Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Harder than I thought...

So it turns out that malting African grains really isn't that simple. There have been some complications, with both of the two grains.

The sorghum to be doing alright for the initial soaking. After a weekend of on and off soaking as per the instructions, I decided it was time to get it out of the bucket and let it dry, so I hung it up in a bag in the furnace room as a temporary solution. Unfortunately, I can be somewhat stupid and/or lazy, and so I left it there a tad too long. When I checked on it a few days later, there were roots and stems sticking through the bag-not a good sign. Turns out the whole thing had overgerminated. Also, there was mold on some of it. It was a tragic discovery. Tears were shed, wails were uttered, and there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Luckily, things weren't as bad as they looked. The moldy part was conveniently stuck together, so it could be discarded, and the inside of all the grains had the chalky, powdery whiteness that malting is meant to produce. So I took those as good reasons to keep most of the grain. I have since been letting it dry out on a tarp, and it seems to be doing alright. The stems and roots are withering, dying and falling off, and it's starting to have a rather pleasant aroma. It should be usable soon enough. Here is a close-up of what it looks like right now:

I hope to be brewing with it soon.

As for the millet, it started to have a sour smell almost as soon as it began soaking. This was quite worrisome, but I kept at it, hoping for the best. However, the more I soaked it, the stronger the sour smell got. While the sorghum was happily malting away, the millet was continually devoured by souring bacteria. I eventually gave up on it, and just left it in the bucket while focusing more on the sorghum until I could buy some more millet.

When I finally did buy a replacement supply (luckily, the stuff is cheap), I had to free up the bucket for soaking purposes. Imagine my surprise then when, upon pouring out the millet (which still looked okay on top), I discovered that it had been rotting from the bottom up. The millet on the bottom had turned gray. I can't describe how bad it smelled. I immediately whisked it outside, lest it stink up my smell-prone basement apartment for weeks to come.

My new strategy for malting the millet is based on the success I had at home with the small amount sitting on the paper towel. I have soaked it once, overnight in a bucket, but now it is spread out on a tarp, being constantly wetted to promote germination. Once it germinates satisfactorily, I will simply stop watering it and let it dry out. I also washed it much more thoroughly (by skimming off all the particulate matter in the water) before I soaked it at all.

I have also made one more purchase to go towards the beer:

These are an ancestor of bananas. They are similar, but more starchy and less sweet. I plan on using them as a source of sugars, flavour and yeast for the beer. Currently, they are ripening on the windowsill. They need to be real good and mushy before I can brew with them.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It's time for malting...It's malting time!

So the Nebraskan Sorghum finally arrived in the mail, which means that I get to do some malting!

For those not in the know, malting is a process by which grain seeds are allowed to germinate for some time, thus converting all their sugars to a digestable form. Then they are dried out, killing the sprout and leaving a starchy, sugar-packed grain which can be mashed into wort. In Africa, this is traditionally done in a very simple way, often by allowing the Sorghum and Millet to sit in a pot full of water for some time, then drying it in the sun once it has sprouted. Other techniques involve things like letting the grain sit in a bag immersed in running water.

Given my inexperience working with these grains, I am going to need as efficient a malting process as possible. Thus, I am being slightly more sophisticated and using a malting procedure I found at this website.

On the right is my malting set-up. The coarse grain in the bucket on the right is Sorghum. The fine grain in the bucket on the left is Pearl Millet. The pearl millet behaved very bizzarely when I filled the bucket; the water got sudded up! I hope that this doesn't mean anything bad was on the sides of the bucket. I did rinse it several times.

I have placed both buckets next to the radiator so that the water remains somewhat warm. From this point on, it's just a question of waiting and waking up at wierd hours to drain the buckets.

Here's hoping it works!