No, I have not tried either straw or hornbeam, but I have tried beech and oak. I must confess that I deliberately induced smoke because I believed, possibly erroneously, that the final stage of brown malt production was to deliberately smoke the stuff. Even in the 1800s, when brown malt was kilned over coke, the final stage was to damp down the fire by throwing hornbeam faggots on the fire for the last hour or so. The only reason that I could imagine for them doing this was to smoke the malt with the appropriate flavour. I also suspect that the hornbeam faggots were still green, which would smoke profusely.patto1ro wrote:Have you ever tried Porter brewed with hornbeam or straw kilned brown malt? You might be surprised how little smokiness (almost none even when the beer is young) hornbeam leaves. I now know why hornbeam was the preferred wood: it burns hot and evenly with very little smoke.
Straw works surprsingly well for kilning. I had my doubts myself. True, you have to be careful and keep throwing on fuel, but it can produce a lovely diastatic, dark brown malt.
I found that the secret of inducing smoke, even with dry, seasoned wood, was to restrict the airflow. Once you get it smouldering rather than burning, it smokes well.
I also soaked my malt prior to re-drying and smoking, because I am convinced that all old-time malt went through a stewing process similar to modern crystal malt, and I was keen to replicate this process. Old-time malt was thrown on a hot kiln while still wet, and the enzymes would have been activated when the malt reached an appropriate temperature, producing sugars. Even old-time pale malt went through this stewing process, and all malts were kilned for very short periods compared to more modern practice.
Brown malt was kilned for four to eight hours, amber malt for eight to twelve hours at a lower temperature, and pale malt for twelve to twenty-four hours at an even lower temperature. These were very short times in comparison with modern, or mid-Victorian, pale ‘ale’ malt, which spends about five days on the kiln. Victorian, pale ale malt (notice the "ale" slipped in there), was thoroughly dried before reaching finishing temperature by starting off with the air at a little above ambient temperature and gradually increasing the temperature on a daily basis, until by day five the kiln was up to the appropriate finishing temperature. That is why it took five days or more. None of the old-time malts had this luxury.
Of course, the head computer in a modern maltings can arrange for temperature-stepped, dehumidified hot air the be blown through a thing resembling a giant tumble dryer and dry malt very quickly before kilning proper.
As an aside, throwing wet malt on a hot kiln would seal the exterior of the malt fairly rapidly, and the moist interior of the grain would turn to steam and expand, and cause the grain to swell. This is why, on a volumetric basis, brown malt would give apparently less extract than pale, basically because less of it would fit into a bucket. On a weight basis there was very little difference. The fact that the stuff was still diastatic indicates that the malt was not damaged very much. I also suspect that the maltster would have charged accordingly, so that there was little loss to the brewer. The cost of malt was based on the barley going in, not on what came out. The flow of barley through the maltings was very closely tracked by excise and if a bushel of barley went in, and more than a bushel of malt came out, then the cost would have been the ingoing barley plus the maltsters charge. The difference is that the brewer would have ended up with a bucket-and-a-half of brown malt compared to a bucket of pale malt.
I am not sure when brewers habitually took to weighing their grist, but Customs and Excise insisted upon appropriate weighing scales being installed in breweries in about 1814. Can't really remember the exactl date, but it was the same year that Britain unified its weights and measures system, and the same year that Excise adopted the "official saccharometer". I have to say that the installation of these scales were more for the benefit of the Excise than the brewer. From this point on Excise did their calculations on a weight basis, and it would have simplified matters and benefited the brewer to have done the same.