Malting your own rye

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Malting your own rye

Postby Uncle Remus » Wed Nov 15, 2006 3:08 pm

I know there have been threads on this, and also have read the parent site. I still haven't found a real clear answer other than some saying you shouldn't malt your own rye or oats because of bacterial infections.

I tried soaking a handfull of rye grain just to see if it was maltable. In about 3 days it has rootlets the length of the grain. So I was considering malting enough for a mash.

Has anyone here ever malted, fermented, distilled and drank their own rye?

How would you know if it was infected? smell?

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Postby drunk2much » Wed Nov 15, 2006 6:16 pm

After reading the other thread and posting then going to read. It appears that infection occurs when the floret becomes infected with the fungus. its rather apparent when its infected a long brown structure is produced.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergot
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Re: Malting your own rye

Postby muckanic » Wed Nov 15, 2006 8:42 pm

="Uncle Remus". How would you know if it was infected? smell?


And appearance, ie fluffy shit all over the grains!

The trick with malting is humidity control and frequent aeration by turning (without damaging the shoots). Oh, and you want it all to sprout in synchronisation. :) Degradable fungicides like peroxide could also possibly help, but I haven't looked into that.

Kilning is nearly as involved as malting, but you would seem to have a bit of a handle on that already. Once again, frequent turning is indicated.
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Postby speedfreaksteve » Thu Nov 16, 2006 6:26 am

From what I've been told throughout the years, if you malt the rye and use it pretty much right away, then you won't have a problem. It's when you start storing malted rye that you're taking a much bigger risk. With malting barley you can get ergot too, it's just 1/4th as likely to happen as with rye. I malted barley quite a few times and never had problems with ergot.

Also, you can identify ergot with a magnifying glass. Although under proper conditions you will never have ergot appear anyways.

Lastly, it's also very doubtful that ergot would be passed on in any meaningful concentration after 2 distillations.
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Postby speedfreaksteve » Thu Nov 16, 2006 5:05 pm

So did you end up malting the rye?

I'm sitting here with a few lbs of rye grains trying to decide if I should go for it tonight and immerse some of it in water.
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Postby muckanic » Thu Nov 16, 2006 5:17 pm

My impressions are that most people try home malting approximately once! :)
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Postby copperhead » Thu Nov 16, 2006 5:53 pm

I'v malted corn sevrel times barley a couple of times. malted rye one time with no problem so far. I read some where the the ergot was more likley to happen in the field before the grain was harvested.I'v been trying to find where i read it if i can find it ill post the address.
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Postby Harry » Thu Nov 16, 2006 8:30 pm


speedfreaksteve Posted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 7:26 am

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From what I've been told throughout the years, if you malt the rye and use it pretty much right away, then you won't have a problem.

<snip>
Lastly, it's also very doubtful that ergot would be passed on in any meaningful concentration after 2 distillations.


Steve, I don't want you to feel like you're being picked on. But I must give a 'heads-up'. This info is wrong and could cause someone a lot of problems.

Ergot disease (aka St. Anthony's Fire) is caused by a fungus. The active ingredient is an alkaloid, similar to LSD. IT WILL carry over in distillation, just as it does in baked bread (more heat there than found in distilling).

All you wanted to know (and much more) can be found here...
http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/wong/BOT135/LECT12.HTM

Please use caution & do some research before advising others. Some mistakes (deaths, injuries) can't be undone, & have to be lived with.

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Postby masonjar » Thu Nov 16, 2006 9:57 pm

Obviously, nobody wants to put anyone in the hospital here. I think we all appreciate the facts and don't care to hear anyone advertise throwing caution to the wind - but let's not incite paranoia either. Personally, I thought Steve was making perfect sense. When you malt the grain, if you use it right away, you aren't allowing a very large window of time for an infection to occur. Hell, that doesn't even apply only to malting. If you have a sack of grain sitting around long enough, you are steadily increasing the odds of it becoming moist and possibly infected. I thought it was good, safe and practical advice.

And - not to be nit picky - but comparing distilling to bread-baking only says that the substance can tolerate high temperatures. To make it into the distillate, the substance would need to have a boiling point close to that of ethanol, so unless you know what that boiling point is, you can't say with certainty that it WILL carry over.

