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Old 09-25-2009, 02:19 PM   #1
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Default Home roasting expert needed!

For months now I have been working towards my goal of brewing a bitter that uses only MO, Goldings and fuggles. Most of my attempts at home roasting have added the complexity I want, but I have always lacked a good caramel taste.

I finally have acheived EXACTLY the beer I am looking for, but to get it, I had to add 3% of Special B to my grist. I have tried all kinds of methods to make a good dark crystal, so I now find myself stuck on how to achieve the home roast version of special B. For stupid reasons that are particular to my own brand of obsession I need to do this with Maris Otter.

So, Special B or a 180L crystal malt with a similar profile.....How the fook can I get that from roasting MO? Please? I have no hair of my own to pull out, and my dog is getting really pissed of at me for pulling out his.

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Old 09-25-2009, 03:23 PM   #2
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Not that I have any experience wtih it, but I'd be tempted to treat the MO as if you were making a nice bowl of oatmeal to eat - not the instant kind.

I'd mill the grain, add water and start cooking it on the stove.

Actually, maybe more like making risotto.

Take your milled MO and put it in the pan with just a little water and start cooking - and stirring - lots of stirring. As is cooks and starts to dry, add a little more water and lots more stirring - you're trying to use as little water as possible and not have it scorch, hence the lots of stirring. The less water you can add, that faster it will caramelize, but the more carefull you'll have to be. Keep slowly adding the water and stirring until you've got a nice porridge. It will be a bit tricky to get it right. When you're happy with your "barlotto" add it to the mash.

You might want to try and separate the husks from the endosperm, at least some of it. This will help with the caramelization and minimize any potential tannins releasing from the husks while cooking.

Hmmmm, I just may have to try this for my next crazy beer. I could make a "barlotto" beer with sauteed hops. I'll have to see how the sauteed hop beer turns out first.

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Old 09-25-2009, 03:38 PM   #3
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What you want to do is crystallize that MO.

This is very doable. I have 2 pounds in my oven as we speak.

You first need to rehydrate the grain by soaking it for 24 hours in chlorine free water.

Then you basically will be mashing it in the husk. First drain, and then put the wet grain in the oven at ~160-165 for 3 hours in a casserole pan that keeps the grain bed depth at around 2 inches. This will convert the starch to sugar. EDIT: This is the most important step by far. If you do not properly convert the starch you will not have sugar to caramelize. For that reason you want to make sure the grain bed is actually between 155-165 degrees. Any warmer and the enzymes will get denatured and not convert the starch.
Then you will need to brown and caramelize this crystal malt. This is a pretty long process to get to 180l but it is well worth it. It will be the best Special B you ever had. First split the grain into 2 or more pans so that the grain depth is ~ 1 inch. Turn up the oven to 220. Stir the grain every half hour until the grain gets dry and crisp and starts to darken. Maybe 2 hours. (At this point you will have 15-20l crystal malt) To take this to 180l I would spritz with water now and moisten so that the grain will continue to caramelize. Raise the temp to 300. Over the course of an hour to 2 hours this grain will go through the progressing levels of lovibond darkness. Keep close track. When you hit around 80l raise the temp to 350 and watch carefully, stirring every 15 minutes or so until you get to a point that is approaching, but less roasted than Special B. It will continue to darken some out of the oven and it is always darker than you think. Always.

Total roast time will probably be in the 4-5 hour range.

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Last edited by dontman; 09-25-2009 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 09-25-2009, 03:50 PM   #4
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It is funny that you have this goal.

My goal since a couple months ago and ongoing is to become an expert at producing authentic classic UK styles using authentic ingredients and serving techniques. I have been roasting my own grains also to this end.

When you perfect the crystalizing process your beer will make a leap in quality. It is so much better tasting than store bought crystal. It is hard to describe the difference. It just tastes more real.

I just floated an ESB last week that is honestly one of my favorite beers of all time and I have another ESB in the fermenter that is made with only my home roasted and crystal grains.

Oh yeah, you need to let the grain sit for at least a few days before use to let some of the harsher aromatics to dissipate.

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Old 09-25-2009, 05:52 PM   #5
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here's a link to a thread where I explain my homemade grain recipes:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f14/making-homemade-specialty-malts-caramels-chocolates-toasted-etc-133094/

My process does not take as long as Dontman's but seems to work out pretty good. Ditto's on the "letting the roast grain chill a week or two before brew"

during roasting take a couple of grain and slip 'em open with a fingernail and look at the insides, this will give you an idea of color better than the outside. You could alway take about 1/2 once and steep the grain in a clear glass cup of hot water to get an idea of color too...

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Old 09-25-2009, 06:21 PM   #6
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The popcorn popper idea is interesting. I actually started a thread this past week asking for anyone's experience using the convection feature of their oven. I have that but have never found a use for it. Randy Mosher suggested that it might be a good way to reduce roasting times and I was wondering if anyone had an idea of how much time savings.

Question: when you are basically steeping your malt prior to caramelizing have you tasted the liquor to see if you are losing much sugar?

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Old 09-25-2009, 06:28 PM   #7
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BTW my two pounds is through the "mashing step" and is into the caramelizing/roasting stage. It smells so good in my house right now. And I have all of the windows open with a nice breeze and it stills smells like sweet wort in the air.

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Old 09-25-2009, 06:29 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dontman View Post
Question: when you are basically steeping your malt prior to caramelizing have you tasted the liquor to see if you are losing much sugar?
I've never tested the specific gravity of the "runnings" after I drain. I guess I should. The water is slighty sweet though... so I imagine I'm loosing some sugar.

I've alway meant to try to soak my grains then plop them in the oven and let the oven heat convert the grains... you may loose less sugar? I dunno....

Sounds like a good experiment!
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Old 09-25-2009, 06:32 PM   #9
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Thanks guys! These methods are WAY more complicated than the methods I have tried so far......And I am absolutely fine with that!

I think I need to set aside some time and try all these methods side by side and use the results in some mini brews.

I'm honestly not sure why I have to try and be so self-sufficient, it's just the way it is for me. For some unknown reason I just feel a need to know that I can brew exactly the beer I want with the absolute minimum of LHBS bought ingredients. To this end I am using whatever I can from the supermarket (Demerara, quick oats, cane sugar for carbing) you get the idea..... I just want to know that if I have a few sacks of MO, some washed yeast, some homegrown hops and a way to boil it all.......I guess we all have our own little odd perversities.

Thanks again to all. This is exactly the info I was hoping for.

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Old 09-25-2009, 06:43 PM   #10
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Just thinking out loud here, and I applaud your dedication to perfecting this recipe and minimizing the list of LHBS ingredients.

Have you thought about using process to achieve the caramel character in your bitter vs. using crystal malt? I'm talking about kettle caramelization, a technique used by traditional Scottish brewers - boiling down the first runnings to reduce the volume by half and concentrating the caramelly flavors.

MO as a base malt, a touch of roasted barley for color adjustment and kettle caramelization.

I may have to try doing that with a bitter; I've been doing it for my Scottish ales for some time now.

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