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Using Malt without a Malt Analysis Sheet

For an upcoming brew, I plan to use a 2-row pale malt from a small malthouse in Massachusetts called Valley Malt. Because they’re such a small outfit, they don’t publish the usual numbers regarding extract yield. Since other brewers have mentioned that their efficiency went way down with this malt, while a few reported normal results, I suspect their process is such that extract yield is inconsistent from batch-to-batch.

For these reasons, I’m thinking about just taking a pound of the malt and doing a small mash in order to have some basis for formulating my recipe. I’m hoping if I take the OG from the small mash (diluted to 1 gallon after mashing at my normal malt to water ratio), and divide that by my normal efficiency, it will give me a reasonable approximation of PPG so I can formulate my recipe.

Does that sound like it will work ok?

Also, can I just add the pound of malt to my normal ratio of water, and then adjust the pH to 5.3 with lactic acid? Or would I need to adjust the pH using salt additions like I would do for my normal full volume mash?

I think that would work for an approximation for what you will get as far as extract.

I think adjusting the pH with acid should work fine since you are not going to ferment it into a drinkable beer. You don’t have to be concerned with proper ion levels for yeast health, flocculation, and flavor profile.

Seems like the only thing that would make the extract yield change would be either variation in the amount of starch in the malt (which you can see visually if the kernels are fairly plump or puny), or inconsistent malting such that it would take longer to convert. You can run a fine grain extract test on the malt like you’re saying, but as long as you mash it a good long time you ought to be fine. My guess is that some batches are under-modified and these have less amylase so they’ll take longer to convert. I wouldn’t necessarily count on this malt to convert a lot of starchy adjuncts either.

I haven’t seen the malt yet - I’m picking it up this week to save on shipping. But I did read that some folks were saying the individual grains do seem smaller than normal 2-row pale. I wonder if it’s a regional thing with growing barley in the Northeast.

My first beer is going to be a Rye Pale Ale with about 20% rye and a little crystal rye. The rye malt should be able to convert itself, correct…?

Yes rye malt has decent diastatic power. Flaked rye doesn’t of course.

Yes that should work.

You could also use the “just wing it method” - assume an average extract for 2 row malt, make up your recipe and mash as ususal. Take the gravity reading of your runoff after stirring it vigorously to ensure that it’s not stratified with the “thickest” runnoff at the bottom of the kettle and the “thinnest” at the top. Cool the sample to 70 degrees or less before you take the reading. Multiply the reading by the total volume of your runoff the divide the result by your final anticipated volume to get a good idea of what your actual OG will be. Adjust by adding DME or water to make up for lower or greater extract efficiency (assuming that the extract efficiency from the other grains will be consistent with your past experience and/or published numbers).

This method is not as scientifically rigorous or elegant as what you propose, but it does work.

I was one of the folks that had good success with Valley Malt by just assuming it would yield the extract of any 2-row malt. I’m all for going ahead a doing a test mash like you say if you don’t mind the effort and use of this pricey product for it. Have you done your method with malt for which you have an analysis sheet? If you haven’t, you are really just assuming that your method will get you a comparable result as the bigger maltsters get. Not actually knowing that your method is spot on might just muddy the waters.

Why not just have a pound or two of DME on hand and brew the batch assuming that you’ll extract the typical 2-row gravity from their malt and adjust with the DME if you need to?

Ya maybe I’ll adjust with DME if needed for the first brew and adjust future recipes accordingly.

BTW - how did you like the Valley Malt product?

I’ve heard of this malt. Where can you get it and how much does it cost?

[quote=“JohnnyB”]Ya maybe I’ll adjust with DME if needed for the first brew and adjust future recipes accordingly.

BTW - how did you like the Valley Malt product?[/quote]

I like their pale ale malt. I made a decent northeast bitter using their pale, their crystal, and my hops. Their crystal was pretty dark; I tend to use a lot more 20-60 L crystal than darker ones. I’m guessing theirs was more along the lines of a 90 to 120 L crystal.

They are located in Hadley Mass. I don’t recall the price per lb. off the top of my head, but I believe it is on their website. I read recently that they are expanding to keep up the demand for their malt, which is made from barley grown primarily in Massachusetts if I remember correctly.

I think the barley is mostly grown in Maine and New York. I’m not sure where they’re getting the rye and wheat.

Hey did you think the 2-row pale was a little darker than usual too? I’ve read that and so have been planning my recipe out with 3 L for the value.

@Brewbeer22: You can pick it up at the malthouse if you’re buying in bulk, or I think they will ship smaller quantities. Some HBS around New England are also carrying it. In fact, I’m picking up an order on Thursday and also getting several sacks for my LHBS while I’m there. The price depends on quantity but it’s expensive especially in small quantities.

So I used this malt today and can share a few observations.

First is that maybe as much as 50% of the grain made it through my mill uncrushed. My mill is a Barley Crusher with the spacing at the factory setting, which always works fine with other commercial grains. I suspect that some of the people experiencing lower than normal efficiency may have mashed with a large percent of uncrushed grain.

I sent it all through the mill a second time, which pretty much pulverized everything. Since I also had rye in the malt bill, I increased the planned rice hulls from 4oz to 8oz just in case the extra fine crush caused run-off problems. As it turned out, I had no problems running off the wort.

My efficiency was actually a few percent higher than normal. I believe it might be due to the fine crush. With a normal crush this malt will probably yield the same as other 2-row pale malts.

The second thing is the color is much darker than most 2-row pale. Having heard this, I was planning my recipe at 3 L, but Andrea at Valley Malt told me it’s closer to 5 L. I think 5 L is about dead on, as my adjusted recipe calculation came out to 12 SRM, which is about where it should end up in the glass based on the brown color in the fermentor.

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