# How much malt?

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I run a small malt house in Reno, Nevada USA. I have a distiller that wants to yield 10, 60gallon barrels of single malt, how much grain should I malt to mash and ferment to get to this quantity. Up to this past week I have malted for local breweries and home brewers. This is my first introduction to the world of distilling. What parameters/specs do you like to see in your malt?

Thanks

Lance @ rebelmalting.com

775.997.6411

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In order to be able to answer that question, you would have to be able to tell us the fermentable sugar yield for a a given quantity of grain.

If we know this we can use tried and expected efficiencies to go from sugar quantity to alcohol content in the barrel.

It would be just as easy if you knew the ABV of a beer made from that grain and the grain bill.

A good target is 42% weight for weight sugar to alcohol. Just some round numbers the weigh of alcohol is around .79 kg per L. The 42% is what is drinkable after all the heads and tails cuts and process loses. Your results may vary.

a small example is HFCS fermented. 1kg yield 87% sugar. .87kg sugar to alcohol is .42 X .87 / .79 yields .46L alcohol. diluted to barrel strength at 62.5% gives you .74L which about right.

working this example backwards: 600 gallon would be 2271L the pure alcohol content would be 2271 *.625 or 1419 L

the weight of 1419L would be 1121 kg, the weight sugar needed for that would be 1121kg / .42 to yield 2670 kg sugar.

if your grain is 50% fermentable then you would need 5340 kgs. grain. in US units that is nearly 6 tons grain.

From another way of looking at it, is if you make a 5% beer by whatever method, and you know what quantity grain is needed to make that beer then you still need 1419L pure alcohol. that would be 1419 / .05 or 28380 liters beer not accounting for heads and tails. This could easily grow to be 50000 liters to supply enough for the needed quantity of drinkable alcohol.

I hope this helps. Maybe someone else could give the expectations from a brewers point of view and not an engineers. These guys speak in odd quantities such as barrels which are 33 gallons. 400 barrels of beer for 600 gallons single malt?

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I have no doubt that's a good answer but please share how you got there from 600 proof gallons of spirit. I know Lance wasn't that specific, but that's why I'm asking what rough assumptions you made to arrive at 15,000 lbs.

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I estimated 12000. 15000 may be for a less efficient system. that is only a 25% increase in the estimate. Very liberal grain bill allowing lots of waste.

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Here again, you had to make some assumptions based on Lance's sketchy specifications. What are they?

I'd suggest to Lance that he insist on cash in advance since a purported distiller who has to ask his maltster that question is off to a bad start.

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Sherman actually covered some of that. But let's look at some numbers.

The OP wants ten 60 gallon barrels filled with whiskey. One problem is that we don't know at what barrel entry proof. The legal maximum is 125, so let's go with that. So that means 10 x 60 = 600 wine gallons of whiskey, 750 proof gallons.

Another thing we don't know is what kind of mashing & fermentation the distiller will do, whether they'll use commercial enzymes to boost the alcohol yield. Let's assume they're going for yield as best they can without enzymes (since we can't measure flavor). Sherman's 0.05 factor is for pure alcohol (if I read his stuff right) and identifies the reduction from mash to final spirit. It's a good number that matches a lot of practice. But since we want only 125 proof whiskey, our factor will be 0.0625. So for every 100 gallons of mash, we'll get 6.25 gallons of 125 proof whiskey to barrel. (Dr. Kris Berglund has published in his free Artisan Distilling pamphlet suggests an 80% reduction from mash to low wines, and a further 50% reduction from low wines to high wines, or spirit. But he's also basing his numbers on a fruit mash, and these's often have higher yields.) We don't know what distillation proof the original distiller is looking for, but for the sake of simplicity lets' just assume that these are reasonable approximations that will get us close enough.

So we can now say we need (600 ÷ 6.25) x 100 = 9600 gallons of 5% ABV mash. Maybe it'll be a little more depending on choice of yeast, cuts, etc. Let's estimate low, and if we need more barrels, so much the better!

Research on grain bills and watering ratios indicates that historically these can run from 1.0 to 2.0 (pounds per gallon), with a middle value being common. So about 14,000 pounds of malt will be needed assuming 1.5 pounds of grain per gallon.

Sherman looks at the problem at this point from the perspective of the theoretical amount of sugar, and expected extraction and conversion ratios that are well known from brewing.

Hopefully that helps.

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Thanks. That's what I was looking for.

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See? Like I said, 15,000 lbs.

