Hot Steeping for Quick Malt Evaluation (ASBC and Drew's Methods)

If you listen to Episode 143 of the Podcast, you'll hear Drew's experiences hot steeping and tasting the Crisp Hertiage Malt lineup of Chevalier, Hana, Plumage Archer and Maris Otter #19. 

The Hot Steep methodology as defined by the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) was developed by Cassie Poirer of Briess Malting and Lindsay Barr of New Belgium / DraughtLab. It's a quick, easy and consistent method for discovering a number of the base properties of your target malt. 

By following ASBC methods breweries/maltsters/hop growers/chemists are given some measure of consistency in results from lab to lab. For numerical analysis testing like IBUs and SRM, following the protocols precisely is crucial to make sure an IBU is an IBU. (Also, chemistry tends to be unforgiving)

For an organoleptic test like this malt flavor/aroma evaluation, there's more wiggle room, but the key is - be internally consistent. Follow the same protocol when conducting your testing internally. 

The High Level Method

  • Take a precise weight of malt
  • Grind it finely into powder with a coffee mill
  • Mix it with water at a precise temperature and maintain that temp for 15 minutes.
  • Filter the liquid from the slurry (using part of the liquid to rinse out the jar) 
  • Taste and smell the resultant sweet wort

The steeping method requires: an accurate scale, a coffee mill, paper filters, a thermos and some grain.

I don't have a fleet of thermoses to keep my mini-mash warm, but I do have a sous vide setup! So I use sous vide to warm and maintain the mash temperature for it's 15 minute ride. I use quart mason jars to hold the mash and liquid. 

One other change I make to ensure I have enough to sniff is I double the malt weight and make a higher gravity sample (~1.027-1.030) than the ASBC method does. (I suspect the ASBC method is meant to mimic the lower final gravity of finished beer)

In other words, I grind 104 grams of grain and vigorously mix 100 grams of it with 400 ml of 65°C/149°F water in a capped quart mason jar. The jars then go into a sous vide bath also at 65°C/149°F for 15 minutes. I filter using cone shaped coffee filters and allow the capped liquid to cool and sample.

Weighing the Dusted Grain

The Grain Lineup

A Sample Mash

The Grains Finishing Their Sous Vide Rest and the Filters Set for Collection

Draining the Mash After 15 minutes

If you are using grains other than a base malt, look to the ASBC method for ratios of a bland base malt to your test malt. 

Otherwise, have at this simple test you can perform on any quiet evening!

For the full results of the tasting, please check out the 25:30 minute mark of Episode 143 - It's A Hot Steep Christmas. 

The high level impression of malt intensity: Chevalier (most) -> Maris Otter 19 -> Plumage Archer -> Hana.

The Samples Immediately After Collection

The Samples at Taste Time!