Unlocking the Secrets of the Grain

Written by Justin on February 1, 2011

As part of my ongoing attempt to learn as much about beer as possible, I thought it would be good to start researching and taking notes on the different ingredients that go into the brews I’m making.  I’ve been thinking about writing posts about them for the past week but wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to go about doing it.  This morning it struck me how I could try and distinguish the differences between the grains.

Brewing Tea

So here’s what I’m going to do.  First I’m going to lay some of the grains out on a plain white piece of paper so I can take a look at them.  This will be a good opportunity to look at the color that roasting imparted to the grain. I’m also curious to compare the looks of milled grain like chocolate to carafa to see what the visual difference is between husk and a husk-less grain.

But the more important part is the taste. So after the visual inspection I’m going to taste the grains dry. This should give me a basic feel for the flavors that particular grain should impart into the beer.  I’m most interested in seeing what types of flavors I get off the dry grain and then compare them to the grain tea.

Grain tea? What grain tea? Well my final step in this science experiment of taste is going to be steeping the grains in hot water, like making a tea.  Of course this wont be as good as an hour long mash but it should release some of the flavor and potentially even a bit of the mouth feel.  In my first experiment I was able to start the water at 160° and let it sit for about 15 minutes at the end of which it had dropped to 90°.  The SRM was a little bit off, again I’ll attribute that to the shorter sit at a quickly lowering temperature, but I think it will suffice for my experiments.

I’m going to attempt to do this with most of the base malts, specialty malts and I think even some other additions that I’m using in the next few batches of beers. I’m going to post my results up here so that I can refer back to them later and if you are interested so you can make note as well. If you’ve ever done something like this before please let me know how you did it and how it turned out for you. Next I’ve got to figure out the best way to play with hops.

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