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Brews & Views Bulletin Board Service * Brews and Views Archive 2008 * Archive through November 18, 2008 * Milling grain < Previous Next >

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The Jolly Brewer
Senior Member
Username: Matfink

Post Number: 2050
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From: 92.233.31.3
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2008 - 10:33 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hello folks,

In pretty much every US publication I've read on home brewing, milling ones own grain is stated as being of the utmost importance. What do you guys think?

I've never, ever crushed my own grain (apart from the 6 row from Skotrat, which I got a friend to do), I don't see the point. I buy 25kg sacks of crushed maris otter pale malt from a brewing wholesaler, it will last me about 3 months, I've even used grain that was over 6 months old. I've never had any problems with conversion, extraction, or flavour.

The malt I recently bought was made about 2 weeks ago. I'll brew soon so it will be about 3 weeks old when I make the first batch and probably 2 months old following that.

Has anyone done any kind of side by side comparison? I hear all these stories of bad extraction, poor conversion etc and people say 'check your grain crush'... why not leave it to the professionals?

I'm not trying to provoke an argument or anything here. I'm intrigued. I always struggle to find the time to brew now I have a new baby and my own business to run so I don;t see the point in adding extra time and effort to a brewday if I don;t see any benefit from it.
 

Peter Roman
Senior Member
Username: Lilbordr

Post Number: 1136
Registered: 12-2003
Posted From: 12.2.115.11
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2008 - 01:06 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

JB,
Here's my theory and I could be wrong here. Dan would be the one to correct me if I am. Homebrew shops have a shop mill which they use to process their customers grain. Some shops, mine included add a milling surcharge for cracking your grain. Some would argue that this is irrelevant as the $0.10 cents per pound charge is still less than a $200 mill. The other theory is that homebrew shops want you to have a positive all grain experience. As such the gap on a shop mill is set wide to ensure that the grain is compatible with even the crapiest mash straining configuration. I know for a fact that my efficiency went up by a good deal when I switch from LHBS milled grain to my Phil Mill I. I also like to double mill harder ingredients such as torrified wheat or wheat malt.
Both of these theories could be wrong but they're what I've come to understand.
Cheers,
Peter 'the kid' Roman
 

Paul Hayslett
Senior Member
Username: Paulhayslett

Post Number: 1840
Registered: 02-2002
Posted From: 71.234.46.245
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2008 - 01:26 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'll add a 3rd point: Much of the advice given to starting homebrewers is for small quantities of specialty grain, not whole sacks of base malt.

Base malt is sold in 25kg sacks made of thick, opaque stuff. Specialty grains are sold in 500g units, usually in thin-walled, transparent baggies.

The ratio of surface area to volume is vastly different between the two. If most of the damage is done by exposure to oxygen, and if most of that happens at the surface, then most of the stuff in the sack won't be affected much. But the baggie is "all surface", so it will all go stale.

To the extent that light does damage, the sack is reasonably opaque, at least to UV light. But the baggie is not. And, again, it is "all surface".

So, advice which is appropriate for Joe Newbie ("don't buy a pre-crushed extract-and-grains kit and leave it on a shelf for 6 months before using it") might not apply to you.
 

The Jolly Brewer
Senior Member
Username: Matfink

Post Number: 2052
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From: 92.233.31.3
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2008 - 01:46 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

All interesting points. The home brew shops here don't crush the grain, the maltsters do. The howmbrew shops buy it pre-crushed. You could probably special order un crushed malt, but by default it is crushed. So I can understand Peter's point on that.

Many micros also buy their malt crushed from the maltsters/wholesalers. It is a rarity for a brewery to have a grain mill.

Paul's point on the bulk bags is probably a valid on too. Also I'd never really thought about the speciality grains. I've only ever bought crushed speciality grains and usually in quantities no bigger that 3kg (6.5lbs) at a time, but never felt that there was anything wrong with them. But often I get small amounts of speciality grains from local micros which have a high turnover so the grain will always be fresh.

I suppose it is what works for you. To me, with the quality of ingredients I can get, the expense and hassle of buying a mill and crushing my own grain seems unneccasary.
 

Bob Wall
Senior Member
Username: Brewdudebob

Post Number: 1917
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 24.248.74.254
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2008 - 01:50 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

JB,

For years I let the LHBS crush my grain as I had no mill of my own. It was an old Valley Mill and it did what I thought was a reasonable job. A couple years ago, his mill was wearing out from constant use as the knurls on the rollers had smoothed out over time. I noticed that in a couple of my batches, my efficiencies were dropping. I had been used to ~70% efficiency and that had dropped to ~65%. Not good.