That being said, ergotism sounds pretty damn awful... But the cases in that website were due to people eating flour that included large amounts of that purple mold. If you malted a lb of grain and saw that kind of mold, I'd like to think you'd throw it away...
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Postby Harry » Thu Nov 16, 2006 10:18 pm

As you wish...but a final word...you might want to look up Alkaloids Distilling on google or your favourite search engine. That's half the reason we can't get this hobby legalised. Distilling doesn't just mean ethanol. Most drugs are purified by the same principles & techniques.


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Postby masonjar » Thu Nov 16, 2006 10:38 pm

Hey, all I'm saying is that I'd rather hear someone say, "That dangerous alkaloid from infected rye has a BP of 80C, which means you'll never entirely separate it from ethenol" instead of "Don't malt rye".

I won't pretend to be an expert on chemistry, so you may very well be 100% right on this. I just like to know why certain things can and can not be done. If I listened to everyone telling me what is dangerous without them explaining why, then I probably wouldn't be distilling in the first place.
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Postby speedfreaksteve » Thu Nov 16, 2006 11:28 pm

masonjar wrote:Obviously, nobody wants to put anyone in the hospital here. I think we all appreciate the facts and don't care to hear anyone advertise throwing caution to the wind - but let's not incite paranoia either. Personally, I thought Steve was making perfect sense. When you malt the grain, if you use it right away, you aren't allowing a very large window of time for an infection to occur. Hell, that doesn't even apply only to malting. If you have a sack of grain sitting around long enough, you are steadily increasing the odds of it becoming moist and possibly infected. I thought it was good, safe and practical advice.

And - not to be nit picky - but comparing distilling to bread-baking only says that the substance can tolerate high temperatures. To make it into the distillate, the substance would need to have a boiling point close to that of ethanol, so unless you know what that boiling point is, you can't say with certainty that it WILL carry over.

That being said, ergotism sounds pretty damn awful... But the cases in that website were due to people eating flour that included large amounts of that purple mold. If you malted a lb of grain and saw that kind of mold, I'd like to think you'd throw it away...


I'm totally fine if my facts are wrong, I've done the research and just haven't seen much to support there being a huge risk. There's also a big difference between distilling and baking. The inside of a loaf of bread gets heated by the temperature of the outside part of the bread. It's no where near distillation temperatures. Believe me, I bake my own bread quite often (coincidentally rye bread usually), and I do own a kitchen thermometer.

Ergot normally appears during the grow cycle for grains during periods of excess moisture in the fields. Taking some grains and malting them in your kitchen isn't going to make ergot appear out of thin air.

Not to mention the fact that you'll never get grains that already have ergot infection on them in the stores. That just won't happen.

I'm going to try malting my own rye. I've malted barley before successfully in the past, so I don't see it as a big leap. I have sufficient magnifying apparatus to check for ergot or whatever else so I don't have any concerns with that.
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Postby Harry » Fri Nov 17, 2006 12:34 am

There's also a big difference between distilling and baking. The inside of a loaf of bread gets heated by the temperature of the outside part of the bread. It's no where near distillation temperatures. Believe me, I bake my own bread quite often (coincidentally rye bread usually), and I do own a kitchen thermometer.



Wel,l I'd like to believe you but...I was a baker for over 30 years before I changed to ICT. I've done a lot of other things also. See my bio here...
http://distillers.tastylime.net/library/About-Page.htm#Author

You might want to get that thermometer checked. Loaves are baked for ~30-35 minutes in 210-220C ovens. The inside of the loaf reaches a temp of 100C. Don't believe me? Stick your fingers in a freshly pulled loaf. Betcha $20 you get a steam burn. What's steam? Ermm...100C or higher water vapor.

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Postby rangaz » Fri Nov 17, 2006 2:01 am

also the some of the chemicals can affect people on as low dosages as 20micrograms thats 0.000002g (forgive the deci places if its one or two out, its hard counting it out the zeros). Im not saying theres that large a risk, if ya see mould just chuck it out, just pointing out that even small amounts coming through can be harmful
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Postby junkyard dawg » Fri Nov 17, 2006 2:02 am

This is starting to sound familiar... kind of like the plastics debate. One side errs on caution. The other says I don't know but I'll do it anyway. You all have good points and now I want to do some reading on this. I wanna make malt. even if its only once.

