While I love my oats in the morning for breakfast and even the traditional Northern delicacy of a Staffordshire Oatcake, oats in beer was never a big thing for me. That was until I tried one of the many oatmeal stouts – it’s like breakfast in a glass!
Plus many of the New England IPA’s which are proving so popular now use oats for that hazy and almost creamy texture.
Oats as a cereal grain are rich in protein, fiber and a whole variety of nutrients. They are often used for their nutritional values in breakfast cereals, porridge and many baked goods too.
Oats are valued in the brewing of beer for their ability to contribute to the mouthfeel and body of the beer as well as helping to balance the bitterness of the hops and add a subtle sweetness to the beer.
Oat grains have been a popular ingredient in beer for centuries. They are a versatile grain that can add body, smoothness, and creaminess to beer when added to the base malt, while also contributing to its flavor and aroma.
However, when it comes to using oats in beer, there are two main options: rolled oats and flaked oats. While they may seem interchangeable, there are some differences between the two that can affect the final beer. In this post let’s explore the differences between rolled oats and flaked oats in beer.
What Are Rolled Oats?
Rolled oats, also known as old-fashioned oats, are created by steaming and then flattening the oats with a roller. This process creates a larger surface area, allowing for better extraction of the oat flavor and cereal starches during the brewing process. Rolled oats are often used in stouts, porters, and other dark beers to add a silky smoothness to the mouthfeel.
Rolled oats use whole oats that have been steamed at higher temperatures before being passed through the rollers. This process gelatinizes the starches in the oats, making them easier to extract during the brewing process.
Rolled oats are often used in brewing to provide a creamy, silky mouthfeel and a subtle nutty flavor. They can be added to the mash or steeped separately to create an oatmeal-like character in the finished beer.
What Are Flaked Oats?
Flaked oats, on the other hand, are created by steaming and then rolling the whole oat groats at a lower temperature than rolled oats. Basically flaked oats are pre-gelatinized and then pressed into flakes.
This difference in processing can impact how the oats behave in the brewing process and the type of mouthfeel they contribute to the beer.
This process creates a smaller surface area, resulting in less extraction of flavor and starches during the brewing process. This means that they are even easier to extract fermentable sugars from during the brewing process, making them a popular choice for creating hazy, New England-style IPA’s.
Sometimes referred to as steel-cut oats, flaked oats are often used in lighter beers such as pale ales and IPA’s to add a subtle creaminess to the mouthfeel without imparting too much flavor. Flaked oats can also improve the head retention in all styles of beer.
What Is the Difference Between Rolled Oats and Flaked Oats?
Rolled oats and flaked oats are both types of oatmeal, but they are processed differently. Rolled oats are made by steaming and rolling whole oats, whereas flaked oats are made by pressing the whole oat groat with large rollers to create a flattened, flaked oat.
So, which one should you choose for your beer? It depends on the style and the desired outcome.
If you’re brewing a dark beer and want a noticeable oat flavor and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel, rolled oats are the way to go. If you’re brewing a lighter beer and want a subtle creaminess without adding too much flavor, flaked oats are the better choice.
Flaked oats are a more popular choice for use in brewing, particularly in styles such as a New England IPA. This is because the flattened, flaked oat has more surface area, which makes it easier for the enzymes in the mash to break down the starches and convert them into sugars. Flaked oats also contribute to a smoother, creamier mouthfeel in the beer.
Rolled oats, on the other hand, can be more difficult to work with in the brewing process. The oat’s thicker, denser texture can create a sticky mash that is more difficult to sparge and can clog the filter or strainer.
However, rolled oats can still be used in brewing, particularly in styles such as Belgian Witbiers and other lighter, less hop-forward beers. Rolled oats can contribute a subtle, grainy flavor and a slightly thicker body to the beer.
It’s also important to note that both rolled oats and flaked oats can contribute to haze in the finished beer. This is due to the high level of proteins found in oats. If clarity is a concern, it’s best to use oats in moderation or consider using a clarifying agent such as Irish moss.
