Flaked corn as a specialty grain (unmashed)

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Yeast Farmer

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Years ago when I made my first extract brew, it was a Brewer's Best cream ale kit. The brew shop guy threw in an extra ingredient that wasn't in the kit, some flaked corn and a grain bag. He said it would help the flavor, and told me to steep it, like any specialty grain for extract brewing. That was, at the time, some of my favorite beer that I had ever drank, and what I really liked about it was the sweet corniness from the flaked corn.

Early this summer when I did my first all-grain brew, I figured that it would be fitting to make that one a cream ale as well. I used two pounds of flaked corn in the mash, expecting that same sweet corny flavor from my extract cream ale. But, while it was still a good beer, I was disappointed on that score. When I thought about it, it was obvious. Mashing the corn meant that I might as well have just added some sugar. The flavor in the extract version came from the unmashed corny starch in the brew.

I'm thinking about brewing a Kentucky Common tomorrow. I think I'll limit the corn in the actual mash to half a pound, and then steep at least another half a pound in the kettle after the mash. I don't remember how much I used in the extract cream ale. Maybe a pound, but that seems like a lot.

Anyone tried this before? One difference with the all-grain version is that I'd be steeping the corn in wort instead of just water, prior to adding extract. Seems a little unorthodox, but I'll give it a go and see what happens.
 
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I would think steeping the corn in the wort would essentially just be mashing the corn separately as opposed to steeping, as it will be exposed to the same enzymes the rest of the mash was. I’m sure a more knowledgeable brewer will point out any errors on my part.
 

dmtaylor

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It will add starches and perhaps improve corn flavor. The unconverted starch might also give something for wild organisms to eat, which might be appropriate in a Kentucky common based on some sources indicating that bacteria were present in samples from 115 years ago.
 
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I would think steeping the corn in the wort would essentially just be mashing the corn separately as opposed to steeping, as it will be exposed to the same enzymes the rest of the mash was. I’m sure a more knowledgeable brewer will point out any errors on my part.
I wondered if that might happen to some extent, but I'll be doing a batch sparge at 168 F, so most of the enzymes should be denatured by then.
 
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The experiment was a success, I think. I did my mash as normal, batch sparged at 168 F, then transferred it to the kettle and heated the whole works up to 168 degrees, which should have denatured any enzymes in the wort. I steeped a pound of flaked corn in it for 30 minutes, in a BIAB bag.

I fermented it with some Voss kveik that I saved from my last batch, which was an experiment in itself. I don't have any temp control, but I fermented it outside on the porch, during a period with some pretty cool nights. It was still bubbling a little after a week, and kveik is often done in a day at normal temperatures, so it definitely got a nice slow and cool fermentation with none of the typical kveik flavors from warmer fermentation. I ended up leaving it in the fermenter for 3 weeks, then bottled it.

As of yesterday, it was only in the bottle for a week, but I couldn't resist trying one. Steeping the corn definitely gave it a good body and more corn flavor with a little sweetness. Whatever starch it added to the wort must have settled out, because it wasn't cloudy at all. It had a lager-like smoothness, probably from the cool kveik fermentation, and reminded me more of a funky dunkel lager than anything.

As a complication, I had Covid in between brewing and sampling, and my sense of smell and taste is not back to 100% yet. But, what I could taste of it seemed pretty good to me. It will be interesting to see what happens as it ages and my sense of taste improves.

I definitely would steep corn in the wort again if I make another corny beer, but I would probably reduce it to half a pound for a 5 gallon batch next time.
 
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