Roasting Malt – Gluten Free Malt for Beer Part 7

Making Malt for Beer Millet

Are you going to be roasting malt? If you want to add complexity to the flavor of your gluten free beer, you may consider roasting some of your gluten free malt. This is assuming, of course, that you have made some gluten free malt. Roasting malt can change the aroma, taste, and color attributes of the malt. Any changes to the characteristics of the malt will translate to changes in the final beer.

When roasting your gluten free grains, you should consider the following:

1. What do you hope to achieve by roasting the malt?

Are you trying to add some color? Is there a particular flavor characteristic you're trying to impart in the beer? If you're new to this, you may need to roast a very small amount of your malt to varying degrees to get an idea of the flavor and color profiles you can obtain from your particular gluten free malt. You also need to consider what portion of your malt you want to roast, and to what level of roasting you need to go.

2. Does your malt have a decent diastatic power?

What is "diastatic power"? This is basically a way of measuring how well a particular malt will be able to covert it's starches to sugars, which depends on the inherent enzymes of the malt. Unfortunately, gluten free malts tend to have a low diastatic power, which often means that other sugars of some sort must be added to the wort or the necessary enzymes must be added to the mash phase of brewing. You probably won't be able to measure your malt's diastatic power in the home brewing setting, but unless it's millet you can pretty much assume it has moderate to low diastatic power. If you have a malt with a decent ability to convert its starches to sugars, you'll want to be careful with the temperatures and timing while roasting malt. If the malt has a low diastatic power, you won't have to be as meticulous while roasting malt since you probably won't rely on the enzymes in the malt anyway.

After considering the two aspects above, and potentially doing some small batches to practice roasting malt, you'll be ready to start roasting malt to whatever level you desire. You can also roast un-malted grains and pseudo-grains for use as adjuncts. If you'll be using amylase enzymes you can slightly increase the amount of sugars that can be fermented by adding lightly crushed un-malted roasted grains or pseudo-grains. Regardless of what you're roasting, you'll need at least a standard home oven and some pans. Ideally, you would use a convection oven because the circulating hot air in these can help you to more evenly roast the grains. A counter top convection oven or large convection toaster oven can work great.

Remember that amylase enzymes are sensitive to higher temperatures. It might seem like roasting malt would destroy these enzymes, but there's a way to approach roasting malt that minimizes the impact of the heat on enzymes. The key is to gradually increase the roasting temperature in steps. The enzymes are able to better survive a roasting malt regimen that allows adequate time at each jump in temperature. This gradually removes the very small amount of moisture that may be in the malt, and the dryer the malt the better protected the enzymes will be.

The first step is to make sure you're starting with well dried base malt, which will still have a moisture content of about 10% by weight even though it seems dry. Spread the malt out on baking pans while being sure to keep the depth of the malt at no more than 1 cm. If using a standard oven, preheat it to 250 degrees F. If you're using a convection oven, preheating won't be necessary. Roast the malt at 250 degrees F for 1 hour in a standard oven or 50 minutes in a convection oven. This is sufficient roasting to achieve a light toasted malt with some mild nutty flavor, though the flavor will vary for different malted grains. At this point the moisture content of the malt will be even lower than the dry base malt. You can stop roasting at this point or you can progress to the next level of roasting malt.

Since the malt will be very dry and the enzymes are better protected, you can get a little more aggressive in roasting malt after the initial roasting phase. You can now crank the temperature up to 350 degrees F. Roasting malt at this temperature for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour will darken the malt more and can add more complexity to it's flavor qualities. You should mix and redistribute the grains on the pan about every 15 minutes if using a standard oven or every 30 minutes in a convection oven. You definitely don't want to burn the malt. Try crunching a few pieces of malt to see what color the inside of the malt has reached. You can also taste a few pieces to get an idea of the flavor it may contribute to your beer.

