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Old 02-26-2008, 08:09 PM   #1
Feb 2008
Posts: 101
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Greetings all. Just joined today and have a few questions.

First off, I'm out in the sticks in lower Michigan. I have five acres that I'm going to put into barley and a few hundred square feet I'm going to put into hops.

I am going to grow beer from the ground. Specifically, I'm going for Doppelbock in the end. I'd like to lager a bunch of it over next winter. Temperatures here are perfect for it.

I have spent many days harvesting information from the Internet and from HBT. There are some things I have still not been able to figure out. I was hoping some of the knowledgable folks here can help me out; I have already tried more traditional avenues of approach and come up empty handed. Here are my questions so far:

1. Where can I get seed for two row barley? Preferably a tried and true malting variety. There are a lot of Canadian resources for this but I haven't found an American one. I don't need to go through the hassle of importing seed.

2. Is there anyone who can give step by step simple instructions for attaining a pale malt, a Munich malt, Crystal malts (20L, 40L, 60L), black patent, chocolate, etc. I will obviously be starting with living, breathing green malt and I need to be able to get the different varieties. They don't have to be spot-on perfect but I'd like to use 100% my own barley. I'm looking for something like "For Crystal 40L, roast the green malt for so-long at so-many-degrees in this kind of oven, taking care not to do this or that, and here is how it will look and smell if you've got it right." I've seen some "approximate" recipes for this but I'd like to see something with a little more specificity.

3. What is the easiest, most reliable way to malt at home with low technology? I am not going to build a machine like these folks... http://www.trash.net/~stmoser/beerbrewing_main.en.html but I do need a way to do this without molding, rotting, etc. and I don't have a concrete mashing floor.

I have already read Dan Carol's article and all the places he links from there.


I cannot afford any high dollar solutions such as "buy a real nice kiln for $$$$$." I'm a poor homebrewer!

A lot of folks discourage "beer from scratch" and home malting... I'm not here to be deterred... just please let me know if you have any pertinent advice.


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Old 02-27-2008, 09:45 PM   #2
Dec 2007
Posts: 92

I bet these guys would be able to help you out with a source for seed:


FARGO, ND 58103
Phone: (701)-239-7200
FAX: (701-239-7280
Email: [email protected]

As to malting processes, I would bet you can do a lot of what the trash.net page talked about with manual or semi-manual processes. I'm envisioning some kind of tumbling drum for the turning of the germinated grain.

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Old 02-27-2008, 10:54 PM   #3
Dr Malt
Aug 2005
Pacific Northwest
Posts: 305
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My advice is to take the home malting approach one step at a time and then reconsider the project at each step.

There is a reason there is a large number of home brewers and few if any true home maltsters. Brewing involves a process that can be conducted and measured by the home brewer with fairly simple equipment like thermometers, standard heating devices (like stoves and outdoor cookers), and buckets and carboys. Even a hydrometer is relatively inexpensive and easy to learn to use. However, malting requires careful monitoring of grain moistures, volumetric air passage and humidity measurements along with stepwise kilning and roasting temprature controls. Because of this, home malting can get expensive quickly and requires a bit of experience. ther are no simple recipes for the different kinds of malt and each kind of malt requires different processing and equipment. To further elaborate, to make a crystal 40L malt or any crystal malt you need a sopisticated roaster not an oven to carefully caramelize the sugars and then dry them at controlled temepratures to hit the 40L color. On yea, and you need a way to analyze for the finished color as color development in caramelized malt progresses exponentially not linearly. That means with 5 minutes more of heat, that 40L becomes an 80L.

I would suggest the following:

First, do some research on commercial malting and the science behind making malt. Then determine if it still looks like something you want to do at home on a limited basis and budget.
Second, on your next vacation or field trip, visit a malthouse. There are some around Chicago and Milwaukee. Unlike breweries, they do not have tours, but with some prior research and a strong interest, one of them may accomodate you to see the malting process. It is not something that is proprietary.
Third, if you still wish to proceed, get some malting barley and give home malting a try with small quantities like a pound or 2. Shoot for making an acceptable base malt. Try making a couple of repeatable batches (this is the tough part) in terms of enzyme activity, color and final moisture. Then assess if this meets your needs of time, effort, cost, etc.

Good luck.

Dr Malt

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Old 02-27-2008, 11:32 PM   #4
Feb 2007
Posts: 326
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If I had the land to grow barley, I would consider just learning to make a base malt and still buy specialty malts. this way you can just malt everything the same way and it will still spend way less on your grain by doing this. After you master your base malt, then I would experiment with specialty malts. I'm not trying to discourage because I think its a great idea, I'm just saying I think its better to step into malting slowly rather than all at once.

