pros and cons of 2-row & 6-row barley:

During my homebrew experiments, I was faced with the epic question of using Indian Barley or imported barley. Using 6 row barley malt or 2 row malt etc. Here is some literature that I could dig out on the same topic.

Six-Row Pros:

  • It has more protein, less starch, and a thicker husk than two-row.
  • Six-row is less expensive per pound, and allows further cost cutting through the higher use of inexpensive adjuncts to offset the high protein levels.
  • Six row is locally available, which means lesser logistic hassle and uncertainity.
  • Higher protein levels may help speed conversion to fermentable sugars. This is important to homebrewers using high mash-in temps; more conversion would take place than otherwise.
  • Six-row has higher enzyme content for converting starch into fermentable sugars. More enzymes means it can convert adjunct starches (which lack or are deficient in enzymes) during mashing. Offset this with more (less expensive) adjunct grain use, and you know why so many large breweries use six-row.
  • Supplementing two-row malt with some six-row malt might increase extraction, conversion time, and fermentability, particularly if you have a high percentage of adjuncts.
  • Six-row yields more per acre, the true reason for its affordability.
  • Those thicker husks improve the filter bed for lautering.

Six-Row Cons:

Enzyme and protein levels are high enough that a brewer probably doesn’t want to use six-row barley exclusively in a recipe. (Adjunct grains are cheaper.) Unmalted cereals (corn and rice) are often mixed in with malt to compensate for the higher protein levels in six-row barley—up to 40 percent of six-row grist can be adjunct. New malt strains mean adding adjuncts is no longer necessary, but it’s economical and, in the case of some large breweries’ beers, traditional.

  • Six row is more susceptible to the formation of dimethyl sulfide, a process begun through protein breakdown in malting. Some DMS is acceptable in some beer styles, but too much may contribute to a cooked or sweet corn flavor.
  • Higher protein content can result in more break material during wort boiling and cooling, which can cause protein haze. Pay attention to this extra hot break for coagulation and removal.
  • Six-row husks are high in polyphenols (tannins), which can contribute to protein-polyphenol haze, and can impart an astringent taste.
  • Higher protein content often indicates less starch for conversion in malting. Six-row malting barley contains from 12-13.5 percent protein, whereas two-row has 11-13 percent. Malting doesn’t change the protein levels much.
  • High protein levels can lengthen steeping time in the malting process, which causes erratic germination, particularly if low- and high-protein barleys are mixed to meet protein limits for malt. (And I was worried about controlling what went into my malt extract…)
  • High proteins can lead to other beer quality issues like color control.
  • Syrup adjuncts and six-row: Syrups are prepared by enzymatically hydrolyzing corn starch into fermentable sugars. It’s added to wort in fermentable form, which can take the wort over acceptable enzyme and soluble protein levels if you’re using six-row barley cultivars.

Two-Row Pros:

  • Greater drought tolerance
  • You can make more beer from two-row than from six-row malt; its lower enzyme content, lower protein, greater starch content, and thinner husk make it better suited to higher extract. This is less obvious at the homebrew scale and more a concern for large breweries.
  • Arguably gives beer a mellower flavor than six-row.

Two-Row Cons:

  • The lower diastatic (enzymatic) power of two-row becomes an issue when a large proportion of unmalted adjunct grain is used.
  • Two-row tends to be more expensive per pound.
  • Big breweries generally use far more adjunct grain than they strictly need; large amounts of adjuncts tend to have little body and less maltiness.

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