When the roasting malt reaches the level you desire, let it cool for about a half hour. Once cooled, you'll want to transfer it to large paper bags and fold over the top of the bag or bags a few times. You'll want to keep the roasted malt in the bags for at least 2 weeks. The paper bag allows some of the harsher and more intense or sharp aromas to escape which might be a little too strong or harsh in your final beer. Store the bag or bags in a dark place at room temperature during this time period. You need to add an extra week or two if you roasted your malt at higher temperatures.

There are some more complex roasting methods that involve adding water to the base malt and roasting the moistened malt for an hour or several hours. This is usually done with barley malt to create what's called a caramel malt, which tends to have a slight sweetness in its flavor. Roasting malt can certainly be done in other ways as well. The most important part is to start the roasting with a dry base malt that is under 10% moisture, and allowing the malt to slowly roast at a temperature under 250 degrees F for about an hour. Also, as mentioned earlier, this initial roasting period isn't as important if you're planning to add amylase enzymes and/or sugars in the brewing process. You now know the basics of roasting malt in your home.

As the last article in the series on making gluten free malt, we want to take a moment to thank you for your interest and to remind you to be careful of cross-contamination with traces of gluten. This is very important if the gluten free beer is being made for someone with celiac disease. This may not be a concern if you live in a gluten free home. However, if gluten containing foods are prepared in your household, be sure to take steps to minimize any chance that traces of gluten may get into your gluten free malt and gluten free beer. Baking pans can have traces of baked-on gluten, so you may need to line the trays with foil. Also, be sure to keep gluten containing foods away from your work area to prevent small crumbs or bits of gluten from falling into your gluten free malt and beer.

We hope you enjoyed this series on making gluten free malt. Good luck with your gluten free brewing endeavors and thanks for your interest.  

Removing Rootlets – Gluten Free Malt for Beer Part 6

Malt for Beer Mesh Strainer

This is an aspect of making gluten free malt for beer that deserves its own part in our series. It may seem, at first, to be a simple step, so why spend additional time on it? Is it really that important? If you want to make good gluten free beer, then yes, it is important.

If you read our previous article in this series, you may remember that rootlets left on malt for beer can add unpleasant flavors to the final beer. Given the effort a home brewer puts into making gluten free malt, it would be a real shame to let these little rootlets ruin a batch of beer, don't you think? Another important aspect is the cyanide content of the rootlets and whatever tiny acrospires may be present.

There's no need to be overly alarmed about cyanide when malting most grains. The release of this chemical is actually somewhat common during the germination of various grains and pseudo-grains. The very small amount of cyanide rarely presents a health risk for most of these, but a few grains tend to release a bit more cyanide than others. Sorghum (milo) is known to release a little more than other grains.

Even with the elevated release of this potentially dangerous chemical, levels in the final beer will almost always be at a very low and safe level as long as the rootlets and acrospires of malted sorghum are removed. Removing the rootlets and acrospires is something that needs to be done with any malt, but it certainly needs to be thoroughly completes with sorghum malt. Sorghum syrup and sorghum molasses are perfectly safe to use because they are made from the sugary sap from the stalk of the plant and not from malted sorghum seeds.

To say that sorghum malt may contain dangerous levels of cyanide is a bit of an over-simplification. In fact, the rootlets and acrospires of malted sorghum contain a precursor chemical to cyanide that can be converted to cyanide, but the organic chemistry involved is well beyond anything that needs to be covered here. In short, making a sorghum malt for beer is fine if good efforts are made to remove the rootlets and acrospires, but if you are concerned about the cyanide we recommend that you simply don't make malt from sorghum. Any of the common gluten free grain options are a much lower risk choice that you may feel more comfortable working with.

With the bit about sorghum malt out of the way, let's move onto the actual methods of removing rootlets from grains. After the drying phase, any rootlets or acrospires that don't fall off will be dry and brittle. Some are easier to remove than others. Rest assured you don't have to pluck these off individually. There are 3 common methods to efficiently and effectively remove the dry rootlets.

