Aside from sugar wash, home brewers also use another type of wash called grain wash. This is also the kind of wash that most commercial distillers use to produce a distilled beverage. However, using this kind of wash involves additional steps before it can be fermented with yeasts. In essence, the process of malting and mashing are used to extract the sugar in these grains so that it will be ready to be fermented.
Malting is actually the initial step that you must take in order to prepare your grain wash into fermentable form. This is done by soaking the grains in water so that germination can take place. After which, the germination process is stopped by letting the grains dry with dry air. But then, the grains must be allowed to grow for few days before drying them out. This technique lets the enzymes thrive in the grain so that the conversion of starches to sugars can take place. Also, doing this halts embryo growth so that it will not eat the sugars that will be produced in the process.
The process of malting typically occurs in a malt house or malting floor. This is described as a wooden floor with some perforations on it. The germinated grains are actually scattered on the wooden floor where it is smoked through the holes in it. The smoke comes from the fireplace built under that can produce up to 55 degrees Celsius of heat.
Moving forward, mashing is the next process when it comes to preparing the grain wash. This method involves combining non-malted and malted grains with plain water and then subjecting these to heat. It must be remembered that there are certain temperatures that must be met in order to achieve key temperature to allow enzyme activation. This enzyme will act to convert the starch into sugar. Yet, it must be ensured that the grains are properly mashed or cracked to expose the contents of each grain.
Also, it is essential to know that various enzymes are most active in different temperatures. This means that there are enzymes that will be most effective at certain temperatures. Thus, rests in temperature are highly recommended in order to achieve best results. For instance, malted grains such as barley may be heated to 45 degrees Celsius and maintained in the same temperature for at least half an hour. The same thing can be done with a temperature of 53 degrees Celsius and higher until 63 degrees Celsius is reached. This can be maintained up to 90 minutes before raising the temperature to 71 degrees Celsius. Yet, these four rests are not absolute because some do not require this technique. In fact, some perform heating using only one temperature such as 68 degrees Celsius which is only ideal for Beta- Amylase conversion alone.
It is also relevant to know that there are various methods that can be used to perform mashing. The most common method is the one being used by major breweries such as using an infusion machine. This machine emits direct heat in order to effect changes in temperature. The other method is performed by adding hot water and placing it in a sealed insulator container to retain the temperature. This method is widely used by home brewers in the absence of advanced machineries.