Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Milling Grain

I'm planning on brewing sometime in the next week and thought I should discuss one of the most important aspects of all-grain brewing. Malted and unmalted grain must be properly crushed before the brewing process can begin. Brewers differ on their definition of "properly," but the general consensus is that the kernel should be crushed instead of pulverized and, in the case of barley, the husk should remain partially intact to form a natural filter bed when the mash is drained (sorry in advance if this post comes off as overly geeky!). Most breweries and experienced homebrewers use a roller mill that employs opposing steel pins to evenly crush the grain, but I have had success using the much-maligned (in brewing circles), but economical ($40 instead of $100+) corona mill.
Designed to churn out corn meal, the corona mill forces whole grains through opposing steel plates that can be adjusted to produce varying degrees of coarseness. It really does an excellent job once you learn how to adjust it properly, and all the cranking tones the biceps, so what's not to like?

When crushing barley malt for brewing, the results should look like this:

My beer will be around 80% barley malt and 20% unmalted wheat (which will require a brief period of cooking to break down starches and a mill adjustment to account for its smaller size and lack of husk). To ensure an ample filter bed, I will mix a couple handfuls of rice hulls (tasteless, natural filtering aids) to the grain mixture before mixing in the mash water. This is a vital step when dealing with significant quantities of huskless and/or unmalted grains like wheat.

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