One of the many, many, many challenges of brewing in the tropics FAR from any beer culture, beer supplies or beer ingredients is getting those very things!
We can only smuggle 250 pounds worth of ingredients per trip back from the US. So eventually we run out of something we need to brew a beer.
This week we decided that we wanted to brew a Robust Porter. Nevermind that we did not have any dark roasted malt. No chocolate malt. We DO have some Belgian Special B (my favorite malt of all) and some US Special Malt. Both are around 175 L caramel malts with profound raisin and dark fruit notes and great color and body properties. But we have nothing darker and nothing roasted.
What we do have is a decade of coffee roasting experience. Taken another way we have quite a bit of grain roasting experience. That was good enough for us to try to roast our own Malt. We took the last 1.5lbs of our 6 row pale malt and we pan roasted it in the oven. Given my abhorrance for burned grains and the taste of carbon I did not want to make a chocolate malt or anything really dark. However we needed some really good solid color in the Porter.
What we decided to do was take the malt to two different levels to give complexity and flavor depth. We roasted it to only about 250-280 L (estimated by eye only). We did about 40% to a bit lighter at about 220L and the other 60% to the darker 270L. Typical chocolate malt is in the 350-400L range so this is much lighter. We also wanted to avoid burning the outside and leaving the inside light. We did a very long slow roast profile. (more like a roast profile for espresso with lower temps, longer drying phase, slower ramp and then a bit of a blast) The drying phase was crucial partly because of how damp it is here now and because of the radical difference between the kernel and the husk as they react to roasting and temps.
We do NOT have a convection oven here and it is electric so temp control is marginal and air flow is nil. Both problems we will fix.
Heres what we did:
- We separated the malt into two pans to roast them to different levels
- we used a very low temperature for 45 minutes to slowly and gently dry out the malt – we stirred and moved the malt often
- after the drying phase we slowly ramped the temperature over time to heat the middle kernel
- from 220F/104C to 300F/148C over fifteen minutes
- this took an hour to get it up to the temp where we felt it would start actually cooking the malt without burning the husk
- after we got the kernel to caramelize a bit we raised the temp a bit more to start cooking harder
- 350F/175C for 30 minutes
- after we saw the kernels were pretty uniformly med light brown we cranked up the heat to toast them
- this final phase did the final roasty/toasty hard cooked flan caramel flavors, the roasty notes and the darker color
- after about 20 minutes we took out the lighter batch
- then cooked the darker one another 15 minutes at even higher temps to brown it
The results turned out pretty awesome for our first time roasting malt. it took much longer than we thought because of no airflow and we were extra cautious in temperatures to not burn the husk. We had almost NO husk burning which was our goal. We did darken the inner skin around the kernel pretty good but had no burned coffee/carbon tastes at all.
We stored them in a ziplock bag overnight and brewed our Honey porter with them the next morning. The color of the beer looks pretty stellar and exactly what we were hoping for. A nice robust dark brown with a tiny bit of ruby red highlights, NOT opaque but dark and crystalline.
Overall roasting our own malts is definitely the way to go and allows us complete control over flavor, color and freshness. Anything roasted stales very fast!
Anyone else tried roasting their own malt for brewing? Any horror stories or success?