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Old 04-22-2009, 11:24 PM   #1
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Default Growing barley and wheat at home

I'm uncertain if this is the appropriate forum to post this subject. Mods, feel free to move it.

I live in New Hampshire. I recently saw COLObrewer's thread about malting barley (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/happiness-home-malting-107409/) and thought "why not go one further and grow my own grains too?" I did a search on the web and found that Chris Colby has been writing in BYO about growing his own barley. I haven't read through all his articles yet, but it seems like an interesting undertaking. I haven't found any threads on HBT about growing grains yet, if anyone can direct me to them I would appreciate it.

So, has anyone attempted to grow their own grains? The idea is fresh in my mind, so I know almost nothing at this point. I have plenty of garden space, so that shouldn't be an issue for the small scale I'd like to undertake. I figure if I could grow just 10lbs of barley or 4 lbs of barley and 6 lbs of wheat I could make a nice beer from scratch. I realize the amount of time and effort I'd put into it would make it far from practical, but obviously that's not why I got into this hobby. I'd like to pour myself a beer and know that everything in it was made at home (I'd probably still use commercial yeast though). The growing season up here is still a few weeks away so I'd like to start planning now if I'm going to make this happen. I'm interested to see what other people think of this idea.

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Old 04-22-2009, 11:35 PM   #2
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I think its a great idea. But, like you said, practicality is a concern.

But, if the world goes to $hit and folks have to make it on their own, I think you would be better off than most.

Sure, I can brew beer, but if my LHBS wasn't operational I don't know what I would do.

I would probably focus more on wheat as it is a little easier to grow and is more consistant.

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Old 04-23-2009, 12:01 AM   #3
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My question is this... how much acreage do you need to deliver say 50 lbs of barley/rye/wheat? I would guess its not small. and that's just 50 lbs... I think you'd need a pretty big plot of land to do so. Then you need to learn the techniques used to get the grains out of the plant... Its probably a LOT of work, but if you're up to it... go wild. I don't know much about it all though.

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Old 04-23-2009, 12:38 AM   #4
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Like I said, space isn't an issue. If I had to plant an acre of land, I could. But if that's what I needed to grow 10 lbs of grain, I would abandon the whole idea. I'll be harvesting by hand, obviously, and I'm sure it will be quite labor intensive. Farmers had been doing it for thousands of years before mechanical harvesters were invented, so I'm sure its feasible. Maybe not practical, but definitely feasible. I appreciate the feedback. Keep it coming!

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Old 04-23-2009, 12:42 AM   #5
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I grow about 200 acres of wheat and my family used to grow barley for sale to Stroh's. Our current rotation is sugar beets, dry beans, and wheat. Needless to say, it's called farming. I don't really like it, I have a real job that pays the bills. Farming pays for the equipment and land, not much else. Wheat is not difficult to grow, neither is barley but I have no real advice for small lot farming.

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Old 04-23-2009, 12:48 AM   #6
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I grew up on a farm and we grew barley/oats/corn for livestock feed. I don't know how many acres were dedicated to the barley but it was pretty big (the farm was 150 acres). Maybe at best there was 2-3 acres dedicated to barley (machine planted and harvested) and we got enough each year to fill a 6X6' bin to about 3 feet deep. The grain house was divided into 4 bins and Oats in one, Barley in another, and they just used the other 2 for storage of bags and stuff. This is all from memory so take it for what it's worth.

As a project you may be able to plant a pretty big garden and get enough to malt for 1 or 2 batches of beer.

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Old 04-23-2009, 12:51 AM   #7
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IMO nothing beats the flavor of roasted Barley in a stout styled beer, chocolate malt almost ruins the flavor in these for me...

Wish i could grown my own barley one day.

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Old 04-23-2009, 01:03 PM   #8
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Coming from a farm, and having a job in the agriculture industry, I will try to throw some numbers at you. Malting barley (before malting) usually weighs 48 lbs/bu. In commercial farming, barley will yeild up to 70 bu/acre (Canadian weather, not irrigated). Let's cut that down a bit, say 45bu/acre, which would be fairly easy to achieve. 48lbs/bu x 45 bu/acre = 2160 lbs of barley from 1 acre. Now there will be clean out and sizing for plump and thins. Use a high number here (10%), you are still left with 1950 lbs of barley from the acre plot. There will be a weight loss from the malting activity, not sure of the exact number here, but let's use 10% (high end), you still have 1750lbs of malted barley.
Now this is assuming that the quality is there for what you harvested to be malt. Just because you seed a registered malt variety does not mean that you are harvesting malt barley. The weather and any diseases will get you that.

Quality Requirements
The Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute says a good malting barley will have the following characteristics:

Pure lot of an acceptable variety
High per cent germination and vigorous growth 95% or over (3 day test)
Fully mature
Free from disease
Free from frost damage
Not weathered or deeply stained
Less than 5% peeled and broken kernels
Free from heat damage
13.5% moisture or lower is desirable
Not artificially dried
No desiccants
Free of primary insects, large oil bearing seeds, ergot, treated seeds, smut and odour
Plump kernels of uniform size
Low to moderate protein content - 10.5% to 13% dry basis

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Old 04-23-2009, 02:00 PM   #9
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Thanks, Lurker18! Scaling down a couple orders of magnitude, it appears that a 20' by 20' plot would yield about 17 lbs of grain. I doubt it would meet the quality requirements, but I don't mind having some unique flavors. I think I'll give it a try. Thanks!

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Old 04-23-2009, 02:18 PM   #10
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Luker
Thats great. 4840 sq yards per acre 1750 lb/acre

Thats 2.5 Yd2 / lb. So for a 1 yard wide row 16 yards long I would get about 16 / 2.5 or about 6 lbs malted barley

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