Dear Mr. Wizard,
I have been considering going to all-grain brewing. I have heard that it is sometimes better to buy malt in 50-pound increments to save money on grain. However, I do not plan to brew with more than 10 pounds at a time. How should I store the extra crushed grains? Can crushed grains be stored in the freezer, or should I just leave the grain in its paper sack at room temperature?
Mr. Wizard replies:
The key to storing grain is keeping it dry. Whenever crushed grain is left to sit around, it begins to take up moisture from the air. Most malts have a moisture content between 4 percent and 6 percent, and there are very few climates in the world that do not cause malt to absorb water over time. My rule with crushed malt is to use it as soon as possible, which means don’t mill your malt until brew day. This, of course, requires a mill.
If you buy pre-crushed grain and want to store it for some time, you have a few options. One option is to measure the grain into convenient quantities, such as five- or 10-pound lots, and bag it in sealable plastic bags. You can use a fancy vacuum packer, but large freezer bags will do the trick, too. You also can store malt in a sealable container like one used for flour.
Some malts are even sold in woven nylon bags that have plastic liners. These bags work pretty well for extended storage if you roll up the open part of the bag and secure it to reseal the bag.
Malt can be stored at room temperature for extended periods without harm. As long as it stays dry and free of bugs, malt will keep for about a year — although like anything else it will lose its fresh flavor the longer you keep it. Because malt does contain a small amount of oil, it can go rancid if left unused for too long. Rancidity is more likely to occur if the malt is stored in a very hot environment.
I would not recommend storing malt in the freezer, mainly because it is not necessary. The other problem with freezers is their amazing ability to make things taste like they were stored in a freezer! I can’t imagine a beer that ended up tasting like a freezer, but I would guess that it wouldn’t be all that great.
Dear Mr. Wizard,
I used some ready-to-pitch liquid yeast. A day after adding the yeast, the usual kraeusen formed on top, but it wasn’t "blown off" through the tube. After five days the kraeusen settled down quite a bit, and I racked to a secondary. Will the lack of kraeusen removal have a major effect on the flavor of my beer?
Mr. Wizard replies:
The topic of kraeusen removal is not discussed much in commercial brewing circles because most modern fermenters are not designed to remove kraeusen. And it is frequently the case that "blow over" creates an unwanted mess in the brewery. This is not to say that kraeusen removal has no effect on beer flavor. Some brewers firmly believe that kraeusen removal helps smooth out the flavor of beer. Anheuser-Busch has specially designed fermenters that remove the "braun hefe" (brown yeast) from beer during fermentation. The braun hefe is the trub-yeast-scum that floats on top of beer during fermentation. Many other brewers in the world have their own special way of removing braun hefe during fermentation. Every brewer should taste braun hefe just for grins; most of us will agree that it doesn’t taste all that good. This is one of the reasons that traditional methods of fermentation involved skimming.
It sounds like you remove the braun hefe by relying on an active and aggressive fermentation to blow it out of your fermenter. This method works well to push the brown crud out of your fermenter, but I doubt that it has a drastic effect on beer flavor. I think skimming is one of many techniques that are used to make subtle changes to beer flavor.
Most commercial brewers have gone to "uni-tank" fermenters over the last 20 years. Beer is fermented — usually without "blowing over" — and aged in the same vessel. During this time the kraeusen rises and falls, yeast cells grow and flocculate, and the beer goes from wort to aged beer. It makes a brewer wonder how many subtleties have disappeared because of this method of fermentation.
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