Unmalted Grains

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Unmalted grains boast a long history in beer, but malts have certain advantages: user-friendliness, readily available extract, and flavour. Whilst unmalted grains are valuable in brewing for mouthfeel, head retention or flavour. 90% of the world’s beer is supplement-based mass-market lager made using corn or rice, this makes the beer more drinkable whilst cutting costs. Nevertheless, it is possible to use the hated rice and corn in inventive and exciting ways. Unmalted oats, wheat, rye, and further grains bring taste qualities to the table which are very unlike that which come from barley malt, and can be used well if you know what you’re doing.

In quantities up to 10 percent or so, assistant grains in gelatinised forms such as flakes can be simply inserted into the mash and will provide pleasant results. A spot of unmalted grain in a recipe will enhance a beer’s head, as the term “head corn” will show. Glucans and pentosans obtained from grains such as rye and oats provide a lavishly creamy touch to styles from oatmeal stouts to witbier.

In higher quantities, unmalted grains can be harder to use as their starches’ gelatinisation temperature is greater than that of malted barley and infusion or step mashes do not always extract the benefits from unmalted grain such as raw wheat. The gelatinisation temperature of corn and rice starch is fairly high, in addition these raw grains only need a quick boil to get a lot out of them. The modified adjunct mash procedure shown on page 138 should be used for any recipe with more than 10 percent of unmalted grain. Unmalted grains in their unprocessed state can exist in numerous forms: torrefied (puffed) flaked, grits or whole. The preferred forms for brewing are usually pre-gelatinized. These grains are similar to instant rice; they’ve been through the cooking procedure which permanently modifies the arrangement of the starch so they yield easier in the mash. Up to 10% usually cause no issues.

Unmalted grains have no active enzymes, so the enzymes required need to come from the rest of the grist. Beers high in assistant grains are usually based on six-row malt, which holds plenty of enzymes. Assistant grains such as rice and corn have an absence of nitrogen, therefore if used in sizeable amounts the free amino nitrogen content may be too low for healthy yeast nutrition. This is particularly true in lower-gravity beers, consequently yeast nutrient may need to be added if you’re attempting to replicate a mass-market Pilsner or light beer.

Below is information on some of the most popular unmalted grains.

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NOTE: If you struggle to understand the stats of the examples below, we recommend checking out our guide to Understanding a Malt Analysis

Corn & Maize

Colour = 0.8 (Lovibond) 1.6 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = None

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0078 (2.00°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0146 (3.73°P)

Max % = 40

Origin and Notes: In the US, this is the most popular adjunct in mainstream beer, used by Miller, Pabst, and others.

Production: Minimal processing, although flaked variations are available.

Flavour and Aroma: Almost flavourless, has a lingering, creamy corniness which can be tasted in plenty of mainstream beers.

Rice

Colour = 1.0 (Lovibond) 2.0 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = None

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0078 (2.00°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0146 (3.73°P)

Max % = 40

Origin and Notes: This is the adjunct of used by Budweiser. Moreover, most of the rice strains in the US were bred for this purpose.

Production: Minimal processing, flaked versions are available; rice extract syrups are also available and commonly used in gluten-free beers.

Flavour and Aroma: Rice possesses a sharp, not quite astringent character when used in brewing, which makes for a more refreshing beer—at least that’s what the marketers say. More attractive rice strains can be found across Asia. Basmati rice has a nutty attribute, and jasmine is a touch floral.

Uses:

  • Pre-Prohibition U.S.-style Pilsners
  • Asian styles; exotic strains with deep red and purple aleurone layers can introduce stunning colours in otherwise pale beers
  • Sake or sake-beer hybrids
  • Gluten-free beers

Unmalted Wheat

Colour = 1.4 (Lovibond) 2.8 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = None

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0078 (2.00°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0146 (3.73°P)

Max % = 50

Origin and Notes: Authentic in Belgian beers including witbiers and lambics, this was originally due to a law which allowed a lower tax rate on unmalted grains. Low-protein, or soft, types are favoured. If in you’re unsure if the wheat you’re looking at is soft or hard, check the nutritional statement. It is usually below 11% protein. Red and white soft wheats possess identical flavours. Unmalted wheat is best used with an American adjunct mash procedure.

Production: Minimal processing, unmalted wheat is often available flaked or torrefied.

Flavour and Aroma: Light flavour, provides a rich, creamy texture.

Uses:

  • Witbier and lambic using classic turbid/slijm or American adjunct mashing procedures
  • As adjunct to enhance head in lighter beers, for example English bitters and mild ales

Unmalted Barley

Colour = 2–3 (Lovibond) 4–6 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = None

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0078 (2.00°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0146 (3.73°P)

Max % = 30

Origin and Notes: Occasionally used as a cheap adjunct in the UK, particularly in Irish stouts.

Production: Minimal processing; often available in flaked form.

Flavour and Aroma: Light flavour, but provides a rich, creamy texture.

Uses:

  • Provides a creaminess aspect to dry Irish stouts (Guinness contains roughly 30%)
  • As adjunct to enhance head in lighter beers including English bitters and mild ales.

Rye

Colour = 2–3 (Lovibond) 4–6 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = None

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0078 (2.00°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0146 (3.73°P)

Max % = 30

Origin and Notes: A resilient grain which grows well in northern regions.

Production: Minimal processing; commonly found in flaked form. Rye malt is rarer but also available. Rye has a high glucan content and so is very sticky in the mash, it can cause stuck mashes above about 5%. A glucan rest at 95°F/35°C in the mash is advised in order to allow the sticky carbohydrates to degrade.

Flavour and Aroma: Spicy, peppery aromas and flavour with an oily texture.

Uses:

  • Rye variations of Bavarian hefeweizens, known as roggenbiers
  • Northern brews, including Finnish sahti (around 10% rye) and Russian kvass, made from stale rye bread
  • Hoppy, usually strong red rye ales and Rye PAs are becoming increasingly popular in the United States

Oats

Colour = 2–3 (Lovibond) 4–6 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = None

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.005 (1.3°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0094 (2.4°P)

Max % = 30

Origin and Notes: Historically, an inexpensive and lesser brewing grain.

Production: Various kinds of oatmeal—old-fashioned, quick, and instant— vary only in their flake size, which causes differences in cooking speed.

Flavour and Aroma: Light flavour, provides an oily, super-creamy texture, usually associated with permanent haze.

Uses:

  • Oatmeal stouts
  • Minor adjunct (5%) in traditional Belgian witbier and lots of pre-1900 Belgian regional styles
  • Imaginative uses including oatmeal-cookie ales (toast them first), oatmealcream ale, oat India pale ale

 

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