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Howdy folks, I’m Jeff from Moonshine Distiller and welcome to our Hearts series. In this episode, we’ll be discussing the difference between several different types of grains. As you get started with all-grain distilling, you’ll notice there is two main types of grains available: malted grains like these two on the left here, and non-malted grains like these three on the right here.
Malted grains are germinated by the maltsters and they’re dried out right before they start to sprout. This gives them a higher enzyme content which allows them to convert all the starches contained within those grains into sugars that are fermentable by your yeast. This is obviously ideal. The plain grains, however, do not have these enzymes available, so when you’re mashing them, you need to make sure that you mix them with the grains that do have the enzymes so that you get a complete starch conversion.
The grains we have here are two-row barley (which is commonly used in beers and scotches), rye malt (which is commonly used in ryes and rye beers), cracked corn, flaked rye, and flaked oats. All of these grains have slightly different characteristics that they’ll lend to your final spirit. If you like the taste of Irish whiskey and Scotch, chances are you’ll like whiskeys made with just a malted barley. However, if you like ryes, you’ll want to add more rye. Typically rye whiskeys are made from 51% rye or more.
So, within the regular grains, you’ll notice that there are two different varieties. The regular cracked corn, and then the flaked rye and flaked oats. Flaked grains are rolled between hot rollers and this pre-gelatinizes a lot of the starches in them. In order to get a full starch to sugar conversion, so that your yeast can digest as much of that mash as possible, you need to gelatinize the starches (which is basically where the starch absorbs water) and then use enzymes to cut those starches down to simpler sugars that the yeast can digest. With grains like corn, you actually need to mash this and boil it to gelatinize those starches, then let it cool and add your enzymes. With your flaked grains, all you need to do is add them to hot water, at 150 degrees, add your alpha-amylase enzymes, and the conversion will take place automatically.
If you don’t want to use alpha-amylase enzymes, you can use grains that have higher enzyme content with grains that have no enzyme content to aid in that starch conversion. Your typical 2-row brewers’ malt will have a relatively low enzyme content. 6-row malts and distiller’s malts have a higher enzyme content, so you can use smaller proportions of the enzyme heavy grains with larger proportions of the no-enzyme grains. Malted rye also has a very low enzyme count, so it’s typically advisable that you use that with something else that has a higher enzyme content.
I know that’s a lot to absorb, but, if you do have any questions, we’re always available via email and phone. And as always, thanks for tuning in!