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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: nyakavt on November 10, 2009, 12:45:26 PM

Title: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: nyakavt on November 10, 2009, 12:45:26 PM
I brewed a weissbier yesterday with 60% white wheat and had one of the easiest and quickest runoffs ever (batch sparging) with no rice hulls.  The secret was malt conditioning, a technique that Kai brought to my attention on his site (http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Malt_Conditioning).  Prevously I'd always have some wort left behind, or my absorbtion was relatively high (0.6 qts/lb).

I weighed out the entire grist and put it in a pot.  I sprayed water over the top layer, then stirred.  This was repeated until I had put around 80 mL of water on the grain (about 2% by mass).  When I run my hands through the uncrushed grain, a few kernels would stick.  After milling, the grist looked much fluffier than usual, and in the MT it ran off so much faster, even with a 0.025" mill gap.  I say give it a try on your next batch and see if it helps, you can crush finer without the runoff penalties.

One word of caution: if you mill by hand, you may want to use half the water, or try it with an all barley beer first.  Adding that much water made the mill fairly difficult to turn, I really got a workout on this one.  I think part of that was due to the wheat, but also wet grain is quite a bit stickier than dry.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: majorvices on November 10, 2009, 12:56:22 PM
Can't see how 1) it is worth the extra work or 2) how it could possibly be good for your grain mill.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: bluesman on November 10, 2009, 12:59:32 PM
Are you having any issues with using rice hulls?
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: majorvices on November 10, 2009, 01:08:14 PM
BTW I regularly brew with up to 60% wheat and never have a stuck run off and never use rice hulls. I know that pro-brewers wet mill their malt but it has always concerned me that this could cause rust on the rollers of my mill.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 10, 2009, 01:31:21 PM
I was one of the lucky ones that got to go to Beer Camp at Sierra Nevada. 

The Pilot Brewer talked about the benefits of conditioning the malt.  He said that at home, you could  do a good job by misting the malt with something like an air brush, turning and misting more.  You really don't want any more water than what the husks will absorb.  This rehydrates the husk, it becomes more flexible, and the mill will then not shatter the husk.  If the rollers are SS, they won't be damaged. 

For a wheat beer the benefit would be due to a more intact barley malt husk, as wheat has no husk. 

Malt conditioning, and the rest of the Beer Camp from what the Homebrers learned, will be covered in an article in an upcoming Zymurgy.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: nyakavt on November 10, 2009, 02:10:18 PM
Major, I'm not sure why your experience is so much different than mine.  Do you have a wider mill gap, or a different knurl pattern?  I'm using the barley crusher and have had issues pretty much since day one with runoff with a 0.025 mill gap.  It would never get totally stuck, but get extremely slow with standing wort still visible in the tun.  I found the system to be very sensitive to how I vourlaufed, I couldn't pour the wort back on top slow enough.  Since I started conditioning, vourlauf and runoff has been a non-issue.

As for good for the grain mill, I agree that this last one was probably a bit too much based on the amount of force I needed to turn the mill over, and I'll likely back off on the water for future batches.  I haven't seen any rust yet (roughly 12 batches conditioned in 5 months), but the mill does not have stainless rollers so it is a possibility.  Could be that the flour keeps the rollers from staying wet, or the fact that it's only exposed for 10 minutes a week?  The grain isn't dripping with water, it just gets a bit soft.  I'll post an update if the situation changes.

As for rice hulls, the downside for me is the cost.  1/2 lb adds roughly a dollar a beer, so over the year that's another batch I could have brewed, which is important when you're on a budget.  I've only used them once, so I'm no expert, maybe you can get away with less.  They can absorb some wort if not pre soaked, I haven't evaluated if they absorb any additional wort when they hit the mash.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: babalu87 on November 10, 2009, 02:12:09 PM
Can't see how 1) it is worth the extra work or 2) how it could possibly be good for your grain mill.

Just try it once

Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: blatz on November 10, 2009, 02:15:45 PM
with a 0.025 mill gap.

good lord  :o no wonder you had to use rice hulls. how about backing off on that to alleviate the need.

