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2 Row Vs 6 Row Barley Malt

Today we will demystify the barley selection and help you choose between 2R and 6R barley. What is the difference between spring and winter crop? Similarly, How to choose the right grain for your brewing needs? Also, should you go for dryland Barley or irrigated barley? We will try to provide you answers for these basic questions.

6 Row Barley Green
6 Row Barley Green
#Criteria2 Row Barley6 Row Barley
1Brewing CultureMost Europe prefers 2 Row Barley for beer brewing. Stout and ale recipes will explicitly call for 2 Row barleyMost American Ales and IPA will be made from 6 row barley. More than 2/3 of the world barley is 6 Row Barley. Therefore, sticking to 6 Row Barley means it is more readily available, cheaper and has more options to choose from.
2Availability in IndiaIndia imports all of its 2 row barley. Because it is difficult to grow a viable 2 row crop in India. However, Arishtam along with Leavenworth & ICAR Karnal are running some field trials in Jhanshi and Rajasthan for 2 row BarleyIndia is one of largest producers of 6 row barley. So, almost any city feed or grain store will stock 6 row barley.
With advancement in crop technology, one can make a decent quality American craft beer with 6 row barley
3IdentificationIt is easiest to identify the Barley when they are in the field. They have distinct characteristics. For example, the two row Barley will have grains on the side (like a wheat field). Hence, the name 2 Row barleyWhereas the 6 Row Barley has a more star like configuration. (as shown in the picture). Two kernels (seeds) will be smaller/ underdeveloped and 4 will be regular size. If the grains are not screened, then a fistful of 6 row barley will appear uneven in size.
4Malting CharacteristicsSince the kernel size are even, the malting properties will be uniform throughout the batch.Most large maltsters will pass 6 row barley through a screen to separate different grain size seeds. If screened, the malting characteristics will be as uniform or in fact in some cases more better than that of 2 row barley
5Kernel WeightGenerally, the 2 Row Barley is plumpier. Comparatively, larger in size. This means that the grain to husk ratio is better and therefore the yield is more.6 row barley has 2-8% more husk than that of 2 row barley. Hence, yields are lower.
6Protein content~9-12% lower protein means that beer wort is clearer. Thus, lesser amount of irish moss is needed.It is usually 11-14% range. Higher proteins are good for professional breweries that want to use adjunct along with barley (Rice, wheat & sorghum). As, high protein and higher husk content makes it suitable for adjunct mashing.
7PriceSince it is grown exclusively for brewing industry, it is priced higher. Also, the yield per acre is much less. Therefore, making it expensive for farmers to grow.It is a lot cheaper. Especially the low protein barley that brewers buy. Also, the price can be further reduced by using unmalted adjunct in the mash.
8dimethyl sulfide (DMS)Lower protein means that there is less protein breakdown. This results in crispier beers.DMS from protein breakdown is one of the problems associated with 6 row barley beer
9polyphenols/ tanninsLesser husk content leads to lesser tannins. Also, the color stability for 2 row barley is moreHigher husk content can lead excessive tannins in the batch.
10Drought ResistanceTwo row barley is primarily grown in rain fed parts of the world. Also, farmers avoid using fertilizers to keep the protein content low.Whereas, 6 row barley needs controlled amount of water and fertilizers for best output. In general, bad rains has a much higher impact on the kernel size and protein content of the grains.
11Stuck fermentation (Diastatic Power Lintner scale)One of the biggest pitfall of 2 row barley is its low protein content. This can lead to incomplete mashing problem.
Its diastatic power ~110
6 row barley mashing is so robust that commercial brewery would add 20-40% unamalted grains as adjunct.
Its diastatic power is >160
12Malt EnzymesTypically the beta glucen level is ~100-120. However, total amylaze content is only 10% lesserIf the grains are not screened, then a lot of barley is wasted because of under and over modification of grains during malting. Hence, the resultant is lesser yields.
2 Row and 6 Row barley malt

Malting Grain Selection

If you are selecting grains, the following parameters would be useful:

  1. Germination rate: 95-98% is the industry norm. Because, the lower the germination, more the grains will rot/waste.
  2. Pure breed: Go for the uniform breed and grain size. The more heterogeneous your grains are, more variability will be there in the batch.
  3. Protein content: Today with genetic engineering, 9.5% protein is almost the higher limit for malting barley. Low protein is better and has a clear wort. Less DMS problem.
  4. Moisture level: lower than 13.5%. Lower moisture is better as this moisture is dead weight. Also, high moisture grain is prone to pest and damage.
  5. Plumpiness: Use a 2.5mm screen (6/64 inches) to test the grain size. Generally, plump kernel have higher grain ratio and better yield.
  6. Broken grains: The lesser the better.
  7. Also check for disease, discolored, damaged grains. Further, look out for any signs of pest.
Malt Grain Barley Beer Brewing
Beer Sign next to Hollywood Mountains

2-Row Pale Malt?

There is Pale Ale Malt, Pale Malt, 2 Row malt and Pilsner. There is rarely any malt labelled as 2-Row Pale Malt, yet most brewing books will use copious amounts of this ingredient.

American brewing is primarily 6-row barley. Hence it is not uncommon for brewing recipes to explicitly mention out 2R malt vs 6 Row malt when it comes to base malt. Typically a recipe with low adjunct grains (corn/rice etc.) would call for 2-R base malts and those with 15-30% Adjunct ratio will call for 6-R base malt. This is because of the difference in the Diastatic power of the two species.

The second reason for 2-R Pale malt could be the color. Light beers esp. Lagers and Belgian White Wheat Beers need the lightest of the malt available. If you like to post pictures of your brews on the internet, color could make a hell of a difference. 6-Row Pale malt are usually 4SRM/7EBC, while good quality 2-Row Pale Malt is available at 2SRM/3EBC

If Adjunct and color is not a problem, then you can easily switch between various pale malts, pilsners and base malts.

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