So that ergot is like a mushroom... Ive eaten some pretty weird mushrooms... :shock: yep :shock: weird :shock: shrooms...
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Postby speedfreaksteve » Fri Nov 17, 2006 6:15 am

junkyard dawg wrote:This is starting to sound familiar... kind of like the plastics debate. One side errs on caution. The other says I don't know but I'll do it anyway. You all have good points and now I want to do some reading on this. I wanna make malt. even if its only once.

So that ergot is like a mushroom... Ive eaten some pretty weird mushrooms... :shock: yep :shock: weird :shock: shrooms...


I think some people just like to debate for the sake of debating something. What's the difference if I malt the rye myself versus buying malted rye? I would be taking just the same precautions that the malting company does. Seems like a very silly argument coming from anyone doing home distilling.

Ergot isn't invisible, it can be spotted with the naked eye. There's hundreds of places on the net that will tell you how to spot it. Not to mention the fact that ergot takes time to develop and mature. I'm just interested in malting the rye, and then within a matter of days mashing, fermenting and distilling it.

This whole thing reminds me of an uncle that told me once "You can't make you're own vodka, that's too dangerous. People die doing that".
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Postby hornedrhodent » Fri Nov 17, 2006 6:28 am

Avoid purple stuff - unless you're a roman god.
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Postby masonjar » Fri Nov 17, 2006 8:20 am

From what I've read, it seems like the only way a rye plant can become infected is during the flowering stage of the plant. If I'm understanding the life cycle correctly, the rye has to already be infected in order for the malting process to show any mold. If the rye were already infected, you should be able to clearly see purple, hard, rice-like grains in place of the normal grains - like this:

Image

If you were to 'malt' one of these infected grains, you would see these mushrooms growing out of the infected grain: (You can see the original grain with the mushrooms popping out of it.)

Image

I don't know about you guys, but I wouldn't put that in the mash.

I've also read that ergot is just about non-existent nowadays because the fungus's life cycle is disturbed by crop rotation practices, and any stray spores that happen to land in the field and infect a plant because of the wind can be very easily separated from the rest of the grain because the infected grains float in water, while healthy grains sink. The stuff you buy at the store would be extremely unlikely to contain any infected grains, and if there were, you would be able to see it. If you 'malted' one by mistake, it would become even more visibly apparent.

On a historical note, during times when there were hundreds or thousands of people dying of ergotism, they were eating these grains daily in their bread. The people would go to hospitals and actually get better when they stopped eating. Since the cause of ergotism was discovered, it has been almost non-existent. There was a case in France in 1951 where an unscrupulous farmer and miller sold some flour that had ergot. Once it is milled to flour it would no longer be detectable.

After reading all of this, I don't think it's anything to worry about as long as you aren't carelessly malting in the dark on a regular basis. I'd say a careful inspection of the grains before and after malting should make you safe from ergot. Someone, please correct me if you think I'm mistaken, or if you read otherwise.
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Postby Uncle Remus » Fri Nov 17, 2006 8:33 am

I didn't mean to start a big debate here guys. Just thought about it that's all. The small handfull I tossed in a tupperware dish sprouted quickly and easily.

The commercial malt makers I'm sure do their thing in sterile type conditions...maybe even treat the grain with an anti-fungal during malting.

I think I'll probably just use the rye as is and use some enzymes for conversion. I don't wanna produce a product that will have ill effects on people.

Just imagine distilling an LSD whiskey. Absinth and the green fairy thing wouldn't hold a candle to this shit :shock:
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Postby Tater » Fri Nov 17, 2006 12:47 pm

Over the last 5 years this has been brought up 3 or 4 times .Once by myself so post all the info anyone can find either way and ill put a sticky on it so it wont get buried .
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Postby speedfreaksteve » Fri Nov 17, 2006 1:16 pm

I have one pound of rye in the steeping stage of the malt process right now. Once its done I'll post some pics if anyone is interested.
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Postby copperhead » Fri Nov 17, 2006 6:04 pm

thanks masonjar that was the article i was looking for.I knew that I had read that the fungus started in the field.but i serched for an hour last night but could'nt find it again.
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Postby Harry » Sat Nov 18, 2006 1:41 am

I posted the article link. Masonjar posted the pics from the article. Would you all like to see the second half of that lecture? It's here...
http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/wong/BOT135/LECT13.HTM Titled: Ergot of Rye II: The Story of LSD

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Postby muckanic » Tue Nov 21, 2006 11:01 pm

="Harry". Ergot disease (aka St. Anthony's Fire) is caused by a fungus. The active ingredient is an alkaloid, similar to LSD. IT WILL carry over in distillation, just as it does in baked bread (more heat there than found in distilling).


