The thoughts that were thunk and the goings on of my life.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Malting Gluten-free Grains

My wife (along with about 1/150 people) has Celiac, and as such, she can't have any gluten protein which you will find in such staples as Barley, Rye, (some) oats or Wheat (BRoW).  One little problem for her though is that she's a fan of good beers.  Since all normal beers have at least Barley or Wheat, then you can quickly see that beer is one of the many items that she can't have.

Well...almost.  Essentially there is only 1 beer that is even slightly affordable in our area that is GF (Redbridge), and it sucks at best.  There is one other brand (Green's), but they are about $5.50 for a bottle and can only be found at Whole Paycheck and Central Markup.  There's actually one good and affordable GF beer (New Grist), but you can't find it in our area.

The problem is that there hasn't been all that much work done on GF beers since they are much harder to make and the ingredients are more difficult to come by than normal beer ingredients.  Also add to it that a lot of the beers try only 1or 2 ingredients and don't quite seem to find a balance of taste and body.  Therefore, I have set out on a bit of a quest to take the time to malt and toast my own gluten-free grains and see what combination works best to create something that approximates what a beer should taste like.

Originally I created a beer for her that was a fantastic and flavorful version of a Belgian White (like Blue Moon).  The results were fantastic, far beyond what I expected.  Unfortunately though, I malted Quinoa, Millet & Soghum all together and wasn't really able to tell what flavors came from which grain.  So, for my next batch I decided to be a bit more deliberate about the whole process and hope to do more experiments in the future which will help the gluten-free-beer-brewing public (yes, I know this is a fairly small sub-set of the world...but that sub-set has few resources).

So as the first part of this story, I will share the results of malting Red Quinoa, White Quinoa, and Millet.  The results actually surprised me...

Below you will see the 4 glasses of liquid made by soaking malted and cracked grains in boiling hot water in my french press and then left to soak for about 20 minutes.  This method works really well because you can easily strain out the grains and see what the resultant wort (baby beer) looks like.


From left to right:
  1. Unmalted Red Quinoa - Soaked in water for 2 hours, then toasted
    Roasting: 1.5 hours in oven at 350 F
    Color: 3-4 SRM
    Smell: Light, nutty
    Taste: Mild, nutty, watered-down

  2. Malted* Red Quinoa
    Malting Time: 2 days
    Roasting: 1.25 hours in oven at 350 F
    Color: 15 SRM
    Smell: Medium to full-bodied nutty smell, smells like non-GF wort with nuttiness
    Taste: Slightly bitter, toasted-nutty, sour notes

  3. Malted White Quinoa
    Malting Time: 2 days
    Roasting: 1.25 hours in oven at 350 F
    Color: 18-19 SRM
    Smell: Roasted coffee, hints of roasted pumpkin seeds
    Taste: Strong flavor, nice aftertaste...like coffee

  4. Malted Millet
    Malting Time: 3 days
    Roasting: 1.25 hours in oven at 350 F
    Color: 10 SRM
    Smell: Sweet and nutty, caramel tones
    Taste: full-bodied, even tone, hints of lightly-burned popcorn (in a good way)
*Grains were malted by allowing them to soak in water for 3-4 days until sprouts were about 2x longer than the grain itself.  Grains were rinsed 2x daily so as to avoid bacteria growth.

Lessons Learned:
  • Despite what some books say, you simply cannot soak & toast a gluten-free grain. If you want ANYTHING to come out of your grain, then you will absolutely have to malt it.
  • I thought red quinoa would have more color and flavor than white quinoa.  Turns out, the exact opposite is true.  White quinoa was darker, had more body and more flavor than either batch of red quinoa.
  • The line between delicious caramel malt and a charred malt is only about 15 minutes.  Next time I will pull the grains out earlier to try and get a more caramel-style malt.
  • The white quinoa and millet taste much closer to a real wort than wort made with White Sorghum Extract by Briess.  Sorghum tends to have strong sour notes, hence Redbridge tasting so bad.
  • I still have much to learn.
I ended up using the white quinoa and millet for my next batch of gluten-free beer.  They mashed really well (104-140-160 with 30 minute cycles) and the resultant wort was quite good.  Not only that, but when I discarded the grains they smelled delicious...almost like a cup of hot chocolate...or a bowl of coco krispies.  One thing to note is that there was a pretty high cold-break content compared to most normal beers that I've brewed. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the initial product, but I will have to wait another month until I see if the resultant beer is any good. This batch will take a little longer since I'm going for a gluten-free trapist ale and it will have such a high alcohol content.