Maybe conditioning could be beneficial, but I am not sure if the rollers on a BC are stainless?
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: bonjour on November 10, 2009, 02:24:30 PM
Are you making flour  ??? or are you milling to 25 mills which is .025 inch. 
.025 mills would be .000025 inch

Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: majorvices on November 10, 2009, 02:26:05 PM
Can't see how 1) it is worth the extra work or 2) how it could possibly be good for your grain mill.

Just try it once



Why? It would probably add an extra 15-30+ minutes to my brew day by having to spray down at least 20 lbs of malt. As it is I try to get the malt ground up as quickly as possible, often measuring out the night before. I certainly don't want to add time to this step. I get 75% efficiency as it is and I just don't feel the extra time or effort would be worth the small amount of increase in efficiency. Plus, as I mentioned, I have absolutely no problems with sparging. Why try to fix what ain't broke? Plus I already have a few discoloration (oxidation/rust) marks on my mill rollers. Nothing to fret about, but I would not want to accelerate that by milling damp malt.

I think it is cool you guys are into tweaking stuff like this, I just don't think it is often practical for my brewing purposes.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: blatz on November 10, 2009, 02:28:41 PM
I assume he meant .025" which is way, way, way too tight on my BC for my MLT.  

I have it set at .036", get 75-77% efficiency everytime and never use rice hulls.  When I was at .032", I would occasionally get comments of slight tannic flavors on my scoresheets.  I was getting 80% at that point and backed off, and the problem went away...
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: majorvices on November 10, 2009, 02:33:42 PM
I assume he meant .025" which is way, way, way too tight on my BC for my MLT.  

I have it set at .036", get 75-77% efficiency everytime and never use rice hulls.

+1. Again though, not trying to take anything away from your experience. But for me it is way easier to not grind quite as fine, take a slight hit in efficiency loss and save time so that I can relax and HAHB.  :) And, in case I didn;t make it clear enough I brew wheat beers all the time and NEVER use rice hulls.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: nyakavt on November 10, 2009, 03:00:18 PM
Heh, .025 mill gap, not mil gap.  I meant .025", sorry for the confusion.  The BC only goes down to .020 or so IME.  I chose this gap when I started AG to just keep it constant and dial in the process, not knowing the consequences to lautering.  So yes, using rice hulls would solve it, and backing off on the crush would solve it, but conditioning the malt also solves it.  And I'm ok if major doesn't try it, I'll just shake my fist from over here in his general direction  :P
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: majorvices on November 10, 2009, 03:09:50 PM
I'm glad it works for you. Just out of curiosity how long does it take to properly condition the malt? What size batches do you brew? Just curious. I know on many pro brewer systems the malt is automatically sprayed as it is hopped into the mill so there is no extra step.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: babalu87 on November 10, 2009, 03:17:08 PM
I'm glad it works for you. Just out of curiosity how long does it take to properly condition the malt? What size batches do you brew? Just curious. I know on many pro brewer systems the malt is automatically sprayed as it is hopped into the mill so there is no extra step.

Takes about 10 minutes TOPS  the night before I brew then when I am heating strike water the grist goes to the mill.
As far as damage to the mill , there are enough oils on the grains to keep that from being an issue.

I brew 5 and 10 gallon batches.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: majorvices on November 10, 2009, 03:28:31 PM
Having a hard time figuring out how I could do this with my process in 10 minutes without a spare set of hands. I generally weigh the malt into a bucket then grind into another bucket. I suppose the easiest way would be to damp it down each level as I pour out. I may give it a try sometime just to see what is getting you guys so excited. Probably won't though.  ;) :P
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: bluesman on November 10, 2009, 03:52:55 PM
FWIW. The Maltmill factory setting is .040"
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: babalu87 on November 10, 2009, 04:01:10 PM
Having a hard time figuring out how I could do this with my process in 10 minutes without a spare set of hands. I generally weigh the malt into a bucket then grind into another bucket. I suppose the easiest way would be to damp it down each level as I pour out. I may give it a try sometime just to see what is getting you guys so excited. Probably won't though.  ;) :P