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Old 02-28-2008, 12:04 AM   #5
Poindexter's Avatar
Oct 2007
interior Alaska
Posts: 1,195
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I agree with the above. I have malted one pound of two row I found from an organic place via Google. Malting and kilning is a pain in the butt. When I go into the LHBS and see 25 different kinds of grain at $1.50/ pound, I feel like I am getting a good deal.

But, I would like to see someone sell me 2 row that I could sprout and kiln at my house. 2row and oats also. the trouble with buying seed grain - for me as the low volume maltster - is seed grain comes with fungicide sprayed on it.

Can you grow 2 row and oats that you can sell me as malt grade stuff with no chemicals on it? If I could get a pound of oats with no chemicals on it, sprout it, toast it, kiln it; I would probably pay $10/ per pound - but I am a marginal whack job, you probably won't sell hundreds of pounds at that price.

Also, check out Randy Mosher's "Radical Brewing", he has a whole chapter on this stuff.

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Old 02-28-2008, 12:23 AM   #6
Feb 2008
Posts: 101
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Thank you all for your contributions!

Poindexter, I will be growing without chemicals. It will not be "USDA" organic because that certification is a real pain and we are only really growing for ourselves. But once I finally find and grow my own two-row, I would love to sell some to other brewers just because it's been so hard for me to find and there must be a niche there for hardcore DIY types. We are also growing oats. I cannot guarantee how good they'll be but it's what we're going to be eating here so I am going to be taking the utmost care of them!

Joshpooh, your plan is a good one. I would initially need my own base malt to replace the pounds of grain needed for AG brewing; I'm not averse to buying specialty grains as they are needed in smaller amounts. The long-range plan is also to be able to kiln specialty malts but those will be explored one at a time until I can consistently create them.

Dr. Malt, do you recommend any specific resources for historical malting techniques? It's going to be a low tech solution after all. Perhaps a book which details historical small scale malting techniques. I am not averse to "buying knowledge" but I don't want to buy a book on malting science if it does not give me practical solutions. I may settle for a less consistent, lower quality malt if that's what it takes to be able to do it myself.

Jo3sh, I will try to contact those folks and see if they can direct me to a suitable supplier. My biggest issue is that I only need 3-700 pounds of seed depending on how much I decide to plant. I'm way far down on the pyramid of seed distribution...

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Old 02-28-2008, 12:58 PM   #7
EvilTOJ's Avatar
Dec 2005
Portland, OR, Oregon
Posts: 6,401
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I'd be very interested to see how your homegrown malting and hop growing turns out. My mom has been murmuring somewhat the same deal about getting some acreage to grow barley and hops on when she retires in a few years...
There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

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Old 02-28-2008, 02:37 PM   #8
Aug 2007
St. John's Newfoundland
Posts: 65

this is my dream....do you live near a good university library? you might be able to dig into the archives there for historical records or folklore or anthropology papers.

what about building a brick oven outside? could make pizzas and bread after you kiln a hundred pounds of grain.

i did come across this site though a long time ago. the barley appears to be backorder atm, but it says its good for malting...can't remember if it was one of the ones posted already

bottled:AG fuggles pale ale; o' flan's AG standard stout; AG english brown ale.

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Old 02-29-2008, 12:22 AM   #9
Feb 2008
Posts: 101
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Beenjammin, there are not many institutions of higher learning around, but I will check the ones within driving distance. I thought about the outside kiln/brick oven; I would have to figure out how they are made and what the cost is but undoubtedly I will have one some years down the road. I would like to bake pizza, bread, etc. without using propane gas. Temperature control and air flow control are my biggest problems to overcome at this point. I have looked at Johnny's; we are getting several other seeds from them. But their barley is six-row. Higher in diastatic power and probably fine for malting but not ideal for brewing the dark German bocks I am hoping to brew.

EvilTOJ, sounds like a good plan... I have been wanting to do this ever since I first tasted homebrew. I am a very old-fashioned type of guy. Old European ladies used to brew beer from scratch and sell it out of their houses - I should be able to do it too!

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Old 02-29-2008, 06:48 PM   #10
CBBaron's Avatar
Feb 2007
Posts: 2,786
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You are very ambitious to want to grow and malt your own grains.
Actually the growing is easy. The harvesting is time consuming but not complicated at your size. The malting and kilning/roasting gets tricky. Remember most of the malt varieties we use in brewing are relatively recent inventions.

I would suggest first perfecting your malting and kilning for your base grain. You will need to develop a method and materials that will allow you to efficiently produce a decent volume of malt. Once you have that step down then growing barley is worth while. It doesn't make sense to grow a couple acres of barley only to find you can not malt with sufficient consistency for your desires.

I don't know how much beer you plan on brewing but an acre or two of barley should produce more than enough grain to exceed the max allowed for a house hold. To plant that you should need only a few pounds of grain. The only reason you would need to buy a couple hundred # of raw grain is to experiment with malting. Your local AG service may be able to provide you with some help on growing barley in your area. I know Ohio has an agent in every county to assist farmers.


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