May 22, 2012

DIY roasting malts: crystal malt

I haven't managed to get hold of a coffee roaster for roasting malt yet but I thought I'd have a go at roasting some crystal malt in the oven and see how that turns out. As with last time, the info on Barleypopmaker was my guide.

I decided to use Maris Otter pale malt because I've got plans for a Best Bitter and I thought that the English MO crystal might give a nicer flavour than the ordinary crystal I use. The aim was for something reasonably dark, around the 300 EBC mark although I have no way of measuring that except by comparing it to commercial crystal malt.

I measured out 1kg of Maris Otter into a bucket and added enough filtered water to make sure the grain was totally covered. It soaked for around 4 hours.

I love the aroma of Maris Otter as it steeps
After that I mashed the grain at 65'C on the stove for an hour. This is the same as when brewing beer except that the grain isn't crushed. The enzymes are at work during this stage, converting the starches into sugar like they do in a normal mash and a fair bit of it remains trapped inside the grain. This is where crystal malt gets its sweetness from.

Into the pot
Next time a little less water so that more sugar stays in the grain
It took a bit of jiggling with the heat to keep it around 65'C

Then the grain goes into the oven at 120'C until it's dry. This part took ages for me and if I was doing it again I'd do a smaller batch so I could spread the grain out as much as possible to speed the drying up. I stirred it every now and then so that the grain dried out evenly. It tastes so sweet and soft at this stage.

Drying out took ages
Ready to go into the oven for roasting

Finally, the grain is roasted. The sugars are caramelised giving it that caramel/toffee flavour that crystal is all about. I roasted the grain at 180'C for 25 minutes at which point it was a nice, dark colour, I wouldn't have wanted to take it any darker.

The crystal malt just out of the oven

It tastes pretty good. It's quite dark and has a burnt toffee kind of flavour. There's roastiness up front and the sweetness follows on from that. There's also a deeper malt flavour to it than with the crystal malts I've used before.

Crystal and Maris Otter side by side

Overall, I'm glad I gave it a go but it did take me all day. It's the sort of thing that fits into a home day pretty well but would be a hassle to have to do very often. 1kg was really a bit ambitious with our crappy oven and that probably added a couple of hours to the whole process. Ultimately though, the finished product will determine whether this is worth doing again.

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