I weigh all my grains into a big plastic bucket (oh noez teh leeching chemicals!!!!!!!!!!!, no worries its an old bucket-fermenter that is gooned up)
Once the grain bill is weighed I sit on a chair with the bucket on the floor and spray/mix until I have the desired amount of water on the grains.
The lid gets put on and I roll it around on the basement floor for a few minutes then let it sit until the next AM
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on November 10, 2009, 04:12:46 PM
This is interesting idea. (I mean I have heard about it before).
I mill my grains night before because I brew early in the morning and I do not want to wake up anybody.

babalu87  I see that you condition night before milling.
Could I condition and mill it day before?
Would I have any issue with Lacto Bacteria?
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: babalu87 on November 10, 2009, 04:21:16 PM
This is interesting idea. (I mean I have heard about it before).
I mill my grains night before because I brew early in the morning and I do not want to wake up anybody.

babalu87  I see that you condition night before milling.
Could I condition and mill it day before?
Would I have any issue with Lacto Bacteria?

Kaiser would know better than myself  but I think you would be fine as your really only bumping up the moisture content by 2% or so.

Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: tom on November 10, 2009, 04:46:28 PM
I would like to know how long to wait for the grain to absorb it, and how long would be too long?

Last brew I sprayed the malt after each scoopfull I put into the bucket. Don't have any data because I also widened the mill gap.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: nyakavt on November 10, 2009, 07:29:21 PM
Major, it took me about 10 minutes this last time to wet the grain, I only brew 5 gallon batches.  Spray, stir, and repeat. Then I let it sit about 5 minutes before milling.  I could see it being difficult with larger grists, and more work.  You'd almost have to weigh out the grain in several smaller more manageable batches to use the same technique.

Babalu, that's an interesting technique about letting it sit overnight, I only let it sit as long as it takes me to hand mill the grain, plus maybe 5 minutes.  Do the husks still feel sorta sticky the next day, or does the grain absorb all the surface moisture?

As for lacto, I haven't let it sit overnight yet.  If Babalu isn't tasting any sourness then it may not be an issue. 

Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: babalu87 on November 10, 2009, 07:55:33 PM
Major, it took me about 10 minutes this last time to wet the grain, I only brew 5 gallon batches.  Spray, stir, and repeat. Then I let it sit about 5 minutes before milling.  I could see it being difficult with larger grists, and more work.  You'd almost have to weigh out the grain in several smaller more manageable batches to use the same technique.

Babalu, that's an interesting technique about letting it sit overnight, I only let it sit as long as it takes me to hand mill the grain, plus maybe 5 minutes.  Do the husks still feel sorta sticky the next day, or does the grain absorb all the surface moisture?

As for lacto, I haven't let it sit overnight yet.  If Babalu isn't tasting any sourness then it may not be an issue. 



No, they feel fine
My basement isnt exactly dry though.
Not wet but it isnt Arizona either  ;)
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: pashusa on November 11, 2009, 12:37:25 AM
I don't know what benifit there would be in malt conditioning rocks. they will still be hard and will not do your grain crusher any good. I think you could just leave the rocks out of the grain and it will grind a lot easier. :D
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: woody on November 11, 2009, 12:40:35 AM
I have to remember to try this sometime.  I've not really having runoff problems unless its a decoction-  all the protein crap that comes out gums up my runoff.   I suppose rice hulls would fix this too.  
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: woody on November 11, 2009, 12:41:36 AM
I don't know what benifit there would be in malt conditioning rocks. they will still be hard and will not do your grain crusher any good. I think you could just leave the rocks out of the grain and it will grind a lot easier. :D
HA!  I thought the same sort of thing when I read the title of this post.    "what is he conditioning rocks for?"
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: pashusa on November 11, 2009, 01:03:17 AM
I will try the malt conditioning thing. I use a Corona mill so this might help some. If not I'll quit.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: crabber on November 11, 2009, 03:13:45 AM
Having a hard time figuring out how I could do this with my process in 10 minutes without a spare set of hands. I generally weigh the malt into a bucket then grind into another bucket. I suppose the easiest way would be to damp it down each level as I pour out. I may give it a try sometime just to see what is getting you guys so excited. Probably won't though.  ;) :P

