getting to knowa n your gr i M A LT S P E C S A N D C A L C U L AT I O N S W R I T T E N B Y M AT T S T R I C K L A N D
an, if I didn’t lure you in with that whiplash of a subtitle, then nothing will. “Specs and Calculations”?! Have two words on the page ever simulated a summer blockbuster mind explosion such as these?! I think not! Yeah, I get it. Malt specs and calculations sure as hell don’t sound very exciting. An actual graduate-level class on the science of boredom would probably be more stimulating. Still, this is important stuff for the whiskey distiller. In order to make high-quality drams consistently, you need to understand your grain. And you need to understand it at a fairly granular level. So, let’s wade into the morass of malt specifications to get a better handle on what they all mean and how they affect your distilling. We’ll finish everything off with a few calculations to aid in recipe design. I promise that it won’t (all) be boring. First things first. What IS a malt spec? Well, whenever you order grain from a supplier, they should have an information sheet on file detailing the various parameters that have been tested on that batch of grain. The tests are used by the malting company to ensure that every batch is consistent and fits the desired product profile, but this information is also important to the distiller. The next time you purchase malt from a supplier, ask them for a malt spec sheet (also known as a malt anal-
ysis). If you’ve never bothered to look at one before, you may understandably be confused by the random assortment of numbers and terminology sprawled across the page. Sorting it all out can be daunting at first, but trust me, it’s not hard. And to cap it all off, understanding this stuff will make you a better distiller. Not everything on a typical malt spec sheet is important to distillers, and every malt and grain supplier has their own preferred tests and specs that they provide. However, the following items are what you should keep your eyes peeled for.
• Assortment • Friability • Moisture • Color • Extract • F/C Difference • FAN • Soluble/Total Protein • Alpha Amylase • Diastatic Power Let’s work through the definitions of all these terms so you have a better understanding of their importance and how they can affect your distillery operations. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M