Introduction: 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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