Over the course of the last week I have been malting the remainder of my 25 pounds of barley seed. I had about 4 pounds left after the other two attempts, which produced much less sugars than anticipated. The first batch was a total failure, but I attributed my low efficiency to poorly crushed grain (I tried to smash it with a rolling pin in a zip-lock freezer bag). For the second batch, I built my own inexpensive grain mill, which worked great, but I still had poor efficiency for some reason. So I researched the process a little bit more and decided that this time I would allow the barley to germinate longer than the other two times. Also, I would use an extra long protein rest (45 minutes), and an extra long sacharification rest (90 minutes), while continuing to utilize the benefits of a decoction style mash.
The malting process was pretty much the same as last time, just longer (about 5 1/2 days). The only problem I encountered was in the last 2 days mold was rampant. I had to constantly stir the grains and even remove a few clumps that had started to fuzz over. I let the grain develop until all the shoots were at least 100% the length of the seed, meaning many had busted out. The drying process was much faster since I had less grain to dry, and it had more time to succumb to evaporation prior to kilning. The end result was noticeably different - sweeter and plumper! I had a good feeling. I kilned the grains longer than usual until the smell of chocolate and coffee filled the house.
Today I had to do some work online from home, so I decided to brew at the same time. I chose to keep my batch size down to 1.5 gallons, hoping for a high gravity reading. It took most of the day since I was using such long temperature rests, and also just being as meticulous as possible. But in the end, sadly, my efficiency was only about 35%. Unbelievable! I've tried everything and I just can't seem to make this work. I think the only other factor is the temperature used to dry the grain - my oven won't go below 170 degrees, which is a little hot according to what I have read. I keep the door propped open for circulation, but maybe the heat killed the enzymes? In any case, this batch of grain was the most delicious smelling yet, so I am sure this beer will taste great despite being lower on sugars than expected. The odor was like pure bitter chocolate - so intense I could taste it! As with the other two failed batches, I added a little bit of honey and some sugar at the end to bring up the gravity. I am currently about half way through my keg of "Homemalted Pale Ale" (the first crazy batch), and I have to say it is pretty tasty, so I'm not too worried about the others.
One other thing I wanted to mention: the rollers of the homemade grain mill became noticeably smoother after only two batches. I actually had to rough them up again today so they would grind properly, leading me to believe that this cheap alternative may not be quite as perfect a solution as I thought. Oh well, I will end up buying a real one eventually.
In conclusion, I think that after malting 25 pounds of barley at home, and brewing it into 3 different batches of homebrew, each with very poor efficiency, I would say that I've had just about enough of "home-malting." Yeah, I'm done. I've invested countless hours into this project and I don't feel that the results were worth it. I am glad I tried it and maybe I will revisit it someday - possibly during the dry season when I might be able to put my grains out in the sun without worrying about rain - but for now I am going to move back to commercially produced grain. I already ordered the ingredients for my next batch - a Belgian Dubbel. So I'll be brewing again in the next week - see you then!!!