Since the late 1970s, the desire to drink something different from commercially brewed liquors has been on the increase among both consumers and brewers. These liquors are often brewed using a great number of raw materials such as rice or corn (maize), to achieve a high degree of flavor and alcohol content. One of such is malted corn moonshine. To most homebrew enthusiasts, malting corn is an intimidating task, but it is actually very simple. With a little effort and time, you will soon be enjoying your own smooth malted corn. This guide will teach you how to malt corn in a simple format that is easy for anyone to follow.
What is Malted Corn?
Malted corn is a great malted supplement for use with distilling or brewing. In the brewery, it can add a dry finish and a crisp finish, ideal for that summer lager. Malting the corn adds a unique component that isn’t found when using corn or flaked grits to get the additional sugars. The malting process helps to add a lot of depth to the corn flavor along with the benefit seen by the extra enzyme. The extra protein breakdown is good if you are using 5 to 10 percent corn in a recipe to add a bit of flavor and color. However, for bigger corn grist additional work is needed to get the most out of the malted grain.
The problem with corn in brewing is the high gelatinization temperatures needed to access the available starch. Where rye, wheat, and barley will gelatinize at regular cereal mash temperatures, corn needs about 75°C to access the available starch. This usually creates a problem of damaging the enzymes required to break down the newly available starches. Malting corn is a partial answer to this issue, but it is more than the simple grind and mash.
Malting is a process of allowing the corn to germinate by soaking in water and then quickly stopped from further germinating by drying with hot air. A wide range of cereal grains such as oats, maize, rye, wheat, and barley can be malted using the standard 3-step process of germinating, steeping, and kilning. Read on to discover the best way to go about this malting process.
Why do we Malt Corn?
Malted corn develops the enzymes (such as Amylase) needed to convert the corn’s starches into sugars including disaccharides such as maltose or sucrose, and monosaccharides such as fructose or glucose for fermenting. Also, it develops other enzymes, like proteases, which help break down the proteins in the corn into a form that can be used by yeast. Corn is relatively easy to malt because the grains are quite large.
What Kind of Corn do you Use for Moonshine?
The best kind of corn for moonshine is dry yellow, cracked corn. Make sure the corn is good grade corn that is quite clean. Also, rather than gas drying the corn, we recommend air drying it. This is because, with air drying, the corn hasn’t been stripped with the elements you’ll need for a great fermentation. You can further ground the cracked corn to make cornmeal, just ensure the grind you get is coarse.
How to Malt Corn
To malt corn, you will have to first steep and germinate the kernels, and then clean, kiln, and dry them. By sticking to a schedule and using the right tools, you can turn the corn into malt to use for such things as brewing and baking.
Ingredients and Materials
Disposable aluminum containers
Step 1: Steeping the Corn
- Use a drill to poke a bunch of holes in the bottom of a 20 liter (5 gallons) bucket. Ensure the hole is smaller than a corn kernel size.
- Place the bucket in a similar-sized urn. Remove the urn’s lid so the bucket can be set inside.
- Fill the bucket with up to 1.8 kg (4 pounds) of maize. The corn kernels should not get to the top of the bucket because they’ll expand in the course of steeping.
- Pour some water into the bucket until the water is about an inch higher than the maize. The extra inch of water is important as the bulk of the water will be absorbed into the corn during the process of steeping.
- Set the thermostat of the urn to 25°C (77 Fahrenheit). The goal is to allow the water to remain in this temperature throughout the steeping process.
- Allow the corn to steep in the water for 9 hours. Check back after 9 hours and lift the bucket containing the maize out of the urn. Allow the water in the bucket to drain into the urn via the drilled holes.
- Allow the bucket with the corn to rest on a raised surface for 3 hours. The “air rest” is a rest period that will help get rid of carbon dioxide and spur the grain to absorb more water throughout the course of the steeping process. When it is finished, place the bucket back in the urn so it can fill up with water.
- Alternate between resting and steeping the corn, so your schedule should look like:
- 1st steeping: 9 hours
- First air rest: 3 hours
- 2nd steeping: 9 hours
- 2nd air rest: 3 hours
- 3rd steeping: 9 hours
- 3rd air rest: 3 hours
- 4th steeping: 9 hours
Step 2: Germinating the Corn
- Remove the bucket with the corn from the urn. Allow the water to drain into the urn, so you have only the corn left in the bucket.
- Pour the corn into a 30 liter (8 liters) tray. You can buy a disposable aluminum container at the store or make one out of wood. Ensure the sides of the tray you are using are tall enough to keep all the corn in.
- Monitor the temperature in the tray by placing a thermometer in it. The goal is to ensure the temperature is kept between 22 and 28°C 72 and 82°F while the corn is still germinating.
