Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog

~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog - ~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Home Roasting your Own Grains Part 2 (Specialty Roasts)/Making Special B

It’s here! Roasted: the Homebrewer’s Guide to Home Roasting Grain written by yours truly ( Click Here for the Amazon Kindle Version)! It’s available as an Ebook Download through Amazon for only $2.99. The book covers a lot of the information contained in my posts, but also has additional information on base malts, and reading a malt analysis sheet. It’s not the longest book, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of books that cover how to brew and brewing science. This book focuses solely on the art of home roasting grain for beer. If you don’t have an Ereader, CLICK HERE to download the PC version of the Kindle App. You can then read the book on your PC.

In this post I will be working on a specialty malt called Special B. In order to do this, researching the best base malt to create your homemade version of any special malt is very important. I turn to malt datasheets, along with the special malt flavor andaroma profile to hel develop what I want this malt to taste like. To research and develop your malts, you are going to want access to datasheets. I use a lot of Briess products so I refer to the data sheets on their website often to get color and basic flavor profiles. You can find these here, if you only want to see an example of a data sheet, click here for a data sheet on standard 2 row. Mostly what I get from these sheets is the color, the type of roast, and general flavor profile. I can’t really control much else. (Just an FYI, I have a part 3 in this series as well, you can view that HERE.)

The major draw for me in making my own specialty and roasted malts is that it adds another depth of homemade flare to my homebrew. The downfall is that unlike commercial malts, you don’t usually end up with the consistency of the commercial product. If you can overcome that hurdle, home roasting your malts can become addicting. But let’s be honest. As homebrewers we tend to be quite anal about consistency. From mash temps to alpha acids to fermentation temperatures. Any minor change in a process or recipe can give you an entirely different beer. You can produce consistent malts at home, but you also need to be OK with minor differences from time to time. Also, because I use an oven and a nut roaster, doesn’t mean that is the only method of roasting. You can try coffee roasters, a grill, or whatever else you think may produce the result you are looking for. With all that out of the way, let’s look at my first run at making Special B.

First I had to look at what Special B is like. Special B is an An extremely dark caramel malt with a sharp, almost toffee like flavor. It should have a heavy caramel taste and is often credited with the raisin-like flavors of some Belgian ales. It is also 147 degrees Lovibond. Since special B is a Belgian Malt, I chose to use Belgian Pale Ale Malt as my base. Since it is essentially a very dark caramel malt, I decided to take that Belgian pale ale malt and simply use my caramel malt process to make the grain. Originally I was going to roast at 400 degrees in the oven to get the dark color, but as you will see in the pictures later, after drying, the grain darkened enough that I reduced the roast time and temp from 400 degrees for 40 minutes in my plan, to 300 degrees for 30 minutes. As you can see, you should plan prior to making a specific malt. you can also just wing it and experiment with creating your own malts. During my Special B project, I also wanted to make a very very dark caramelized Munich malt. You will see pictures of that during this post as well. That is why I wanted to mention it. Making this grain was just for fun and not based on anything in particular.

I started out Special B by taking a pound of Belgian Pale Ale Malt and soaking it for 4 hours. Once the grain is all soft, it is time to start “mashing” it in the husk. I bring my stove up to 180 degrees and place a thermometer in the grain. It is important to make sure the grain is kept in a thick pile to prevent it from drying out. You can even keep a little water in the bottom of the pan and stir often during the mash to make sure the grain always stays wet. After about 2 hours (which is how long I mashed this batch) then you are going to want to transfer the grain to a flat cookie sheet or shallow jelly roll pan for drying.

I mash the grain in a cake pan lined with tin foil. This ensures that if there was any oils on the pan do not get on the grains

Drying the grain on a large cookie sheet. For drying, make sure you keep the grains spread as thin as possible.

When drying, you do not want to roast the grain yet. If you have a food dehydrator, you may be able to use that but I wonder if it would take too long. I dry in the oven at 250 degrees and stir the grain often. It usually takes about 3 hours (sometimes more) to dry the grain. Once the grain is dry, you can then start the roasting process. If you have a specific malt in mind, you may or may not have to adjust the roast based on how far along the grain came during drying. This happened to me on the Special B Project and I adjusted my process to what looked to me like it needed 300 degrees for 30 minutes instead of 400 at 40, which a general roast of already dry grains will get you into that 145 degree lovibond range. This case, the grain already darkened a bit during the drying process.

Below is a picture of when i should have stopped roasting my Special B. I pulled the grain out 20 minutes into the roast for another stir and it looked to be right on. I took a picture of it, in case my extra 10 minutes made a drastic change int he grain. While it did not make a drastic change, it did bring the grain in a shade darker than it should be.

