Coffee maker beer – spot the deliberate error

Malt is tricky, and sometimes gross. In my experience, the best you can hope for is vegemite, marmite, or some other yeast extract. If you have chocolate malt balls or some other malt based candy, those can be ground up and used as well”. Andrew Thaler

These “malt” sources don’t have active amylase enzymes – they at best would be an additional source of fermentable sugars and amino acids that would help yeast activity. They would not degrade the starch in the the processed cereals. The repeated extraction through the coffee maker would extract all [most of] the available simple fermentable sugars, a fair amount given that many of these cereals were probably steamed during processing with some thermal starch degradation. The dried fruits would be great sources of fermentable sugars, not just a flavor modifiers.

So what could he do to make this process somewhat more efficient?

If the ship’s bakery had malted barley flour – with active amylases that’d be best – that’s probably unlikely, the ship’s chef/baker would probably use a bread flour that would possibly have malted barley flour added at the mill. This is usually a vanishingly small amount of malt flour, because in breadmaking you only want extremely limited starch digestion for just enough fermentable sugars for the yeast. Adding some of the bread flour (check the label for the malted barley flour – e.g General Mills’ Better for Bread has it – just an example, not an endorsement) and maybe having longer period of digestion for the mash. This would mean that the coffee maker hotplate might be a bit warm and thermally kill the amylases so if you could keep the mash at about 60 deg C** this would maximize the beta-amylase activity and create a wort with the maximum fermentables possible with this crude, but brave, method.

**This should be possible on any modestly sized oceanographic research vessel.

Thanks BarelyWorld


Fabulously fun, but serious thought has gone into this…

[See the BFCTL August24 post “Spot the deliberate error” for a commentary on the method]

From The Science Creative Quarterly at the Univ. of British Columbia.

click here…


By Andrew Thaler

About the post author “Andrew Thaler is a graduate student studying deep-sea biology. When not in the lab, he spends his time out on the water, usually swearing at his boat while simultaneously sacrificing some important tool to Poseidon in a desperate attempt make the motor start. He is also a recreational beer brewer, and these two hobbies have melded together to create this handy guide for when emergency rations run out. He writes at”




Thanks BarleyWorld

Well – maybe ?

Should we eat more chocolate ?

Should Hershey’s recent study lead you to eat more chocolate?

Posted by Yoni Freedhoff at the Weighty Matters blog.

When interviewed one of the researchers was reported as saying “While the findings from this study do not suggest that people should start eating more chocolate as part of their daily routine, it does suggest that we pay more attention to how dark chocolate and other flavonoid-rich foods might offer cardiovascular benefits,

However, the conclusions of the paper said “...this study shows beneficial effects of acute consumption of cocoa in solid and liquid preparation on cardiac risk in overweight persons. This trial further suggests that the cardioprotective influence of acute cocoa ingestion is attenuated by the sugar content of cocoa-containing beverages and accentuated by the removal of sugar. Further investigation is clearly warranted to determine longer term effects of habitual solid and liquid cocoa ingestion, optimal dosing of chocolate for cardiovascular benefit, variation in beneficial effects among diverse populations, and, ultimately, the influence of dietary cocoa intake on cardiac events“.

One thing strikes me in the conclusions – “Further investigation is clearly warranted” – the mantra of researchers everywhere is evident here.

Another strikes me about the acknowledgements “We thank the study participants for taking part in the study“. AS IF ! The participants should have thanked the researchers for giving them free chocolate and yet another reason to eat it !   🙂

Faridi Z, Njike VY, Dutta S, Ali A, & Katz DL. (2008) Acute dark chocolate and cocoa ingestion and endothelial function: a randomized controlled crossover trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 88(1), 58-63. PMID: 18614724 Acute dark chocolate and cocoa ingestion and endothelial function: a randomized controlled crossover trial.


Portal and Friends via Flickr

Plant cell wall engineering

The amazing structural properties of plants” – “Via “ScienceWise”  at the Australian National University.

I came across this when I was searching for the strategies used by other people and institutions regarding efforts to expand the public awareness of science. It’s a little old, from February 2008, but I thought it of interest.

Plant cell walls are incredibly important in all sorts of places in foods: from the texture of fruits and vegetables, and how texture softens during ripening, often due to concerted action by enzymes like pectinases, to the efficacy of extraction techniques where plant cell walls that need to be degraded for access to the internal contents e.g. wine grape crushing. Plant cell walls also soften under the impact of enzymes produced by post-harvest microbial growth. Any one who has experienced the effects of Erwinia carotovora soft rot on potatoes or carrots has seen first hand what the concerted effects of pectinases, cellulases, and xylanases can do to the integrity of the plant tissue. Cell walls  are important in cereal processing as well. Depending on their solubility arabinoxylans (AX) in wheat can be beneficial or detrimental to baking properties of flour, and AX create a second elastic polymer network in cookies that can limit their spread. Soluble beta-glucans [closely related to cellulose] are a benefit as soluble fiber in oats and barley, but can be a nightmare  for brewers trying to drain a mash tank.

Daniel J. Cosgrove, of the Department of Biology at Penn State University, got it right when he wrote;

Without cell walls, plants would be pliant piles of PROTOPLASM, more like slime moulds than the stately trees and other greenery that grace our planet“.

(Cosgrove DJ. 2005. Growth of the plant cell wall. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 6, 850-861 | doi:10.1038/nrm1746)

Anyone who has mistakenly grabbed a Erwinia rotted potato has experienced what the whole plant kingdom would feel like, and what its TEXTURE would be, without the cell walls – YEECH!

One problem about plant cell walls is their complexity. It has been hard to model their fine structure, and even harder to define the sequence of events in their synthesis.

In the article “Mixing cell biology with mechanical engineering” Shankar Kalyanasundaram, Hung Kha and Richard Williamson, biologist and engineers team up to model primary cell wall structure.

Williamson is quoted…

The mechanical properties of any material always reflect its underlying structure” of course for food scientists the mechanical properties are also the properties we perceive as texture when we eat the material.

Dr Kalyanasundaram reported; “… biologists might be able to test the individual components that make up the structure of the cell wall, but they don’t have the expertise to model the various components as a system.. How the structure of a cell wall gives rise to its mechanical properties is an important research area, and we need this understanding if we are to better understand cell expansion and the role it plays in plant growth“.

This is entirely aligned in its strategy with  the systems approach to understanding plant cell walls published by  Chris Somerville and colleagues from Stanford in 2004

(Somerville et al. 2004. Toward a Systems Approach to Understanding Plant Cell Walls.  Science 24: Vol. 306. no. 5705, pp. 2206 – 2211. DOI: 10.1126/science.1102765)

The abstract of Kha et al can be found here –  —  —  —  Kha H, Tuble S, Kalyanasundaram S, Williamson RE. (2008) Finite element analysis of plant cell wall materials. Advanced Materials Research 32: 197-201.