Working With Wheat


Two main things distinguish wheat as a brewing grain from the default barley: (1) wheat has a much less substantial grain husk and (2) wheat has higher protein content. Many of these issues are similar to brewing with rye, oats, and spelt.

The issue of high protein content is primarily an esthetic concern. When present in a finished beer protein suspended in solution is the source of chill haze and contributes to a cloudy appearance. As a result, it is difficult to achieve a crystal clear beer when using a high percentage of wheat in the recipe. In general brewers have chosen to embrace the cloudy esthetic and enhance it even further by using low-flocculating yeast that also stay suspended in the beer. This can be seen in full effect in the popular and cloudy beer styles of German Heffeweizen and Belgian Wit.

The insubstantial grain husk proves to be much more problematic. When brewing with barley the husks provide structure to the mass of mashed grains to prevent them from gumming up completely into a ball of dough. This helps ensure that the mass of grains remains permeable to water during the sparge and means that a stuck sparge is a fairly rare event when using 100 percent barley. Wheat on the other hand is the preferred grain for making bread in part because it is well suited to making dough (even on the bottom of your mash tun). Consequently it is a good idea to add some additional grain husks (ex. rice hulls or oat hulls) to the mash in proportion to the amount of wheat used.