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Old 06-01-2011, 11:13 PM   #1
Jun 2011
todmorden, England
Posts: 7
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My wife has coeliac disease. The Bosk gluten-free beer kit disappeared from the market just after I got interested in making her some but before I bought the gear.
So I started doing wine instead. I also made ersatz beer from Duncan Incapable's recipes, and they're very good, but, not, you know, really beer.
You can't google round the subject of gluten-free beer for long without discovering that in Africa beer has been made from millet for millennia.
Takes a bit more effort to find actual recipes. And what's it going to taste like anyway? It's not barley. The Africans don't use hops.
We were in our favourite Asian C&C stocking up on chili flavoured snackfood when I spotted a bag of millet...
From various online recipes for normal beer I guestimated 2oz of millet to make a pint, which seemed good as a feasibility study.

First of course I had to malt it: didn't even know if it would, which is partly why I started with such a small amount. Standard sprouting procedure beloved of healthfood nuts. I let it go for a couple of days. I've since learned I shouild have let it have 4.5 for maximum starch conversion.
I dried it gently in a very low oven and then gave half of it a very gentle roast - too gentle, I now believe.

I then ground it in a pestle&mortar, not too finely. From what I've since read about cracking I suspect I ground it too fine. On the other hand, some academic papers I've seen use millet flour in their experiments, so maybe it was OK. Scope for a lot of further experiment there.

To give it the best chance I tried to do the full stepped infusion mash with rests for beta-glucanase, protease, beta- and alpha-amylase.
But in the small pan I was using, on a standard hob, accurate temperature control was near impossible.
The temperatures for the rests may not be the same for millet and barley anyway - more diving into the academic papers required here.
I chucked in a bit of shop-bought amylase as well, just in case.

I strained it, didn't bother sparging, added some isomerised hop extract, and gave it a boil for an hour.
It needed some extra water to leave me with the desired pint at the end of this.
I also added some sugar as the OG was only 1020@28C, to get it to 1037

I split it between a couple of small PETS and pitched a little bit of Munton's Gold.
I let it ferment (room temp, 22ish daytime) 9 days, though it was nicely cleared after 8. Had to release some gas fairly frequently and when doing this sometimes gave it a bit of agitation as I suspected the stuff on the bottom was fermentable solids rather than just trub.

When it came to bottling, I couldn't get it all out without stirring up the trub (tried using a turkey baster to pipette it out) so I only ended up with 330ml in the end.
Fitted nicely into an old ginger beer bottle, anyway. Added a little priming sugar.
The sneak taste at this point: very thin, lacking in flavour, but definitely beer-like.

One week in the bottle turned it into a rather pleasant drink, despite the rough&ready method and various mistakes I've glossed over a bit here.
It is just a little thin, and a little lacking in flavour, but definitely beer-like.
In fact, definitely beer. Not entirely unlike the blander continental lagers, but with a slightly creamy finish.
My wife was quite enthusiastic about the idea of further experiments.

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Old 06-02-2011, 05:44 PM   #2
DKershner's Avatar
Jul 2009
Bend, OR
Posts: 1,870
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Since your beer is half sugar from millet and half what seems to be table need to realize that you are only tasting half millet. Table sugar imparts a light, but very distinctive flavor that you may be tasting.

Also, what was your FG? This information is vital to determine if fermentation went well.

22 is a little hot, but mostly of course the wide variability in temps will be a problem, especially with such a small volume. Munton's is fine yeast, but chances are very good you are tasting several off flavors tossed from the yeast. Your short fermentation period did not help this either.

Just letting you know potential issues you may be tasting, otherwise your experiment seems sound enough.

Next time double the millet and forget the sugar.

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Old 06-02-2011, 09:09 PM   #3
Jun 2011
todmorden, England
Posts: 7
Liked 1 Times on 1 Posts

Yeh, I guess the pre-sugar OG was low as I didn't malt or mash efficiently.
I added sugar to try to get to a final ABV of around 4 to 5 %.
If I'd taken enough out to fill my hydrometer test jar there wouldn't have been enough left to drink! Activity had pretty much gone invisible when I bottled but the cap hit the ceiling when I opened it, so maybe I could have left it longer.

NB When I say pint I mean Imperial pint....

I have 12oz of millet left in the house, currently.
I'll malt it all as best I can, leave some of it pale for body but roast most of it a bit darker for flavour, then should be able to do a better controlled mash (picking up an 18ltr Swan boiler shortly, though I'm not sure what controls it has on its heater yet).
I'll aim for 6 (Imperial) pints and if the OG is low again, boil it down more.
I have some real hops here somewhere, too, but they may be stale.

That should give me some pointers for what to do with the next 2kilo bag of millet I buy. I'll stick to doing a gallon (Imperial!) a time until I get something I'm happy with (though the wife's first reaction to this experiment was "That's nice!", anyway). Malting enough millet for more than that is going to be a pain anyway.

Thanks for the comments

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