What is a Grist Hydrator?

What Is a Grist Hydrator? A grist hydrator is a very handy and easily overlooked piece of mashing equipment that every brewery and distillery should be pretty familiar with. People don’t promote grist hydrators too terribly often, and it’s probably because they can be pretty simple. They do what the name suggests, hydrate the grains going into a mash tun. This job is a pretty important part of the mashing process, and while a grist hydrator is easy to overlook, it can have an outsized impact on your process. 

In the grist hydrator dry grains are dumped into a hopper that funnels the grain through a sprinkler that sprays it to hydrate it as it enters the mash tun. Pre-mixing helps prevent doughballs that lower the efficiency of the mashing process and ensures you have a more uniform and consistent mash.

If you get doughballs in your mash, they will keep the liquor out and prevent the starches and sugars from breaking down. This also prevents the enzymes and yeast from doing their jobs in the fermentation process by putting up physical barriers. Pre-hydrating the grain prevents it from clumping, and if you do get clumps, you’ll either have to rely on the mash tun’s rakes or manually break up the dough balls.

A grist hydrator can come in various sizes and geometries, and each with its own applications, strengths, and weaknesses. The most common types are a spray ring that hydrates the grist as it falls, plates that force the grist and water to mix, and static mixers that increase grist and water contact over a specified length.

The spray ring has the least chance of fouling and the least maintenance, but it doesn’t hydrate the grains quite as well. With the spray plate variety, the plates can clog if not operated properly or if the grain can contact the plate for too long without water flow. The static mixer is the best at hydrating grain, but it is also the most complex and costly, so it may be overkill for most applications. Most of our grist hydrators are the spray ring variety and come standard on our mash tuns. 

Grist hydrators are a wonderful piece of mashing equipment that can help you save money by increasing the efficiency of your chemical inputs and increasing the consistency of your mashing by breaking up dough balls. There’s more than one kind of geometry, and they can be sized for your application, so please call us to discuss your options or if you need some tips and tricks on best practices. We love hearing from you, so please reach out or comment below to let us know how we can help!