Spray bottle in one hand, mix with the other.  My god man, haven't you ever made biscuits?  ;)
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks
Post by: majorvices on November 11, 2009, 12:32:26 PM

Spray bottle in one hand, mix with the other.  My god man, haven't you ever made biscuits?  ;)

I have never made 20 gallons of biscuits, no.  :P
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: nyakavt on November 11, 2009, 01:55:57 PM
I don't know what benifit there would be in malt conditioning rocks. they will still be hard and will not do your grain crusher any good. I think you could just leave the rocks out of the grain and it will grind a lot easier. :D

Added exclamation point for clarity
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: hamiltont on November 11, 2009, 04:26:26 PM
I'm definitely going to give it a try next time just to see.  If it works, great.  If not, no great loss.....
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: beerocd on November 11, 2009, 05:03:35 PM
What would you guess is the inrease in MLT space needed? I've heard it described as FLUFFY; and I know some people push thier volume limits with certain recipes.

-OCD
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: babalu87 on November 11, 2009, 05:12:08 PM
What would you guess is the inrease in MLT space needed? I've heard it described as FLUFFY; and I know some people push thier volume limits with certain recipes.

-OCD

Its not fluffy once strike water is added
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: mybeerpants on November 11, 2009, 09:36:56 PM
I tried malt conditioning on my last brew and did notice a favorable difference. The grain husks were kept much more intact and I didn't end up with the think layer of sludge on top of the mash during sparging that I normally get. The runoff went really well. I'm going to stick with it for the next few brews and see if the results are the same across different grain bills.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: jhwk on November 11, 2009, 11:40:20 PM
FWIW, the barley crusher default factory setting is supposed to be .039"
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: intrinsic on November 12, 2009, 04:28:25 AM
I wonder if conditioning the malt would cut down on the shredding of the husk when using a Corona mill. I know, a Corona mill. I am from the old school way of thinking so if it ain't broke then don't fix. That being said, I really am going to buy a real mill one of these days.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: tireater on November 14, 2009, 02:22:42 AM
I'm gonna do a batch in the morning and would like to try this...
Is 80ml of water enough for 16 lbs of grain with rye malt ?
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: babalu87 on November 14, 2009, 03:16:54 AM
I wonder if conditioning the malt would cut down on the shredding of the husk when using a Corona mill. I know, a Corona mill. I am from the old school way of thinking so if it ain't broke then don't fix. That being said, I really am going to buy a real mill one of these days.

I bet it would. My crush has more and larger husk pieces though I use a roller mill.

Try it once and see how it looks, certainly cant hurt

Kaisers site has excellent information on it.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: Kaiser on November 17, 2009, 10:42:07 PM
I never thought that malt conditioning would find so many fans so quickly since it is one of those techniques that aren't really necessary and add a bit more work.

Let me see if I can address concerns and questions raised here:

Major, I see your problem. Conditioning 20+ lb of malt is difficult unless you build yourself a cement mixer type apparatus in which you can mix the malt while you spay it with water. I thought of adding something like this to a mill-stand if I ever find the time to build one. But there is no need to condition the malt in the first place if you don't have run-off issues.

Wheat malt doesn't have husks by a pericarp that gets somewhat preserved through conditioning. Just look at the link that was posted in the original thread. It shows pictures of dry and conditioned wheat malt.

Malt conditioning is not wet milling. The latter involves milling malt under water. This is very messy and unpractical for a home brewer. Malt conditioning only uses a little water to raise the husk moisture content. If properly done, there is only little to no free water on the grains during milling. That's why it works so well with conventional mills.

You can condition and mill the night before. I have done it many time w/o problems. The amount of moisture added is too little to get bacteria, mold or yeast started on the grain. These days I condition and mill the grain while the strike water is heating. It fits well in that time and does not lengthen my brew day.