- If the temperature is too high, move the tray to a cooler and darker place.
- If the temperature is too low, place a small heat fan or a portable heater that lets you adjust the temperature close to the tray. Regularly check the thermometer to ensure the tray is not overheating.
- Stir and rinse the corn every twelve hours while it is germinating. This will not only keep the corn moist but also prevent heat buildup that occurs naturally during germination.
- Allow the corn to germinate until the shoots are about two times the size of the kernels. You can begin the drying process once 70 to 80% of the corn has shoots that are two times the kernels' length.
Step 3: Drying and Kilning
- To halt the germination process, dry the corn in a dehydrator. Set the dehydrator to between 38 to 52°C (100 and 125°F) and leave the grain inside to dry.
- After several hours, weigh the corn to examine the moisture content. You want the moisture content to be at 10% before increasing the temperature in the dehydrator. You will know the corn is at 10% moisture when it weighs 14.2 grams (0.5 ounces) less per pound than it did before the malting process started.
- When the corn is at 10%, increase the temperature. Increase it to between 60 to 71°C (140 and 160°F). The drying phase will be completed when the corn is between 3 and 6% moisture content or when it has lost 85 grams (3 ounces) per pound of its original weight. The entire drying process can take up to 8 hours.
- Move the corn to a baking tray and place it in the oven for 4 hours. Set the oven between 80 to 85°C (176 and 185°F). The corn will be done kilning and malting after 4 hours.
Step 4: Cleaning the Malt
- Pour the malt into a pillowcase. Make sure you tie the pillowcase properly so none of the malts escapes.
- Place the pillowcase in the dryer for 10 minutes. Run the dryer on the lowest setting, so the malt is not heated up. Remember to tumble the malt so you can remove the bitter-tasting shoots and roots or sprouted root tips of the corn.
- Set apart the malt from the broken off shoots and roots. You can either separate by hand or use a sieve. The malt should look like dried-up, small corn kernels.
- Store the malted corn in a plastic container with an air-tight cover. This will help prevent moisture and oxygen from damaging the malt. If stored properly, malted corn is good for up to a year.
Malted Corn Moonshine Recipe
- Corn malt
- Fine ground white corn
- Fill the still with water and stir in a half-bushel of cornmeal. Once it comes to a boil, let it bubble for 30 to 35 minutes.
- When sufficiently cooked, pour into a barrel and add a gallon of uncooked cornmeal. Allow the contents of the barrel to cook alone. This is to gelatinize the corn starch.
- The following day, place a stick in the barrel standing elevated and thin the cereal mash with water until the stick falls to the barrel’s side.
- Add a gallon of corn malt to the barrel and stir it in very well. Do this when the mash cools to about 75 °C because you don’t want to damage the enzymes you labored to create in the corn malt. You can simultaneously add a double handful of raw rye to the barrel, sprinkling it around over the top to make a cap.
- Cover the barrel and stir up the mixture in the barrel the next day. Then leave it for two days and check it again. The mash will start to liquefy after some time. Some people usually add commercially prepared enzymes to speed up this process.
- At this stage, you can add some sugar to increase the quantity of the alcohol produced if you like. This is a personal choice.
- Now you can thin the mash to a thick consistency (the temperature should be about 67 to 74 °F by now)
- Toss the yeast in, seal with an airtight lid and allow it to ferment. This should be done step by step so the mash does not go cold and have to be reheated.
- After 5 to 7 days, the mash should be ready to run.
- During the distillation process, the first and second quart should be tossed as the cut usually contain methanol and other compounds. Also, it smells terrible.
- From that point, the alcohol content will be a bit low and still contain some bad compounds. These are typically saved to reclaim the alcohol in a subsequent run.
- The hearts will taste wonderful and smell sweet, then start to taste more like the corn use.
- The malted corn moonshine is now ready for you to enjoy.
Where to Buy Corn Malt?
Malted corn is not usually available commercially, but you can make it in a similar way malted barley or wheat is made by sprouting and drying the corn under controlled conditions. While making corn malt is doable at home, but it’s a space and time-consuming process and may not be practical for many homebrewers to do by themselves. This corn malt is usually kilned above gelatinization point so the extractable sugars are readily available. This makes the corn easier to work with than raw corn which still needs the use of a cereal mash. Malted corn is different from flaked corn, it’s crushed like most grains.
When learning how to make malted corn moonshine, you are playing the part of both an artist and a scientist. It is a delicate dance that can take some time to master. We recommend you keep detailed notes on your malted corn moonshine production always. This will allow you to review and identify ways to improve.
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