What are the characteristics of 6 row barley?

Answered by Tom Adger

Six-row barley is a type of barley that is known for its specific characteristics. One of the main distinguishing features of six-row barley is its higher husk content compared to other types of barley. This is because six-row barleys tend to have thinner kernels, which results in a higher proportion of husk in the overall grain.

The husk of barley plays an important role in the brewing process as it acts as a natural filter during lautering, helping to separate the liquid wort from the solid grain material. The higher husk content in six-row barley can be advantageous in this regard, as it provides a better filtration bed and can result in improved lautering efficiency.

However, it is important to note that the husk content of six-row barley can vary depending on the growth environment. Factors such as soil conditions, climate, and agricultural practices can all influence the husk content of the barley crop. Therefore, it is not safe to assume that all six-row barleys will have consistently high husk content.

It is worth mentioning that the higher husk content in six-row barley can also have implications for beer flavor. The husk of barley contains phenolic compounds, which can contribute to the overall flavor profile of the beer. When there is a higher husk content, there is a potential for more phenolics to end up in the wort during the brewing process. This can result in a more astringent flavor in the final beer, which may not be desirable for certain beer styles.

In my personal experience as a brewer, I have encountered situations where the use of six-row barley with high husk content has led to a slightly harsh and astringent flavor in the finished beer. This is particularly noticeable in styles that require a smooth and balanced flavor profile. To mitigate this issue, some brewers may choose to blend six-row barley with other types of barley, such as two-row barley, to achieve a better balance of flavors.

Six-row barley is characterized by its higher husk content, which can be advantageous for lautering efficiency in the brewing process. However, the husk content can vary depending on the growth environment, and the higher husk content can result in a more astringent flavor in the beer. Brewers need to consider these factors when selecting and using six-row barley in their recipes.