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Malt conditioning rocks!

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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.  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.

Can't see how 1) it is worth the extra work or 2) how it could possibly be good for your grain mill.

Are you having any issues with using rice hulls?

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.

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.


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