I bought me a Crankandstein, built me a box, and crushed my first grains. My first batch got me a 78% efficiency. Subsequently, I set my Promash calculations to 77% and if I brew a beer in the 1.045 - 1.065 OG range, I hit my target pretty much within one gravity point plus or minus.

Now, you can still brew an awesome beer if you don't do your own crush, but now that I have it, I prefer to have that added level of control of my ingredients.

When I worked at the brewery, we bought our grains pre-crushed and in 50lb sacks and they kept for months just fine. So unless you are storing your crushed grains longer than six months in a clean dry airtight environment, you shouldn't have much to worry about. I do however, feel grains will keep longer if you don't crush them. But until you brew a beer with a noticeable problem, it is not that big a deal.
 

Dan Listermann
Senior Member
Username: Listermann

Post Number: 5981
Registered: 03-2004
Posted From: 74.215.69.145
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2008 - 02:13 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

We strongly encourage our customers to feel free to adjust the mills to whatever they want. We do like to take a look at the grist when they check out to see if we can head off any problems. This usually means that we advise them to do a second pass when the grist looks undercrushed.

The dire warnings about "fresh grist" is probably overstated. When I was developing the mills, I crushed a lot of grain two ounces at a time for sieve testing. Waste not, want not you know. I made beer out of it when the bucket was full and never thought that there was anything wrong with the beer it produced despite spending weeks in the summer, open to the air.

There can be problems with using partial quantities of large amounts of pre-ground malt. Grist stratifies instantly during crushing and gets worse over time. The problem is that the higher levels of the grist is heavy with husks and the lower levels concentrate flour. Using the full amount of a crushing eliminates this problem.
 

Paul Hayslett
Senior Member
Username: Paulhayslett

Post Number: 1842
Registered: 02-2002
Posted From: 71.234.46.245
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2008 - 02:45 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'll say this about grains in general: crushed or uncrushed, 6 months can make an enormous difference.

I get my specialty grains (uncrushed) from a shop with high turnover, so I know they are fresh when I get them. All the odds and ends get packed as tightly as possible into army surplus ammo boxes: watertight, nearly airtight, and lightproof. The boxes stay in my basement, which stays between 55F and 70F all year. Therefore, they "should" stay pretty fresh.

I scribble the date on the bags when I get them so that I know when something has been sitting around a long time. If the grain is more than a few months old, I'll smell and taste some before using it. And I'll compare it with a new bag to see how far it has gone off.

Comparing a new bag with a year-old bag is a real eye-opener. They are like different grains entirely. The old bag will smell fine until you smell the new bag, then the old one smells faintly rancid. Even at 6 months, a bagful will smell flat and uninteresting, without the in-your-face aroma of the new one.

As a result, I've taken to just tossing anything more than 3 or 4 months old, regardless of quantity or how much it cost me originally. It means wasting a few dollars here and there. But I'm sure the beer is better for it.
 

Peter Roman
Senior Member
Username: Lilbordr

Post Number: 1137
Registered: 12-2003
Posted From: 12.2.115.11
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2008 - 03:08 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Fellas,
Is there any evidence of better preservation of grain that's been flushed with CO2?
Thanks,
Peter 'the kid' Roman
 

Greg Brewer
Member
Username: Greg_r

Post Number: 179
Registered: 03-2005
Posted From: 76.209.62.91
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2008 - 03:14 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I compared a bag of grain from last year to a fresh one from this year. Huge difference, even though the old bag stayed sealed in the freezer. Old one smelled OK but stale compared to the bakery-fresh aroma of the new. Plain not worth using the old.
 

The Jolly Brewer
Senior Member
Username: Matfink

Post Number: 2053
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From: 92.233.31.3
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2008 - 06:40 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

interesting stuff guys.Thanks for the input. It's not convinced me to get a mill, but it has made me think about the age/state of my speciality grains.
 

Craig Henry
Advanced Member
Username: Sail

Post Number: 595
Registered: 04-2003
Posted From: 66.19.21.214
Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - 01:30 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Greg, You are refering to the ground vs whole grain, yes?
 