Of course, what he asked was how many pounds of grain he would have to malt, not how many pounds of malt would the distiller require. Typical malting loss is 8-10% but thats for the big guys using Saladin boxes, I'd guess that with his small scale floor maltings he's running more like 12-15%.

But my point in giving an off the cuff answer of 15,000 with only 10 seconds thought is that there is no information to go on.

Malting loss

mill efficiency (most of the little guys just have two roller mills)

Lautering efficiency (he did say malt whisky)

cuts,

etc

etc

etc

15,000 lbs

There is no real info to go from, but the various calculations were entertaining

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The big one, is lautering efficiency. If this guy doesn't know how much malt he needs, it's more than a little likely that his lauter tun will be a complete POS. You can drop 20% of your available extract right there, easily.

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Hi, I also own a small malt house in New England, and am interested in another part of Lance's questions. At the end he asked what kind of specs you look for in the malt. There are so many variations in the malting world on types of malt. It appears from the discussion that you are mainly looking at extract, but is color, protein, diastatic power, 2-row vs. 6-row and degree of modification a concern? If you look at your malt supply how consistent are the batch analysis sheets - What do they say? Traditionally in the "old country" it is my understanding that most distillers malts are smoked, does the distiller want 100% of their grain bill to be a smoked malt - does the flavor come through in the final product?

Enjoying the post.

-Christian

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Up until just a few years ago, you could only get distiller's malt ---essentially barley that's been malted to provide maximum Diastatic Power for those who don't know---- in sacks from the UK, and even then, only by the pallet. No one here in the States made it in less than truck quantities. I wish a maltster had asked me your question about 10 years ago! You can now get it from two sources that I'm aware of....

Any other brewer's malt under the sun can be obtained with ease, including peated malts with specific phenol levels, so really, there's not something that small distillers need that isn't out there. Perhaps unmalted barley in sacks to make an Irish Style whiskey? I've never seen that offered in 25 kg sacks.

Of course, there's always room for new styles of malted barley, but IMHO, there isn't a specific need for small distillers that isn't being fulfilled by the current malthouses.

Just my opinion, of course.

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Wow, I guess there's more than one way to skin a cat (or make malt whiskey)! I use considerably less malt/barrel, but my process is quite different.

I worked with my malt house extensively in the beginning to find the right combo of strains (available proteins, DP, etc) and malt profiles to fine tune the extract efficiency for what we were doing. They have malt programs set up for different brewery and distillery profiles, but most of that malt was used as a base for beer or just enzyme conversion (and viscosity reduction) for bourbon. I needed something somewhere in the middle. What I get from them works extremely well... but, again, it works well for me. Others with different processes may want/need something else.

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Micro distillers use malt extract? This never occurred to me since no macro distillers use extract. Is this common? Universal? Accepted practice?

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I haven't run into any, Mr. Cowdery. That doesn't mean that they aren't out there.

Is there any chance you're misinterpreting absaroka's use of the phrase "extract efficiency"? If so, he's simply referring to the ability to get available starch (and eventually sugar) extract out of grains. It's a number you need to formula a brew/mash, and it's also used to help you to calculate losses.

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Actually, I was responding to Clarity's comment, "It appears from the discussion that you are mainly looking at extract." I'll be glad to learn I misunderstood. Then again, I know of people who call themselves craft distillers and make rum from brown sugar.

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Extract as in the conversion of starches to sugars. Here is a chapter from John Palmer's How to Brew (online version) that discusses the theoretical and practical limitations of this conversion. A table of typical malted grain yields is given. Followed by a brief section on extract efficiency.

http://www.howtobrew.com/section2/chapter12-3.html

http://www.howtobrew.com/section2/chapter12-4-1.html

http://www.howtobrew.com/section2/chapter12-5.html

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I get it now. My mistake.

But now I'm wondering ...

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Yes, it is an interesting idea and might produce good whiskey with a quality malt, but not sure it'd be cost effective. Though if a producer could deliver in tanker truck sizes, or railcar quantities, maybe it could be done. There may other problems, and I'm sure someone knowledgeable will tell us why.

But not doing your own mashing seems like missing out on half the fun.

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the worst thing is the price and shipping. I have bought malt extract from MaltProducts. It was \$143 per hundred weight. Good enough for packaging and resale as an ice cream topping but not for making beer or whiskey. As an ice cream topping it was bottled and resold for \$5 a pint at the local flea market. I can't say it would ever be cost effective except for home brewing. The local brew shop is selling it for \$12 to \$14 for a 3.3 lb can. ouch.

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