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 (or toasting) Your Malts Part 3

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.

Since my last installments on home roasting ( Part 1 which is an introduction and Part 2 which gets into experimentation and I make Special B ), I have been doing some more experimentation as well as research on the reactions of home roasting. The experimentation I focused on was working on comparing oven roasting to roasting the grain in a nut roaster (A drum roaster or something similar will give you the same results as my nut roaster). Each has a trade off, the nut roaster has more control and is a bit faster. The tradeoff for this is that things can quickly and very easily go beyond the point you intend. The second, is that at a specific point, the grain will start to smoke. The smoke can get very heavy very fast. I do find that the color in the nut roaster seems to be a bit more even. The oven is a much slower, but offers much better temperature control. There is also a bit less smoking. However, the roast appears to be a bit more uneven, and to keep the roast even you have to take the grain out and stir it, which will increase your roast time. You are also limited to being able to do the much deeper roasts because you need the control and high heat of a nut roaster, or other roasting vessel. Below you will see examples of several grain types for comparison in color and even texture. I must note that I did some experimentation with wheat malt and pearled (dehusked) barley and found the nut roaster to be a much better option for those types of grain.

Roasting Grain-The Reaction.
I covered this briefly in part 1 of my home roasting segment, but I will cover it a bit more in-depth here. Don’t worry, I will not be going into formulas and chemistry, I found that very boring. But understanding the reaction a bit more will help you come up with your own roasting varieties and experiments. The only process you really need to concern yourself with in home roasting malt is the Maillard reaction, which is not a single reaction but rather a grouping of complex chemical reactions between acids and carbohydrates. In short is a non-enzymatic browning by heat. During the Maillard reactions there are many different flavor compounds created, the number and type of compounds created depend on the food type being heated. In most cases what we get when we roast/toast grain is actually the formation of Melanoidins, which often bring a degree of caramelization-like flavors and aromas to the grain, even though it is not true caramelization of the sugars.

Nut Roaster or Oven?
So Below you will fin a bunch of pictures of what I am talking about in this segment, so if you want to skip this part, feel free. In a side by side comparison, I found that I was easily able to reproduce any grain in the nut roaster that I was in the oven. The key is to keep the grains moving and keep a close eye on the changes in color of the grain. Because the roasting goes so fast in a nut roaster (less than 5 minutes in most cases) it is very easy to get beyond the point you wish to get to, for example while making chocolate malt I easily went past my point and charred a few grains. I lost focus for only about 30 seconds as I stirred and watched what my son was doing for just a second. You also get a considerable about of smoke past a certain point, so if you don’t have a fan above your stove, you may be better off doing this outside. I found the best temperature to roast my grains in the nut roaster to get a decent even browning and not to over burn the grain or take forever to get to the browning point was at medium heat on my stove. I cannot stress enough that you really need to keep the grain moving. I did notice that you have 5 easily definable stages. The point you notice the grain starts to brown slightly, a slight crackled of the grain every now and again, a heavier crackle of the grain as it roasts, a light smoke, and a heavier smoking stage. The problem with using these stages though is that there is a lot of color change between each one, so you really need to mainly gauge the stage of the grain by your eye, unlike the oven where you can rely on time and temperature. I also found that the darker grains were much more even and had better flavor in the roaster than in the oven, even though it is much easier for the grain to get away from you once you hit that higher roasting stage. Below is a quick Pros and Cons of each roasting method.

Pros: Easy Temperature control, time is easy to control, Roast/Toast is consistent with your system, easy to provide instruction to others (toast grain at 350 degrees for 30 minutes is easy instruction to pass on).
Cons: Roast can be uneven at times if you don’t stir often, stirring often can increase roast/toast time, takes a long time to achieve roast, darker roasts are near impossible.
Pros:Faster Roast Time, Roast/Toast is more even, easy to get darker roasts not achievable in oven, visual gauging of the grain can give you a wider variety of roasts, handles dehusked or husk free grains a bit better.
Cons: Easy for the grain to get away from you (too dark or burned), grain can start to smoke, consistent roasts are hard when based solely on visual gauging, if roaster is too hot you will only brown the husk and not the starches inside.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me. Below are pictures of a few recent roasts as well as Marris Otter and White Wheat experiments. Note that in each picture I included a small amount of the unroasted grain for change comparison.

Now on to the photos

This is just a picture of the nut roaster. You could probably use a drum roaster, clean wok, or even a clean pat if you can keep the grain moving.


Golden Malt, in the oven (300 Degrees for 25-30 Min)


Deep Amber in the Oven (375 Degrees for 40-45 Min)


Brown Malt (400 degrees for 45-50 Min depending on you oven)


White Wheat in the oven (400 degrees for 15 Minutes) You need to remember that grains without husks will brown the starches faster and more direct.


White Wheat in the Nut Roaster till the grain starts to crackle.


I call this a stout roast. It’s beyond brown malt and quite black. It was too bad a some of the grains got charred, You need to be careful to avoid charring too many grains.


Home Roasting Your Malts (with Pictures):Updated

(Note: I have a part 2 to this post that is 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, this is straight from the sack 2 row, prior to 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.

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 difference 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 colander, and pour out the water, then let the malt drip dry for a while. It helps reduce the excess 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.