As I have mentioned previously, it is news to me that an alkaloid in a normal, acidic brewing environment could be volatile. You would need to explain why ergotamine carries over and ammonia, for example, does not.
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Postby muckanic » Tue Nov 21, 2006 11:23 pm

="Uncle Remus". The commercial malt makers I'm sure do their thing in sterile type conditions...maybe even treat the grain with an anti-fungal during malting.


Actually, traditional floor malting is not all that controlled. The main thing they are careful to do is to change the water frequently for the first couple of days steeping, as grain husks are usually covered with bacteria, which is more of a problem than wild yeast/fungus. After that, the swollen malt is shovelled into piles, with the size of those piles being used to control temperature (germination produces heat, a bit like compost). A recent innovation is to use plant hormones to improve the shooting consistency. I am speculating here that at the first sign of any infection, the malt could be salvaged by misting it with peroxide (but the concentration would probably have to be got right in order not to damage the malt enzymes themselves).
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Postby speedfreaksteve » Thu Nov 23, 2006 6:31 pm

I have just finished malting a pound of rye! Well almost finished. It's been in the oven at 160 degrees for 6 hours now. It smells fantastic, just like malted rye should.

Looks, smells, and feels like storebought malted rye so I guess it worked! Can definately tell the sugary malted character it now has.

I also looked at several grains under 3x magnification. No sign of mold, fungus or anything that shouldn't be there.

One word of advice for anyone trying this, don't let ANY grains overgerminate at all, or you'll be picking the rye seeds out of the paper towel by hand and that's just not very fun. Fortunately only some of mine overgerminated like that.

Next on the agenda.. buying 9 lbs of rye grains (unmalted), cracking them and then seeing how good of a all grain rye mash that I can make.
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Postby Uncle Remus » Thu Nov 23, 2006 8:01 pm

Right on Steve sounds like the malting worked out good. If I try it I think I will lay out some window screen in a large shallow tray and cover it with rye and then enough water to cover it. Then I could just lift the screen and grain, daily, change the water and rinse the grain.

BTW do you plan on malting the next 9 lbs of rye? I don't think 1 lb of rye will have enough enzymes to convert the starches in any of the grain but itself. If you read Uncle Jesse's rye mash thread his whole grain bill is malted rye.
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Postby speedfreaksteve » Thu Nov 23, 2006 9:07 pm

Uncle Remus wrote:Right on Steve sounds like the malting worked out good. If I try it I think I will lay out some window screen in a large shallow tray and cover it with rye and then enough water to cover it. Then I could just lift the screen and grain, daily, change the water and rinse the grain.

BTW do you plan on malting the next 9 lbs of rye? I don't think 1 lb of rye will have enough enzymes to convert the starches in any of the grain but itself. If you read Uncle Jesse's rye mash thread his whole grain bill is malted rye.


Yeah the malting seemed to work out almost as planned. Long term I need to find a way to do it without paper towels, it's just a pain. I would probably be fine with just laying them out on less permeable substrate like wax paper and misting them with a spray bottle once a day, I think I'll try that next.

For now I'm going to do 8-9 lbs unmalted with the malted rye. I'll top up abit with table sugar if I'm not happy with the SG. I'll definately malt some more rye next week, maybe 1.5 or 2 lbs, but I just want to get a batch going already and rye is relatively cheap anyways.

One thing that I haven't been able to uncover in my research.. wouldn't the amylase continue to convert the starches to sugar if I ferment with all of the grains?
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Postby Uncle Remus » Fri Nov 24, 2006 7:21 am

I just don't think there would be a sufficient amount of amylase there. From what I understand malted rye has about enough enzymes to convert itself. 6 row malted barley is really the only one with enough enzyme to convert the starch in other grain.

The last mash I made I converted the starch with alfa and gluco amylase powder. It seemed to work well.

If nothing else Steve when you cook the mash throw in a few Beano tablets.
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Postby speedfreaksteve » Fri Nov 24, 2006 9:41 am

Well maybe I'll hold off on things and malt another 5 lbs of rye and try that with a few lbs of unmalted. I just need to come up with a better method for the germination that will still work, but is less messy.

I wish I knew of a local place to get some amylase powder. There's gotta be somewhere, just need to find it.

What enzymes does Beano have in it?
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