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Figuring dry weights vs moisture

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Keyman, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. Keyman

    Keyman Disciple (55) Dec 4, 2012

    Can anyone tell me how to correctly figure out how much moisture is in my barley? As a rule of thumb they say a bushel of 2 row barley should weigh 48 pounds @ 14.5% moisture. I was having problems with my figures so I went to a grain mill and had it tested and the last bushel I got tested was at 12.5%. This caused my figures off by 2%. I am trying to get that barley kilned down to the correct moisture content for base malt. I already went though the germination process. After researching I found figures from 3% all the way to 9%. What should the correct moisture be? Now that I know that my barley is 12.5% I can figure the weigh of drying to calculate the final content (if I knew that)

    Is there any way I can figure out the moisture content of a new bag of barley without having to run down to the grain elevator? Thanks !!!
  2. hopsandmalt

    hopsandmalt Savant (320) Michigan Dec 14, 2006

    !!!DISCLAIMER!!!!- I have no idea what I am talking about!

    That being said, You could try weighing a sample, Holding it for a sustained peroid at above 212F to drive off the moisture, and then weighing the sample again. some simple mathmatics would tell you what % of weight the grain lost. That would be the % of moisture content of the grain......Maybe?
    inchrisin likes this.
  3. inchrisin

    inchrisin Savant (435) Indiana Sep 25, 2008

    There's got to be an equivalent to a Ward Lab for this. I'd email Briess or the like.
  4. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Advocate (515) Vermont Mar 10, 2006

    Grind a sample, weigh it, heat in an oven at slightly above 212F (maybe 215-220) for about an hour, let cool down and reweigh. This is pretty much how any lab does a % moisture on anything. Be aware that if humidity is high, the malt can pick up some moisture and throw your number off; probably not an issue this time of year, probably not a big deal even in summer unless it's extremely sticky.
  5. If you use volume as a factor, then any calculation will be inaccurate (how many kernels are there in a given volume of barley?). I agree with skivtjerry - weigh an arbitrary sample, dry it, then weigh it again. While I can appreciate that moisture content skews the measurements, I wouldn't sweat the 2% for homebrew. My measurements are probably off by at least that much simply due to my technique for weighing my grain (a 16 oz Solo cup filled to the top line is a half pound, for example).

    RDWHAHB
  6. JrGtr

    JrGtr Savant (365) Massachusetts Apr 13, 2006

    Call me country bumpkin, but may I ask why you need to know the precise moisture % in the grain? Do you plan to test yourself every shipment you get?
  7. NiceFly

    NiceFly Savant (375) Tajikistan Dec 22, 2011

    like others said, weigh it bake it weigh it again.

    To calculate the moisture divide the last weight by the first weight. subtract 1. multiply by -100.
    or
    -(((Last weight/first weight)-1)100) you can copy paste that into excel and sub the weights for the cells you enter the weights.
  8. jmw

    jmw Savant (430) North Carolina Feb 4, 2009

    He's malting his own grain.
  9. This is why malting is best left to the professionals...humidity, rate of kilning, moisture content to start with, etc. can all affect final results...but I do admire your initiative.
  10. Keyman

    Keyman Disciple (55) Dec 4, 2012

    Thanks for the idea's. I have a few idea's I am going to try along with what I read here. I will keep you informed of the results. I figure I will take the average of 3 to 9 percent (6%) and dry the malt to that mark. Everything I read so far leans to this range. My plan is to roast a pound of this base malt at 220 degrees for 4 hours to make a vienna or munich malt. Then I will grind some base and add this munich and see what I get.
  11. Some would say that, given the variables, brewing beer is best left to professionals. People engaging in this hobby have already demonstrated a desire to do things the hard way, so I say go for it!

    That said, I'm content to leave malting to the professionals. ;)
  12. Agreed...but it's kind of like working on/building cars (hang with me here on this analogy)...I can love to tinker with automobiles and maybe build one from the frame up, but I sure as hell am not going to waste my time smelting the steel : )
    JrGtr and mikehartigan like this.
  13. pweis909

    pweis909 Advocate (705) Wisconsin Aug 13, 2005

    When I do % moisture in plant tissues in ecological research, I dry to a constant weight in a dry oven at 60 deg C.
  14. NiceFly

    NiceFly Savant (375) Tajikistan Dec 22, 2011

    Then you are going to be thirsty and on foot come armageddon.
  15. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Advocate (515) Vermont Mar 10, 2006

    We do this with soil samples at my work prior to sieving/crushing. I'm pretty sure malt is traditionally heated to above 100C though.
  16. Huh?....won't have to wait long at least : )

    Guess I can rush my next fermentation...it won't matter : )

    What we need is for someone to start an Armegeddon Ale thread to run for the next 17 days :eek:
    NiceFly likes this.
  17. pweis909

    pweis909 Advocate (705) Wisconsin Aug 13, 2005

    Yeah, I do it for soils too. The reason to keep the temps lower than 100 C is that you can begin to oxidize and volatilize some of the of the sample. It is probably a very minute component and would not throw off your moisture estimate significantly, but if you were going to use the dried sample for some additional analysis, that analysis could get thrown off. For example, when I dry tissues and soils, one of the following steps is a nitrogen analysis. If you lose substantial nitrogen in drying your sample, you've lost the ball game. Similarly, for hops, you wouldn'tdry them out at 100 C because you would lose all kinds of good aromatics that you are interested in retaining. But I suppose for malt, there's less concern about losing delicate aromatics and there may be some advantage to drying them more rapidly at 100 C.
  18. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Advocate (515) Vermont Mar 10, 2006

    The malt has already been kilned at anywhere from 120-220C depending on color. I think raw barley might be treated differently though. The main reason we dry our soils gently is that getting a moist soil sample too hot can cause some chemical cementation and mess up the original particle size distribution (we only do inorganic work).

    edit: Normally I'd quote Noonan in Brewing Lager Beer for a question like the OP's but my copy is loaned out.
    pweis909 likes this.
  19. Keyman

    Keyman Disciple (55) Dec 4, 2012

    Agreed, then why not just go to a beer store and buy your favorite IPA or Amber beer? My quest is homebrewing (From Scratch) Maling the barley is my first step next is growing my own hops. It's what I like to prove to myself...
  20. "It's what I like to prove to myself"

    Then by all means go for it...I'm content with just brewing my own beer and ocassionally buying a commercial one for a change of pace.

    Interesting that you should mention growing hops. I've got 11 different varieties growing in my backyard, but I don't see growing them as essential to brewing good beer (and there are too many factors working against me to turn me into a hop farmer) Cheers and good luck.
  21. Lots of home brewers grow their own hops. Interesting that you chose that as your second step, after malting barley. I hear you WRT doing things from scratch. Most of us have a bit of that, or we wouldn't be brewing beer. We all draw the lines at different places, though. Taken to extremes, you might compost your own soil to grow the barley, build a tractor to work the field, and refine your own oil to run the tractor. You might think that's overkill just like somebody else might think malting barley is overkill. Just like somebody else might think brewing beer is overkill -- the same person who mills his own wheat to make homemade bread.
  22. Keyman

    Keyman Disciple (55) Dec 4, 2012

    I may not go to that extreme when brewing but I will stop after making my own malt and growing hops. If it doesn't work for me then I will go back to buying my malt, hops, & yeast's. I also enjoy cutting my own meats and making sausage, jerky, & other cuts. Sure I can buy it from the butcher but it is what I like to do. Great conversation with you. Since I started this thread I finally got about 8 pounds of barley malted and roasted 2 pounds of that to a vienna or Munich style. Now I will just have to brew a batch.

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