Are the Oats in Beer Malt?
The other main difference in the oats which can be used in beer is whether they are malted or not.. Malted oats have been sprouted and dried, which activates the enzymes needed for brewing. Unmalted oats, on the other hand, have not been sprouted and can be added directly to the mash.
Both types of oats can contribute to the flavor and texture of beer, but malted oats are generally preferred because they are easier to work with and produce a more consistent result.
Oat malt is made by germinating and kilning oats in the same way as barley malt. Oat malt can be used in place of barley malt in the brewing process, or in combination with barley malt to create a unique flavor profile. The oat malt contributes a subtle, nutty flavor and a smooth, velvety mouthfeel to beer.
The Benefits of Oats in Beer
In terms of their nutritional value, both rolled oats and flaked oats offer similar benefits. They are both rich in protein, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. However, it’s worth noting that some rolled oats may have added sugars or flavors, which can impact the taste and aroma of the beer.
In addition to contributing to the texture and flavor of beer, oats can also offer some health benefits. Oats are a good source of fiber, which can help to reduce cholesterol levels and improve digestion. They also contain vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc, which are important for overall health and wellbeing.
While the amount of oats used in beer is not enough to provide significant health benefits on their own, it’s still a nice bonus to know that they can offer some nutritional value.
One of the most notable benefits of oats in beer is their ability to contribute to the mouthfeel and body of the beer. Oats contain a high level of beta-glucans, which are complex sugars that contribute to a smooth, creamy texture in beer.
This is particularly evident in oatmeal stouts, where the oats help to create a full-bodied beer with a creamy head and a smooth, velvety texture.
Oats can also help to balance the bitterness of hops in beer. The beta-glucans in oats can help to reduce the perception of bitterness on the palate, making the beer more approachable and enjoyable for a wider range of drinkers.
This is particularly evident in New England IPA’s and other hazy, juicy IPA’s, where the addition of oats can create a soft, pillowy mouthfeel that balances the intense hop bitterness and enhances the fruity, tropical flavors of the hops.
Another benefit of oats in beer is their versatility. Oats can be used in a variety of beer styles, from oatmeal stouts and hazy IPA’s to brown ales, porters, and Belgian Witbiers. This allows brewers to experiment with different flavor profiles and create unique beers that stand out from the crowd.
Which Beers Use Oats?
One of the most popular styles of beer that uses oats is the oatmeal stout. Oatmeal stouts are dark, rich, and creamy, with a smooth mouthfeel that is attributed to the use of oats.
Oatmeal stouts are typically made with a combination of malted barley, oats, and sometimes wheat, along with a variety of hops and yeast. The oats in an oatmeal stout help to create a full-bodied beer with a creamy head and a smooth, velvety texture. Check out are guide to the best oatmeal stouts here.
Oats are also commonly used in New England IPA’s (NEIPA’s) and other hazy, juicy IPA’s. The addition of oats to the malt bill can help to create a soft, pillowy mouthfeel that balances the intense hop bitterness and enhances the fruity, tropical flavors of the hops. Oats can also be used in other styles of beer, such as brown ales, porters, and Belgian Witbiers.
Flaked Oats vs Rolled Oats – Final Thoughts
So, which type of oats is better for brewing? The answer, as always, depends on the style of beer you are trying to create.
Rolled oats are great for adding a smooth, velvety texture to beers like oatmeal stouts, brown ales, and porters. Flaked oats, on the other hand, are better suited for creating hazy IPA’s, as well as for improving mouthfeel and head retention in all styles of beer.
In conclusion, both rolled oats and flaked oats can be a valuable addition to your beer brewing process, but their differences in processing and behavior should be taken into consideration when choosing which to use.
Whether you choose rolled oats or flaked oats, they can both contribute to a creamy, silky mouthfeel in your beer that will keep your buddies coming back for more.