1. Dryer without Drying: This is a method in which you place the malt into a fine mesh bag or even a pillow case. You place the bag in a dryer and tumble it with the heat turned off. Most dryers refer to this as the "fluff" setting. The tumbling coupled with the friction among the grains will remove the rootlets within 20 minutes most of the time. When the rootlets are removed you might consider dumping them into a mesh strainer to help shake any loose rootlets away. The mesh bag or pillow case is just turned inside out and shook outside to remove the rootlets and dust.

You don't want to use this method if you have a fabric softener or dryer sheet device installed in your dryer as these can add unpleasant chemicals and flavors to your malt. A typical dryer should work fine, though. Assuming the lint filter work well in your dryer, you shouldn't have to worry about cleaning the interior afterwards. However, standard vent cleaning recommendations should be followed per your dyers maintenance manual. Many house fires can be traced back to dirty dry vents with accumulated lint.

2. Strain the Little Pains Away: Using a mesh strainer is a more hands-on method that can work very well. The basket style mesh strainers that have expandable supports are a great choice sine these can sit over a bucket of sink. This will make cleanup of the rootlets much easier. By placing the malt into the mesh basket or mesh strainer and rotating them with your hands, the little rootlets get caught in the mesh and broken off.

This can take a little time depending on how many pounds of malt you have and what type of grain you used. A standard size mesh will work well for grains like buckwheat, but millet and amaranth would require a fine mesh. Otherwise you'll lose too much grain through the strainer. You can expect this process to take you about 20 minutes per pound of grain. Sometimes the rootlets can be stubborn on buckwheat malt, so you may need to budget a little more time when using this method for buckwheat malt.

3. Man-Handled Mesh Bag: This option is similar to the dryer option. You are the tumbling force in this process. This process involves tossing and lightly kneading the grain in a mesh bag. This option can be messy and lead to more dust in the air, but can be a great option to use outside on a table top or other clean and firm surface.

There are other methods, but these seem to be most commonly discussed ways of removing the dried rootlets. With a little creativity you may find an even better way. Regardless of how you get the rootlets and acrospires removed, at the end of the process you will have a good light malt for beer brewing that can be used in your next batch of beer. The malt can be simply used as is or you may consider roasting a small portion of it.

Roasting your gluten free malt will be the topic of our next article in this series, so stay tuned. If you just finished a batch of gluten free malt, please leave us and other readers comments below. Let us know what worked well for you, or what didn't work. How did your malt turn out? Will you do it again?


Drying – Gluten Free Malt for Beer Part 5

Milo Malt Making

An essential part to making gluten free malt for beer is the drying phase. Drying the germinating grain or pseudo-grain stops the germination which prevents the sprouting plant from consuming too much of the endosperm's stored energy (starch). The enzymes that were made available during germination are sensitive to high temperatures during the drying phase. Drying the grain is a very critical step and the drying temperature has to be kept with a specific range to prevent mold or the destruction of the valuable enzymes which are sensitive to heat.

The first step in drying is obviously to stop adding moisture to the substitute for barley or wheat chosen for the gluten free malt. As soon as about 5% of the grain starts to show an acrospire it is time to start drying. Keep in mind we're referring to the plant shoot and not the rootlets. The rootlets will be visible on nearly all the grains by this point.

The alpha and beta-amylase enzymes are destroyed at temperatures above 125 degrees F. If you plan to use exogenous amylase enzymes to maximize the conversion of starch to sugars, the drying temperature may not be as critical. Few home ovens go down to 125 degrees F anymore and often the lowest temperature setting for a typical home oven is between 150 to 175 degrees F. If you don't plan to add amylase enzymes during brewing, you must be sure to protect the enzymes from higher temperatures, and it would be a shame to ruin a batch of malt after all the effort put into making it thus far.

