic beverages, You can skip the last few steps and make malted barley to dry and then grind into a delicious hot breakfast cereal, or you can skip even more of the last steps and plant the barley in soil to grow more barley and cook the harvest however you like!

Jobar007 (author)2016-02-25

It is funny you mention Purple Karma barley. I've got a friend who malted it last year and used it in his homebrew. I didn't get a chance to try any of it because it was drank too fast. In fact, he has access to as much as he wants since he grows the stuff (he's a farmer in Oregon, so I wonder what the chances are that he grew your grain?). He tends to not use it though since it is worth a lot of money as far as grain goes.

Another thing he does is instead of putting it in the oven, he puts it in an old pillow case and ties a really tight knot at the open end. He then chucks it into his dryer and tumbles it on low heat. It dries and removes the rootlet in one step. Just make sure to empty your lint trap afterwards since it will be full of dry rootlets!

jjthephotoguy (author)Jobar0072016-02-26

That's awesome! Both that he grows it and malts it and also the cool pillow in the dryer technique. We'll see how my brew turns out and I might be hitting up your friend for more PK Barley soon!

jjthephotoguy (author)2016-02-24

And for folks under-age for alcoholic beverages, You can skip the last few steps and make malted barley to dry and then grind into a delicious hot breakfast cereal, or you can skip even more of the last steps and plant the barley in soil to grow more barley and cook the harvest however you like!

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