Special B, 20 minutes into the 300 degree roast

After the full 30 minutes was up, you can see that my first run at Special B brought in the grain a bit darker than it should have been. However, the taste is very close. As a matter of fact when I placed a small bit of each grain in each side of my mouth, the difference was very slight. My version has a little more of a roasted flavor, but both seemed equally as sweet and had very similar flavor profiles. Below is a side by side of commercial Special B and my home made version, I placed some Special B in the bowl on the left half and my home made version on the right half of the bowl. I had a few more darkened grains than what you see in the commercial version as you can see. I really wish I would have stopped at 20 minutes.

Side by Side of commercial Special B and my version

So all in all, here was the grains I made that day. The commercial Special B is on the left, then my version in the middle, and a dark roasted caramel Munich malt on the far right.

Home Roasted grains.

So Below is my recommended process for making homemade Special B.

Soak 1 Pound of Belgian Pale Ale malt  for 4 hours in filtered water. Place the malt in a cake pan (or pour the grain into a pile) the place in a 180-200 degree oven for 2 hours. Monitor the grain, and if the grain temp gets above 160 degrees turn off the oven for a while. Keep the grain in that 150 degree range for 2 hours, stirring often (about every 15 minutes). Once the mash is done, spread the grain into the thin layer and dry in the oven at 250 degrees, again stirring often. Once the grain is dry, based on the finished color, ramp up the oven to 300 degrees and roast for 20 minutes (or when the grain looks done). Let it rest for 2 weeks before using in a beer.

Dark Caramelized Munich Malt

Soak 1 Pound of German Munich Malt for 4 hours in filtered water. Place the malt in a cake pan (or pour the grain into a pile) the place in a 180-200 degree oven for 2 hours. Monitor the grain, and if the grain temp gets above 160 degrees turn off the oven for a while. Keep the grain in that 150 degree range for 2 hours, stirring often (about every 15 minutes). Once the mash is done, spread the grain into the thin layer and dry in the oven at 250 degrees, again stirring often. Once the grain is dry, ramp up the oven to 325 degrees and roast for 25 minutes (or when the grain looks done, but not burned). Let it rest for 2 weeks before using in a beer.

Have fun, and Experiment!

Is it important to use filtered water when making caramel malt? Can I just use tap water? You could, but municipal water tends to have either chlorine or chloromine in it. These will get into your grain and could cause some off flavors in the final product. For piece of mind, I’d stick with filtered or bottled water. If you must use tap water, I would let it sit overnight before using it. This will help if your water utility uses chlorine, but will do nothing for the chloromine.

 

Home Roasting Your Malts (with Pictures):Updated

(Note: I have a part 2 to this post thatis based on my first run at making Special B, I also have a part 3 which covers more on Melanoidens and other methods of roasting besides the oven (drum roasting, nut roasting, pan roasting, ect)

It’s here! Roasted: the Homebrewer’s Guide to Home Roasting Grain written by yours truly ( Click Here for the Amazon Kindle Version)! It’s available as an Ebook Download through Amazon for only $2.99. The book covers a lot of the information contained in my posts, but also has additional information on base malts, and reading a malt analysis sheet. It’s not the longest book, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of books that cover how to brew and brewing science. This book focuses solely on the art of home roasting grain for beer.

Roasting your own grains is an awesome way to add another personal touch to your homebrew.  I love roasting my own malts and even make my own crystal malt from time to time. It is so easy, and all you need is an oven and some time. Roasting your malts doesn’t take more than an hour at the most, except for crystal malt. Home roasting adds some awesome malt flavor to your beer. I have won awards with some of the beers that have home roasted malts in them. One of them is my highest scoring beer with a 43 out of 50. So great beer with home roasted malts is quite possible. Granted, you don’t have the consistency of professional malts, but you have added more home-made factor to your beer.  For more on this topic or how to do your own crystal/caramel malts I suggest buying Randy Mosher’s Book Radical Brewing, which is where I started to base my roasting methods off of. You can of course purchase my Ebook; Roasted: A Homebrewer’s Guide to Home Roasting Grain.

Why it Works
The roasted grains you get from your homebrew shop, mostly start out exactly like the two or six you pale malt you are buying. The difference is how they are treating the grain afterwards. They have specific process that they follow each time and have exact temperatures and testing equipment to ensure a consistent and stable product. But in the end all they are doing with the malted grain is playing with the browning reaction called Malliard Reactions. Mainly this is an altering of the flavor and aroma of the grain by browning the starches and proteins inside the grain to a specific degree. The changes in color, again the browning of the starches and proteins  change the chemical properties of the grain my changing the melanoidins in the malt. It is reported that this melanoidin change also helps preserve the beer by slowing the oxidation process of the beer.