I think that's it for now.  I'm currently playing with some Amaranth, Buckwheat and White Quinoa.  Once I know more about the results, I'll post them here for reference.

21 comments:

The BMW Mechanic said...

Dude! Very impressive write up. The beer I tried that you made was really awesome. Can't wait to try some more!

Kellsotr said...

We are in awe and quite inspired. Matt has not started brewing since we got to Texas, but he needs to get on the ball. I love the science you have applied to the whole process.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever test this out, and if so can you share your results? I am celiac, and very much miss good beer. I'm learning now how to home brew, and have begun researching alternate grains to brew with. Any advice you can give is appreciated! You can also email me if you like - brew at steelesite dot com.

Anonymous said...

Could you share your original "Blue Moon" like recipe? My son is a celiac and before that "Blue Moon" was one that he enjoyed. Or email ne3l underscore ham at yahoo dot com. Thank you.

nanoking said...

Great post! Best gf beer data I've encountered so far! Just getting started with my first gf beer experiment (malting some buckwheat now).

Cheers,
Sam

Dan said...

Hi Otis
I am so glad I found your gluten free beer posts!
For the last month I've been trying to brew a gluten free beer too, and it's been harder than I thought it would be.
I tried to malt quinoa, amaranth and millet, I let them soak equally for two days and let them germinate for three more days.
After this time the smell of the quinoa was too sourly strong, as well as the amaranth, just not so sour, but they both smelled bad... sadly, I ended up throwing away those grains.
I had better luck with the millet grains, I don't know exactly what variety of millet I used, but I had red millet and white millet. Although the smell grew strong during germination, it was a very pleasant one, much like bread. It germinated very fast, so I put 4.2kg in the oven for 1hr at 140° and another hour at 248°(120°c).
I did a decoction mash with rests at 95, 122, 149, but the starch never fully converted...
I only used 1oz of cascade hops as this is an experiment to try the millet's taste, and when the boil was finished the wort had a great beer smell. I used safele us-05.
The OG was so low that i didn't expect any fermentation, but it fermented for one and a half days, no krausen. After 1 week, since the gravity was the same, i bottled the beer.
The beer before bottling had a great taste, but an unusual smell. It has a very, very sweet and fermented smell, not like bananas but more like sugar cane fermented syrup... or pulque (a fermented drink brewed from magueyes).
I suppose that millet based beer should smell different than barley based beer, but I'd like to ask you: whats your experience with the smell of the grains during germination, and how did your beers end up smelling? I have also been reading that millet grains react to temperature in different ways than barley does, so in your experience, how can I extract more sugars from millet?
Thank you for the information you posted, it´s very inspiring (the japanese t-shirt folding is great too!), thank you for reading this and I really hope you can share more of your experience. Dan.

Bob said...

Otis -- This is AWESOME work, dude! Thanks for contributing to the greater good of the gluten-challenged by posting such valuable data! Will be conducting additional experiments applied to the next level of brewing. Happy to share.

Anonymous said...

Otis,

Thanks a lot for the info. How did the beers turn out?

I'm malting white quinoa and millet at the moment. I soaked both for 48 hours and 24 hours later the quinoa had an average sprout length of about 4x it's size.

The millet hasn't yet started, but I'll give that another two days.

I'll post the results in a month or so.

Thanks,
rob

Otis said...

Some of you have wanted to know some results and I've learned a lot in the last year or so.

Blue-Moon Recipe:
6 lbs Sorghum Extract
1.5 lbs Liquid Rice Extract
0.5 lb each of Millet, Quinoa, & Buckwheat malted, dried, then toasted lightly.
White Labs yeast.

For hops, flavorings, and times just match your favorite recipe.

GF Mashing
Starches don't seem to convert well in GF grains, plus the cold-break problems seem to be a result of high gelatinization temps. Hypothesis is that it would be best to just boil the mash first (most GF grains are huskless so you don't have a tanin problem) then do a decoction cooling of the mash add in some amylase enzymes, rest at 140 & 150.

The GF goo that results from a normal mash schedule is pretty significant if you're looking to all grain brew. So for the moment I would simply recommend use sorghum & rice extract as a base malt, and then add in some other GF grains as specialty grains only for flavor and color...don't expect too much out of them in the sugars department.

nanoking said...

