Category Archives: Equipment

Crack that Grist

Crack that Grist

Not all malt is created equal…

I’ve been starting to get a more custom feel for my Monster Mill (MM-2).

A factory default gap will do just fine, but here are some things to consider when setting your own gap.

First of all, I’m still waiting for a feeler gauge to measure the size of my crack. You heard me! It’s in the mail.

You obviously don’t want to turn the malt into a flour, or it will not lauter well. But if you don’t crack it fine enough, it will not convert well. You want the white starchy endosperm to be well exposed, but with still a large enough husk to act as a filter.

Even after I found a good gap size for my base barley malt (85% efficiency!) I realized that the gap should still be adjusted for different malts.

First, consider highly roasted barley malts. You don’t generally even need to mash them, you could just steep them. Because their innards don’t need as much exposure, and since they have bitter husks, and also because the kilning process has left them brittle, you should go easier on them in the mill – they are more likely to be pulverized into a powder.

But where it makes the real difference is with other types of malt. Rye and wheat both have smaller kernels than barley – and they’re all shaped rather differently. Wheat is somewhat squat and round, while rye is quite narrow.

If you run wheat and rye through the same setting for barley, you’re going to end up with malt that has not been cracked as well. Lower efficiency. Lower extraction and flavor.

So please, separate your malts and get a feeler gauge so you can go back and forth between optimal settings.

Hop Jar

Hop Jar

I had been concerned lately that there were off flavors coming from my hops. Part of me was thinking, maybe I just wasn’t using them properly, but I was using them the same way I did before when I experienced success. I knew storing them in the freezer was good for preventing spoilage, but then it me – frozen foods can often take on the ‘flavor of the freezer.’

Wrap it up tight – a mason jar is good for an air tight seal. If I didn’t brew every week, I would slip the jar into a vacuum sealer for better protection.

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Why Do I Mash Out?

In the battle for time efficiency, as well as mash efficiency, I often find myself asking such questions: “Is this step necessary?” or “Does this need to take so long?” or “What are my other options?” After a few all-grain batches, where I didn’t hit my target mash out temperature, I found myself asking these questions once again.

What is mashing out? It is the process of raising your mash temperature to around 170°F. This serves two purposes: 1) Make the grain bed more fluid so sugars can be more easily run off, and 2) to stop the conversion process. Since I don’t have the kind of mash tun I can heat on the stove, I have to add a calculated amount of hot water to change the temperature. I previously thought that not hitting my target mash out temperature was lowering my mash efficiency, but I was mistaken. The only way it would affect my efficiency is if the temperature were to fall back into the conversion range, which could clump up the sugars and reduce my yield via the lautering process.

Sparging with gravity

So, why the hell am I worried about mashing out in the first place? According to John Palmer’s “How to Brew,” a mash out is not needed for mashes with a ratio of 1.5+ quarts of water per pound of grain – the grain bed will be loose enough. Many homebrewers don’t mash out, apparently. I suppose the reason I always did was because I start with a thick mash – 1 quart per pound – which requires less strike water. I use an 8 gallon pot on an electric stove, so you can imagine it takes a long time to heat such amounts of water. While the mash is converting the starches, I take the time to heat up all the water for the mash out and sparge.

I think for my next batch, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to use a thinner mash, which will account for a larger portion of the total water (liquor) needed and then do a continuous sparge as I always do. If it requires too much sparge water (my hot liquor tank [HLT] is only 5 gallons), letting the grain bed run dry at the end will hopefully be enough. All this should hopefully take less, if not just as much, time as what I normally do. I will take note of my yield/efficiency and see how I feel about it.

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