Before We Begin
There have been some questions on whether it is necessary to let your grains rest for 2 weeks prior to using them. I highly suggest doing so, but if you find you can’t wait, just make sure you are using the lighter roasts. The rest time allows for unwanted aromas that are produced during the browning of the starches in the grain to dissipate. From what I can find, this is mostly for the darker roasts, possibly deep amber and above. I have found that as a general rule, the professional maltsters allow their roasted/toasted grains to rest for 4-6 weeks. I personally have used some grains after a week without any noticeable off flavors or aromas, but then again none of those were the richer roasts.

The Process

  • For Gold Malt (est. 20 L) that is malty, caramelly and rich but not toasty roast your base malt for 25 minutes at 300 degrees F.
  • For Amber Malt (est. 35 L) that is Nutty, Malty, and lightly toasty roast your base malt for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  • For Copper Malt (est. 100 L)that has a strong toasted flavor with some nutlike notes roast your base malt for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F.
  • For Brown Malt (est. 175 L) that has a strong roasted flavor, roast your base malt for 50 minutes at 400 degrees F.
  • For Chocolate Malt (est 200+ L depending on time and heat): You need more heat and control than what you can get in the oven. For Chocolate malt use a clean stainless steel  or cast iron fry pan on low heat, slowly bringing medium-high heat. You need to stir or shake the pan constantly and not let any kernels sit still or you will end up with scorching instead of dry roasting.
  • For Crystal/Caramel Malt soak 1-2 lbs of pale 2 row in just enough water to cover plus about an inch (make sure you use distilled, filtered tap, or spring water). Let soak for a few hours, but no less than 2 hours and no more than 24, I soak for 3-4 hours. Then Put grains into a pan and keep grains about 2″ deep then place into a preheated 180 degree oven (make sure you have a probe thermometer in the oven and not to let the temps inside the stewing grain to go above 160. If they do reduce your ovens temperature) for 1 1/2 hours. Then spread out grain into 2 separate pans and make sure the grains are no more than 1″ deep. Then increase temperature in over to 250 and let bake for 2 hours or until dry. Then if desired remove from oven for light crystal, or use the roasting guide above to create your own darker versions of crystal malt.
  • You can also do what I call Sudo-Caramel malts. To do these you just wet the grain a bit to change the flavor and aroma profile and add a bit of sweetness to the grain. You will not get as much sweetness as if you do a full caramel malt process above, but you will make a great grain for both all grain and steeping grain for extract. Generally what you are going to do is soak the grain for under an hour, I find a half hour works well to impart a bit of wetness to the grain. You can use the same temperatures above to produce similar grains but add a touch of sweetness.


In the end, everything is all up to you. Use these above processes as a guideline, but not as law. Have fun, try different temps and times. Play around with wet or dry roasts as well as caramel malt processes and develop your own specialty malts. There my friends, is a truly unique beer that will be difficult to reproduce. Just don’t fear roasting, your really can’t screw it up if you pay attention to temps and times. The Photos. (you will notice I line my pans with tin foil to avoid getting any oil or grease from previous uses of the pans. You could use dedicated jelly roll pans if you want. But you do not want any oil or fat getting onto your grains)

This is our control picture. This is straight from the sack, 2-row Brewers malt. This is what it looks like before roasting.

This is Deep Amber Malt as described above halfway through the roasting process. I like to stir it halfway through to get a more even toast.

This is finished Deep Amber Malt as described above. This is probably my favorite roast to make.

This is Amber Malt as described above. Slightly lighter than the deep amber.

Here is a side by side of some pale golden malt as I have described above and some unroasted pale 2 row. It is hard to tell the differnece until you do a side by side, then it is obvious.

Golden Malt as I have described in the process at the top of the page.

Crystal Malt in Process.

I like to soak this way for three hours. Then I just pull up the collendar, and pour out the water, then let the malt drip dry for a while. It helps reduce the exess water. Generally, I do a pound to pound and half max.

This grain is not roasted, but it is wet grain. I place it in a small mound then cook it as I have described above. Essentially, you are mashing in the husk.

This is the finished crystal malt. The drying time is the longest part, but once dry and you start the roast, it’s all up to you how to make your crystal/caramel malt. The one in the picture was roasted at 325 degrees for 30 minutes after drying.