If you do decoctions, you also have the option to mill much coarser since the intensity of the decoction mash can deal with much coarser grists while giving you the same conversion efficiency (i.e. amount of extracted sugar)

I haven't tried conditioning the night before and milling the day of brewing. I thought that the moisture would have penetrated further than the husks and the conditioning would not be as effective. I guess there is still a lot of room for experimenting and finding practices that may even work better than what I have published.

I have not tried it with a corona mill but are very interested in hearing about your experiences. Some brewers in my club have them and I may try to borrow one some day to test it for myself.

Malt conditioning raises the grist volume by about 30%. But that doesn't mean that the mash volume will be greater since the actual volume of the malt solids is not increased. The grist is just "fluffier" and more open. Which is a nice thing in thin mashes, which I'm advocating as well, since the grain is distributed more evenly throughout the mash.

I don't have a problem with rusting rollers. The only rust I have is on the adjustment knob and that doesn't get in contact with the conditioned malt anyway.

I used to say that less husk shredding means less astringency, but I have backed off from this statement as there is no mention of this in the literature and I have no data to support that. Bamforth and Lewis say the same in "Essays in Brewing Science".

In the end you should see it as just another tool that you may or may not use in your brewing. It's not the key to brewing excellent beers nor will be a guarantee against stuck sparges. It just allows you to mill a bit finer while maintaining run-off speed. If you mill too fine you'll still get a stuck sparge since there will be too much flour in the grist. As with all new techniques: If you are interested give it a try and see for yourself if it is worth the added effort. If you can hide the added time behind a longer process step (e.g. heating strike water) wile improving lauter speed, malt conditioning can actually save you time. But I have not done good enough side-by-sides to confirm this.

Kai
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: majorvices on November 19, 2009, 12:24:15 PM
Good post, as usual Kai. Thanks for filling in al the gaps. Personally, for me, it is an extra step that I don't feel is necessary. However it is a good piece to have in your toolbox and down the road I might just try it someday to impress the chicks. ;)
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: NorthernIke on November 19, 2009, 04:38:41 PM
I haven't tried conditioning the night before and milling the day of brewing. I thought that the moisture would have penetrated further than the husks and the conditioning would not be as effective. I guess there is still a lot of room for experimenting and finding practices that may even work better than what I have published.

My experience is that conditioning 24 hours prior to milling is NOT as effective.  As Kai mentioned above, it seems that the moisture migrates away from the husk and further into the grain.

I think it is much more effective to let the malt rest for a time.  Probably more than 30 minutes but less than 3 hours.  However, a long interval between conditioning and milling negates the effectiveness of this technique IME.
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on November 22, 2009, 01:57:15 AM
I just malt conditioned and crushed malt for tomorrow brew.
To looks great. Husk is intact and I did not get any grain dust.
Thank you Kai
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: Kaiser on November 22, 2009, 03:08:48 AM
Thank you Kai

Thanks,
I didn't come up with it, though. I just found it and figured it would work for home brewers too.

Kai
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: hamiltont on November 22, 2009, 11:40:12 PM
I conditioned 40 lbs. of grain Saturday with about 4-5 oz. of water.  I've never had a crush look so good!  Husks were totally in tact with the endosperm fully exposed or completely detached.  I can't say if it improved the efficiency because I did a partigyle but the OG/SG of the first runnings was way over my expectation and the second runnings were over too.  Looking forward to trying it with a single brew to see how much better it really is...
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: Kaiser on November 23, 2009, 12:12:55 AM
Glad to see that it worked for you. Did you tighten the mill gap as well?  Generally that is necessary to improve your efficiency.

Kai
Title: Re: Malt conditioning rocks!
Post by: hamiltont on November 23, 2009, 12:28:19 AM
Glad to see that it worked for you. Did you tighten the mill gap as well?  Generally that is necessary to improve your efficiency.

Kai

Yes, just a skosh.  I have a BC and set it at .034.