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Decoding the Numbers on Your Grain

Don’t take that certificate of analysis for granted—the stats attached to your raw grain or malt can make a big difference in how you ferment and distill a consistent, quality spirit. Here’s what to know.

Gabe Toth Jul 2, 2024 - 10 min read

Decoding the Numbers on Your Grain Primary Image

Courtesy: Gambrinus Malt

The first time a distiller sees a certificate of analysis (COA)—possibly attached to an initial batch of raw grain or malt—it might look like Latin or gibberish. That collection of percentages, ratios, and PPMs attached to strange identifiers such as Kolbach or beta-glucan can look as impenetrable as a secret code.

However, just as a chef ought to inspect a fresh batch of steaks for marbling and quality, distillers should cast a critical eye over the grain itself, visually, as well as over the numbers in the COA. Like any agricultural product, grain is subject to variability. Different harvests, various chemical or environmental inputs, and even variations from one field to another in the same year can lead to grain that has different properties.

As a distiller, you should understand and account for those properties when planning your mashing or cooking regimen.

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Gabe Toth is a distiller, former brewer, and industry journalist in northern Colorado. He is the lead distiller at The Family Jones production facility and has written books about floor malting and fermented food.