Greg Brewer
Member
Username: Greg_r

Post Number: 181
Registered: 03-2005
Posted From: 64.195.243.196
Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - 06:45 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

No Craig, the grains were not crushed. My comparison was between year-old and fresh whole malt. I also chewed them and got a similar result based on taste.
 

Craig Henry
Advanced Member
Username: Sail

Post Number: 596
Registered: 04-2003
Posted From: 136.181.195.8
Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - 07:26 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I was always told you could keep malt forever. Interesting.

I don't even know if my grain is 'fresh'? My freezer isn't big enough to pack and store grain to keep it fresh.
 

Steve Jones
Advanced Member
Username: Stevej

Post Number: 556
Registered: 08-2001
Posted From: 164.89.253.13
Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - 08:57 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I have posted here (and other places, too) a few times in the past year about serious problems with cloudy beer. Not chill haze, but serious cloudiness. No one had any definitive answers to my problem.

I've been brewing AG for over 10 years, and have only had this problem the past 2 years. I tried everything I could think of, and things that others suggested, but to no avail.

About 6 years ago our club started buying malt in bulk ... full pallets from North Country Malt ... and I have been buying 3-6 bags at a time. But the last order that I participated in, I bought 4 bags even though I still had 2 or 3 full bags in hand. It was hard to pass up NCM malt for about 60 cents a pound shipped. So for the past two years I've been using malt that was 2-3 years old. It had been kept in sealed bags in my walk-in at 42F the entire time. I even did a moisture content test ... weighed 100 grams grain, baked at 200F for 3 hours, and it weighed out at 96.4 grams for a 3.6% MC, well within specs.

So I just bought a new bag last week and brewed an IPA Friday. The mash runoff and kettle runoff was absolutely crystal clear. When I walked into the brewery that morning there was a wonderful malt aroma that I had not smelled in a long time.

I suspect that the problem had something to do with a degradation of the malt over time, but I don't know the reason or the reaction that occurred. But it doesn't matter that I don't know why. Like Paul, I'm now absolutely sold on fresh malt ... I'll never use malt more than 6 months old again. And I'll bet that I never have that problem again, either.

To get back on topic, I do mill my own malt ... I do it while the strike water is heating. Even with a small single roller mill (crushes against an adjustable plate) I can crush grain for a 10 gallon batch in less than 10 minutes, so it doesn't take any extra time or effort.
 

Brian Miller
Junior Member
Username: Bj_mill

Post Number: 57
Registered: 01-2004
Posted From: 99.137.238.60
Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - 11:13 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'm curious how the maltsters keep the malt 'fresh' just prior to
a new season's harvest? It seems like the last of the previous year's
crop is probably over a year old by the time we get our grubby mitts on it.

Perhaps raw barley stores better and it is only malted barley that
is subject to degradation?
 

Patrick C.
Advanced Member
Username: Patrickc

Post Number: 828
Registered: 01-2001
Posted From: 72.37.171.84
Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - 12:55 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I guess I'll have to get some "new" malt and do a comparison. :-)

I have also gone the "way too much" route from NCM, but I haven't had any noticable change in quality. The clarity of my wort and beer certainly hasn't changed, even with 2 and 3 year old malts. Taste may have changed, but I'd have to do a side by side comparison to know for sure. Even that may not be a valid comparison, if there is a significant difference in the specs of the two lots of malt.
 

Patrick C.
Advanced Member
Username: Patrickc

Post Number: 829
Registered: 01-2001
Posted From: 72.37.171.84
Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - 01:00 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

JB, if your beer tastes good, don't worry about it. If you have some really old specialty malt, buy some fresh malt of the same type. When the baby is asleep and you're all caught up with work, brew a couple of comparison batches.
 

Peter Roman
Senior Member
Username: Lilbordr

Post Number: 1139
Registered: 12-2003
Posted From: 12.2.115.11
Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - 12:38 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Now a word from HBD's packaging engineer...
What the maltsters need to do is provide better packaging! How about some heat sealed polybag liners inside of the traditional paper sack? Flush it with nitrogen and I bet the grain would stay fresher longer. I could be entirely wrong but at least I feel better....
Cheers,
Peter 'the kid' Roman
 

Kevin Kowalczyk
Intermediate Member
Username: Itsfunbrewingbeer

Post Number: 315
Registered: 10-2007
Posted From: 12.165.82.136
Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - 04:16 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Maybe they should fill the bags with hydrogen phosphate gas instead?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081014/od_nm/us_hazelnuts