Making Your Own Malt

Enhance your brew by malting your grains at home.

  • Beer has been made across cultures for thousands of years, and has especially flourished in grain-centric agricultures.
    Photos courtesy of Voyageur Press
  • “Gardening for the Homebrewer” by Wendy Tweten and Debbie Teashon brings the process of brewing home by detailing some of the best practices for growing, harvesting, and fermenting your own ingredients.
    Cover courtesy of Voyageur Press

Gardening for the Homebrewer (Voyageur Press, 2015), by Wendy Tweten and Debbie Teashon walks through the cultivation, harvesting, and brewing processes necessary for making beer, cider, wine, and much more. As two seasoned gardeners, Tweten and Teashon know the fulfillment of growing food for the table and for the wine cellar. Assembling a brew book as a guide, the two seasoned gardening writers share their passion for following the process from “garden to glass”, seed to stein, barley to beer, and vine to wine. No detail is spared, packing in specifics of the best growing seasons, zones, varieties, and cultivation conditions.

Why would anyone want to go through the complicated home-malting process? For the same reasons you grow the ingredients and brew your own beer, of course: qual­ity, sustainability, and your love of experimentation! Barley is the best grain to start with, though with a few tweaks to the process, other grains will work with the following method.

The good news is that, while it can be tricky, there are just a few steps to malt­ing grains (and if you are an experienced gardener, you probably already know how to germinate seeds). The best time to malt barley is from late fall to winter — depending on your basement temperature — and when you have approximately one week to complete the process. You need a room that you can keep at 50°F (10°C) or cooler. The cool temperatures keep the grain from growing a green shoot. The same tempera­tures also prevent the grain from growing mold, fungi, and mildew.

You will need:

  • Two clean 5-gallon plastic buckets, at least one with a lid
  • One sieve bucket (a 5-gallon plastic bucket with 1/8-inch holes drilled into the bottom for drainage)
  • Thermometer
  • Scale that can weigh up to 20 pounds
  • Aquarium pump, tubing, and air stone as well as enough tubing to connect the air stone at the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket to the pump sitting outside the bucket
  • Food dehydrator (recommended) or oven
  • A basement or other dark space that stays at 50°F (10°C) or cooler
  • Baking sheets for oven or a food dehydrator

1. Clean the Grain

Weigh your barley for its dry weight before you clean it. This is an important first step so you will know when your grain is fully dry after steeping. Pour the grain into a 5-gallon bucket and fill with water. Stir the grain, and then let it sink to the bottom. The chaff, small bits of stems, and weed seeds will float to the top. Scoop out the floating debris. Stir again, and allow any debris to float while the barley sinks. Continue until you are satisfied that your grain is free of debris. Empty the cleaned barley into your sieve bucket and allow the water to drain completely.

2. Steep

The process of steeping barley takes seventy-two hours. Place your cleaned grain in the bottom of one of your 5-gallon buckets and cover with a ½ gallon of cool water at 50°F (10°C) or enough water to stand 2 inches above the grain while steeping. Allow this to stand for two hours. Pour the water and grain into the sieve bucket again and let the water drain completely.

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