Metal mesh screens are a great surface for drying. If you can find some mesh trays that fit in your oven you should use them. Otherwise, you can make your own or just use standard baking pans. You could use your home oven if it can actually maintain a Solar Dehydrator to make malt for beertemperature of 115 to 120 degrees F. Since this isn't usually the case, you could consider the following options:

Sun drying: If you live in a sunny, warm, and dry area, you may be able to go green and dry your malt by using the power of the sun. Using something like the hanging solar food dehydrator pictured here can allow you to minimize your carbon footprint, save on your utility bills, and harness the totally natural power of the sun. This particular dehydrator can hold 5 trays at a time and should get your malt to the ideal dryness of around 10% moisture content within 12 to 18 hours of sun exposure. One potential drawback is that you may have trouble keeping the temperature below 125 degrees F in hot weather.

Food dehydrator: This is probably the best option for drying malt due to the great ventilation provided by circulating air and temperature control. The typical small food dehydrator that many people are familiar with can work fine if you're only making a pound or two of malt at a time. There are mesh inserts for the traditional round units that can be helpful, especially for smaller grains.

Nesco MS-2-6 Large Clean-a-Screen for FD-1010/FD-1018P/FD-1020 Dehydrators, Set of 2Malt for Beer Dehydrator Option

If you plan to make more than a couple pounds of malt for beer at a time, you would benefit from the larger capacity of a more commercial style unit like the one pictured to the right. The example pictured here is a 10 tray model that is highly rated on Amazon and often on sale for over $100 off msrp. Since it has 14 square feet of drying space, you can easily get larger batches of malt dry. If you don't have one of these already and decide to buy one, be sure to look for one with a temperature control and a timer. These features can come in handy.

Counter-top convection oven or convection toaster oven: Since these are getting larger and more refined, they are starting to become a standard home appliance in many homes. If you have a small toaster oven that doesn't have the convection feature, it will still work but may be a little slow. Smaller toaster ovens with or without convection heat may be too small for anyone trying to make more than a couple of pounds of gluten free malt at a time.

If you have an old toaster oven, your desire to make Convection Toaster Ovengluten free malt for beer might be just the justification you need to upgrade to a larger model. If you don't have a convection toaster oven, you might consider getting one since they can serve a huge range of functions. Plus, if you decide to roast some of your finished malt, these are one of the best tools for the job. Some models even come with a rotisserie option built in, so even if you don't make malt frequently you're sure to find plenty of uses for one. Further, they use less electricity than traditional home ovens while cooking faster and more evenly. Oster TSSTTVXLDG Extra Large Digital Toaster Oven, Stainless Steel

How do you know when the grains are dry enough? Answering this is easier when we're only talking about barley because different grains experience different amounts of change during the process of making malt. Weighing your malt can give you some idea, but what percentage of starting grain weight to shoot for can vary depending on the grain. In general, when the weight of the dry malt is equal to the starting grain weight, assuming no significant losses from accidents, the grain should be dry enough. If in doubt you can dry it for a few more hours as long as the temperature is controlled. From a subjective perception, the grains should be crunchy and able to be crushed into dust with just a little effort.

That's really about all there is to drying malt for beer. Once you have the malt dry you will next need to remove the rootlets and any tiny acrospires. These will be very dry and should fall off with ease. However, getting all the rootlets off and separated from multiple pounds of malt can be time consuming and tricky. You might ask if it's really all that important to get rid of the rootlets. It's a fair question since they don't look like they would have much impact on the finished beer.

There are a couple of reasons to get rid of the rootlets though. The first is simply because they will change the taste of the final beer in unpleasant ways. The other reason has to do with the cyanide found in the rootlets and acrospires of some grains and pseudo-grains. The levels of cyanide for a handful of malt with rootlets attached isn't enough to hurt most people, but when you're working with multiple pounds of the malt it can become an issue. Some grains don't pose much if any cyanide risk. However, just to ensure a good tasting beer, it's worth removing and discarding the rootlets. How to do this, as well as what grains pose a significant cyanide risk when making malt for beer will be the focus of the next part in our Making Gluten Free Malt for Beer series.