How to Preserve Malted Grains for Strong Brewhouse Performance
It probably goes without saying, but using fresh ingredients in your wort or mash is going to have a tremendous impact on the quality of your finished product.
For those of you running established breweries and distilleries, you likely already have a good system in place—not to mention proper infrastructure and equipment—for storing unused grains. You’re also hopefully going through malts fast enough that extending the shelf life of your grain is of less concern.
But if you’re scaling your operation to ramp up production or have moved from one-off homebrew recipes to buying grain in bulk, you will definitely want to evaluate storage solutions to make sure you’re not compromising your bottom line or serving an inferior product.
Here are three tips for effectively storing your grains to ensure quality:
1. Control Your Environment
Start by making sure you’ve got a cool, dry place with temperatures between 50° and 70°F to store your malted grains.
Your typical brewery or distillery is going to be equipped with proper storage facilities, but make sure you return any unused grain to a controlled environment to preserve its quality.
If you brew in your basement and want to keep your grains handy, use a dehumidifier to control the amount of moisture in the air.
2. Invest in Proper Storage
You’ll also do well to purchase airtight containers large enough to protect a 50 lb bag of grain. Using large plastic trash cans fitted with lids is a rather inexpensive solution.
While our bags are designed with a plastic liner for added protection, keeping your product in bins will keep moisture out and guard against potential critters in your brewhouse—particularly once you’ve opened a bag of grain.
3. Monitor Your Inventory
It’s also important to keep a detailed inventory of your grain products, recording the date you opened a bag of malt and paying attention to the quantity you have remaining to ensure you don’t end up stuck with too much product nearing the end of its optimal shelf life.
Properly stored, your base malt products should retain their quality for up to six months; specialty malts can last as long as 18 months because they’re kilned at higher temperatures and/or for a longer period of time.
What Happens If Your Grain Goes Bad?
Sometimes even with the best precautions in place, your grain will start to lose some of its quality.
You can test your grain by tasting or smelling it—once you’ve come to know and appreciate quality malts, you’ll quickly detect when that grain has started to go stale—or by weighing it to determine if it has absorbed additional moisture.
If your grain has indeed gone bad, you’re better off starting fresh. Using subquality grain can have disastrous effects on your finished product, and that ends up wasting additional ingredients (specialty grains and adjuncts, hops, yeast) as well as time and money.