Welcome to the ancient art of malt vinegar production. If you enjoy cooking with Mother Nature you'll like this project. We are making malt vinegar from wheat berries. Mother Nature puts on a real show of colors and warm earthy smells as we make this great tasting vinegar.
Things you need to know.
There are a few things to consider before making a batch of homemade vinegar. Most importantly, vinegar making is a true test of patience. It takes about 6 weeks to convert wheat berries into vinegar. It will be another 3 months before the vinegar mellows from aging. Vinegar making is for the stouthearted. During the process we encounter frothy foam, gooey gray sediment, a thick white translucent glob ("mother"), and various strong natural smells. All are necessary parts of the process. There is also a likelihood that vinegar flies and vinegar eels will show up. Finally, while Mother Nature is forgiving, we need to follow each step closely and use our best kitchen hygiene practices.
There are three distinct stages to create this vinegar. First we will convert the starches in the wheat into malts (sugars.) The next two fermentation stages will convert the sugars into vinegar. In the first stage of fermentation yeast will convert the sugars into ethanol. In the second stage acetobacter will convert the ethanol into acetic acid, vinegar. The first stage of fermentation is done in the absence of oxygen and takes about a week. The second stage is done with oxygen and takes about 4 weeks.
So, relax and enjoy the show as Mother Nature creates great tasting malt vinegar.
Things we will need.
Here is a list of items that we will need to follow this recipe.
1 ¼ cups wheat berries. About ½ pound.
¼ tsp active dry yeast
1 cup raw unfiltered vinegar. This can be found at your local organic grocer.
1quart Mason jar with a lid. We are not canning so any Mason type jar will work.
Candy or meat thermometer that can measure in the 130 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit range.
6 in. square of light weight cloth. A large coffee filter will work as well.
A discarded Clean t-shirt. Cut out the front or back of the shirt to make a square rag.
¼ in wide rubber bands. (No. 64 rubber bands by office supply standards)
6 qt stainless steel sauce pan
Either a coffee grinder or a wheat grinder capable of cracking wheat
Household chlorine bleach
Things we will need to do.
Accumulate all the items on the list.
The sprouting process is complete when the sprout is the same length as the grain. These sprouts are ready to be dried.
- Grinding the malted wheat. 5 minute process
- Making the wort and starting the first fermentation. 3 hour process
Before making the wort we need to prepare the Mason jar. Fill the clean jar with water and add about 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach.
Now we can make the wort. Wort is the sticky sweet amber colored juice from which the vinegar will be made. Pour 1 quart of water into the sauce pan. Use a spoon to measure the depth of the water. We will need to remember this depth later. Now add another three cups of water. There should now be 7 cups of water in the pan.
|Remove the pan to a counter and wrap it in a towel so that heat cannot escape. The wort needs to sit for 1 hour.|
After a week the first fermentation is complete. It is time to separate out the clear liquid and begin the second fermentation.
5. Starting the second fermentation.
Our vinegar is done. But, it is still sharp. It will take time for it to mellow. Strain the vinegar into a bowl. Thoroughly clean the jar. Poor the vinegar back into the jar. Put the lid on tightly. Place the jar in a cupboard for about 3 month. It will mellow as it ages.
- Wheat germination and sprouting works well at 65-72°F, 18-22°C. If your temperature is much warmer you will need to rinse more often to prevent spoilage. Above 80°F, 27°C, it will be difficult to prevent spoilage. The first fermentation has an optimal temperature range similar to sprouting. However, the process is tolerant of higher temperatures. The second fermentation will work poorly or not at all below 75°F, 24°C. Because I live in a temperate climate, I can control the temperatures by batching the processes in different seasons. The sprouting is done in the spring when indoor temperatures are just right. I then store the dried malted wheat until the early summer when temperatures are better for the other processes.
- For your first batch of vinegar you are dependant on outside sources for the starter you use in the second fermentation. Any raw unfiltered vinegar will contain the needed microbes. After completing your first batch, however, you will have your own raw unfiltered vinegar. Unless you chose to pasteurize your vinegar you will be able to use some your own vinegar as the starter for your next batch.
- Should you fall victim to vinegar eels you have two choices. Either ignore them or filter and pasteurize them. To filter pour the vinegar through your cloth. To pasteurize, heat the vinegar to near boiling in a pan over the stove.
- The processes and proportions remain the same should you choose to make a larger batch. I find a two liter batch to be an efficient home brew.
- Aging your vinegar has a wonder effect on the taste as well as the color. The longer the aging process the better the flavor and aroma. Two to three months is sufficient but a year is even better. When exposed to a little oxygen and light your vinegar will darken considerable. With time you will eventually get a dark amber color similar to apple cider.