Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Helianthus - a Malted Sunflower Saison

I am always looking for new ingredients to use in a Saison/Farmhouse Ale, whether its yeast or a fancy aromatic hop, I love tinkering with the style. Earlier this year on Basic Brewing Video and Basic Brewing Radio James brewed a beer with Malted Sunflower Seeds and interviewed Jason Cody, the president of Colorado Malting Company the company sells the Malted Sunflower Seeds. The interview was great, he touches on how they got into Craft Malting and some of the different things they are testing out. It all sounded perfect to me for a Farmhouse ale.

I reached out to CMC to place an order but unfortunately they were out, it seems that they do limited malting runs on these lesser used ingredients. Over email I asked Tim Cody, Home Brewer Product Advocate (what a title), about availability and he said to check back late summer. I did just that and sure enough it was back in stock, Tim was very helpful over email, I wish they had an online store but Tim helped me get the order through.
The plan was to brew something simple so I could really see what the Sunflowers brought to the beer, if anything at all.  I and I had plenty of Pilsner malt and whole leaf East Kent Goldings on hand, so I settled on ~75% Pilsner, 20% Malted Sunflowers, some sugar and all EKG's in the boil. I took a bit of a shot in the dark on the sugar potential in the seeds and guessed at 1.020, I either guessed right or got lucky, I think the latter. CMC's website lists the color at 3.0L so this should be a pretty pale beer.
There were some holes in the bag when the job was done, 
but the crush seemed sufficient.

For testing purposes I like to brew smaller 3.5 gallon batches on my stove top at times with new ingredients. I also do this for some big beers or DIPA's, anything I don't need a large volume of.
Post "crush".

I reached out to James from Basic Brewing about dealing with the Sunflowers, since he mentions in the video that they were "tricky" to mill. His method was to open and close the gap on his mill to get them to go through the rollers. I opted for the rolling pin method, not very exact but it got the job done with some elbow grease. All of the Pilsner malt was of course run through my mill as usual.
Floating in the mash.

Originally I had a theory that the Sunflower might act as a filter to help in sparging, not that I needed it in this simple grist, but maybe it could help in some beers with Rye or Wheat. As soon as I dough'ed in I was proved wrong, these things float right to the top. 

The only problem this caused me was it was difficult to judge the level of liquid on top of the grain bed during the sparge. There was all of these Sunflowers floating, then a layer of water then the Pilsner on the bottom. So I sat a small strainer on top of the grain bed so that I could judge the liquor level on top of the grain bed so it wouldn't run dry.

The rest of the brew day was pretty straight forward, I bagged all of the EKGs in thew boil in hopes of having a clean slurry at the bottom of the fermenter to wash and reuse again. Going into the fermenter the wort tasted pretty simple, not unlike some Saisons with just wheat and Pilsner that I have made in the past but I will reserve judgment until I try the finished product. 

Full recipe can be found below.


Brew day: 11/2/2013
Kegged: 11/28/2013

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 5.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 4.25 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 4.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 3.70 gal
Estimated OG: 1.045 SG
Measured OG: 1.046 SG
Measured FG: 1.006 SG
ABV: 3.8%
Estimated Color: 7.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 37.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71.6 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 70.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

76.7% - 5 lbs-12 oz Pilsner
20.0% - 1 lb-8 oz Malted Sunflower Seeds
3.3% - 4.0 oz - Turbinado sugar (added at high krausen)

Boil: 60min - 0.75 oz East Kent Goldings [6.60 %] - 25.7 IBUs

Boil: 15min - 0.50 oz East Kent Goldings [6.60 %] - 8.5 IBUS
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

Boil: 5min - 0.75 oz East Kent Goldings [6.60 %] - 3.9 IBUS


Harvested Slurry of: WLP585 Belgian Saison III + WLP565 Belgian Saison I

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148.3 F

Fly Sparge 3.62 gallons of 170f water.

Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2. Philadelphia filtered tap water, 1/2tsp Gypsum in the mash. 

Tasting Notes: 1/24/14


  1. Very cool. The folks at CMC are top-notch. They replaced a bag of millet malt I bought in 2012 before they really got it down for just the cost of shipping, more than a year after I bought it.

    As a huge fan of "exotic" malts, I'm really looking forward to the review.

    1. Wow thats pretty awesome, glad to hear others had a good experience with them as well. Their customer service was top notch I would definitely order from them again.

      I'm pretty excited to try this one out, I just bottled 6 this week and the rest is in the keg on gas. I'll post my tasting notes right away.

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  3. There was all of these Sunflowers floating, then a layer of water then the Pilsner on the bottom. proflower coupons

  4. How did you get the estimated values of SRM from the sunflower seeds? I'm trying to calculate a brew myself with BrewTarget and was wondering if you had a resource of information you could point me towards ? ? ?