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Whiskey from unmalted barley


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Hey folks,

I've been gearing up to produce some whiskey from unmalted barley. I've done a few very small test mashes so far and the results have been a little disappointing. My efficiency is traditionally good with corn and rye but these have been really reluctant to give me what I'm looking for.

Some details:

- I'm trying for a ~28 gallon beer (5 lbs grain w/ 2.2 gallons water up front for a final volume of 2.5 gallons wash)

- I'm gelating above 190 for nearly an hour

- have tried both 10% & 30% malt additions

- have tried to reduce viscosity with "rests" at ~105 and 130 (tho given mash thickness, I probably didn't wait long enough)

I eventually saw conversion pick up when I finally bumped my saccharification temp up to ~150, but in the end I still got much lower extraction than I do on corn and rye.

I have not done a starch test yet, though the wort does look turbid throughout the mash. I've assumed this cloudiness is from a protein-rich batch of grain. I have stirred these mashes as I normally do, which is every 20 or so mins. I'm curious if an abundance of protein/glucan can congest the wort to a point where conversion is compromised? Are the enzymes likely to just get bogged down like that?

At this point, I might try using the 30% malt in three additions: 3% premalt, 13.5% at start of mash schedule, then another 13.5% after 145 deg saccharification. I'm thinking with this last addition I can extend conversion into the high 150s w/o worrying about denaturing things too quickly.

I'm running out of ideas on this and would like to figure it out without hightempase or such.

Are there any particular tricks to mashing unmalted barley (and other protein-rich grains)?

Clearly the Irish make it work, and I'm guessing they don't use enzymes either.


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Unfortunately I think the route to this is enzymes. Many large producers use enzymes, or they resort to Aspergillus Oryzae (Alberta Distillers of WhistlePig, Masterson's and Lot No. 40 use this).

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Need more info. You can absolutely mash raw barley without enzymes, but only to a point.

What is the malt portion? Distillers malt? 2-row? Need more data.

What is the raw barley? Sourced locally from a farmer? Do you have specs on it?

Are you trying to lauter it?

How are you milling both the malt and the raw barley?

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The answer to the question is in the diastatic power level of your chosen grains which is why denver distiller is asking what types of malt you are using. The lauter will need hulls to create a filter bed but if you are doing grain in mash then you can get more fermenter conversion as well as long as you do not flame out at a high enough temperature to denature the enzymes.

A starch test will certainly help give you a length of time test on conversion. You'll need maybe 10% malt going into the cook, so that when you cool it down to do conversion you do not get a barley crete mixture before the enzymes have a chance to break bonds.

You also need to make sure you are cooking it at temperatures high enough to soften the proteins or they will not let starch loose. 190 for an hour should suffice.

The reason for 51% corn laws is because the rest of the malt is used to convert the corn, its necessary to get the enzymes somewhere, otherwise they'll be from a synthetic source. 6 row will be higher, wheat is high, you'll need to find out diastatic power needed to convert the raw barley, then make sure you're putting enough in there for them.

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I made a mistake in fully explaining my original thoughts. If you are going grain in, then you can mill much finer, to a powder for best efficiency, or you can mill 32/1000 for good hull retention to lauter off grains if you so choose. Both work, its just a matter of creating a filter bed with the hulls.

The other thing to work out is hitting your desired abv starting gravity. You need to have a wort with a potential high enough to actually hit your desired final gravity reading. So those would be goals of the cook, make sure you take notes on sg goal and make sure your cook times, etc are getting you close each time. You can always add water, its hard to add sugar.

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Thanks so for the input, folks. And apologies for my delayed response; it's truly incredible how important stuff like mash/fermentation efficiency can get pushed to the back on a big project like this.

I am currently using 6-row distiller's grain in 30% with the rest being unmalted barley. We are currently milling test batches with a hand crank monster mill. I'm unsure of the final grind size, but we tighten the gap on each grind and pass it through 3 or 4 times. Then we do a cereal mash w/o mash-out and distill on the grain.

Our barley is from a regional malthouse who found it wasn't exactly ideal for malting. I believe it had poor germination. Unfortunately I'm unsure of the variety and did not request analysis on it before it was on-site. Live and learn...

I am currently getting a bit more than 26 ppg off of the mash with a pretty involved mash regime. I suppose it could be a lot worse, but it's still throwing our numbers off a fair bit. Hopefully our roller mill will be operational soon and we can try a finer grind on it. Getting up around 27-28 ppg seems reasonable.

MDH, It's funny you mention koji fungus as I've been thinking a lot about it lately. Any idea if those big outfits ferment all their raw grains with it, or just small portions?

mendodistilling, thanks for the input on maintaining a reliable SG. But I'm curious, as I look at our cooker I'm a bit surprised there isn't some kind of float or something that indicates volume. Do you guys nail your volumes by flow meter?

This really is an incredible community on this site. I look forward to being a bigger part in it.

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From the sound of things, your grain bill should work just fine. 6-row (when malted well) has tremendous diastatic power. As a matter of fact, a smaller amount of it could be used. Having said that, your numbers don't seem to be getting where you want them to be.

If it's not an issue, you could try using a liquid enzyme in your mash. Most endo-amylase and glucoamylase enzymes are actually cultivated using A. niger or A. oryzae, which are (of course) the bacteria in koji. Cultivating koji on barley is difficult, and would probably require more investment than you'd be prepared to make to get it to a point where it produced a good yield. I've had some luck in the past using koji on rye grains, but again, it's equipment and labor intensive, even at the hobby level. It works best on grains that shed their hulls easily, or on grains with extremely high starch levels...corn works well, as does polished rice :-)

I'd try some Amylo-300 liquid enzyme in the mash, and see if that increases your yield. You can also put it in your fermentation, if you like, although I find the results there to be a bit unpredictable.

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