Exactly what I found trying all-grain GF...holy goo, Batman! Thanks for the update and tips. It's very fun to malt your own grains at home.

http://taonk.blogspot.com/2009/10/gluten-free-ale-and-brown-gruit-saison.html

Otis said...

This is about the only way goo can be made fun:
www.worldofgoo.com

Fast and Danger said...

I was wondering if you had gravity readings for any of these beers, or if you took readings for the mash of those wort in the photos. I've been challenged to brew a decent gf beer, and would like to avoid extracts, but dont really want to use an absurd amount of grains to get 1.050 wort.
What are good gf sugar sources (im not gluten intolerant, friends are), I imagine honey right? corn sugar?
Anyway, this was a pretty helpful blog, thanks

RickAHyatt said...

I have a large bag of hulled millet, but it won't seem to sprout. Will it not, without the husks? I'm trying just toasting then boiling it, adding hops, sugar... Any other suggestions?

Jennifer-Adventuresome Kitchen said...

Have you ever tried Bard's? Of the GF beers on the market, it's my go-to.. I was a Guinness/stout/porter girl before I got diagnosed years ago. Bard's is far from that, but it tastes more like beer than others I've tried. I hate redbridge. St. Peter's isn't bad either, and I like their bottles. Thanks for the malting info- we're about to attempt homebrewing. It will certainly be an adventure!

38rakia said...

I find that obtaining malted millet is incredibly expensive and I'm just starting out in homebrewing--so malting isn't really in my cards yet.

Someone should seriously make malted millet easier to obtain.

Although when I do get ready to begin malting my own grains, I would love a step by step on how you did it.

RickAHyatt said...

Malying millet is really easy and cheap. Get the milled variety from feed. Grain only as hulls bad 4 u. Take about 6 cups & soak in Watanabe r overnite. Thereafter rinse & stain 2x daily until sprouted. Smalls or long 1s as u wish. Then spread on baking pans, roast with icreasing heat untl bown & crunchy. 250 2 350 deegrees 4 hous? Will store well as such. Take it & boil hour w hops etc. Boil sugar separately; not so messy. Add dry hps etc. Cool. Beer yeast, although u you can make ass kicker w wine yeast. 5 cups sugar 4 beer. Ferment in food grade 5 gal buckets abouy 2 weeks. Can easily prime 18oz bottles (oldSapporo bottles) w half teas sugar ok, but not too much! Maybe not heinekin but very cheap; more hops is the key. It is a kenyan recipet & fairly dark so I call it Obama beer! Prosit!

RickAHyatt said...

TMalying millet is really easy and cheap. Get the milled variety from feed. Grain only as hulls bad 4 u. Take about 6 cups & soak in Watanabe r overnite. Thereafter rinse & stain 2x daily until sprouted. Smalls or long 1s as u wish. Then spread on baking pans, roast with icreasing heat untl bown & crunchy. 250 2 350 deegrees 4 hous? Will store well as such. Take it & boil hour w hops etc. Boil sugar separately; not so messy. Add dry hps etc. Cool. Beer yeast, although u you can make ass kicker w wine yeast. 5 cups sugar 4 beer. Ferment in food grade 5 gal buckets abouy 2 weeks. Can easily prime 18oz bottles (oldSapporo bottles) w half teas sugar ok, but not too much! Maybe not heinekin but very cheap; more hops is the key. It is a kenyan recipet & fairly dark so I call it Obama beer! Prosit!

Charles said...

I have some questions about malting gluten free grains. What is the best way to contact you? I live in Texas as well, but in the Dallas area.

Otis said...

@Charles, post any questions here, that way others can see or answer them.

Mountain Man said...

I can give you my recipe for my Pale Ale, made from Buckwheat. I have 3 2nd place ribbons at the Santa Cruz County Fair on my pale Ale & the Brew Kit is available at Seven Bridges COOP, breworanic.com . contact me at szabel@breworganic.com and I can send you my IPA recipe (Also a second place ribbon, against real IPAs) - not available at Seven Bridges - yet.

Andrew said...

All right...tried to malt some millet but clearly failed. Did not see one sprout. After 4-5 days finally gave up and toasted the millet so I at least could have something for my mash. I'm guessing that I got the wrong millet...but the natural food store said it was whole grain millet. Any insight to what went wrong??? Thanks!