Cereal Rye Information: Learn How To Grow Rye Grain At Home

by johnah on November 20, 2020

Cereal Rye Information: Learn How To Grow Rye Grain At Home

The most common type of cereal rye used for making whiskey is called “Rye No. 1” or simply “No.1”.

It was developed in Kentucky by John Deere Company in 1881, and it’s one of the oldest varieties still being grown today. The first commercial distillery using No.1 was opened there in 1889 by Henry Clay Frick & Co. (Frick was the founder of Standard Oil). No.1 is a hardy plant that grows well in many climates and soils, but it does best when planted in rows spaced six feet apart with good drainage. Because of its age, it requires little care and produces a large crop each year.

How To Grow Cereal Rye Grain At Home

To grow cereal rye at home, you’ll need some seeds from which to make your own plants. You can buy them online or at any nursery.

They’re usually available in packages of 20 seeds, so if you have that much seed, you may want to start planting right away! If not, don’t worry; you’ll get enough seeds for several years’ worth of plants.

Once you’ve got your seeds, all you need to do is sow them into the ground where they will become cereal rye plants. If you’re going to be planting your rye in rows, it’s best for you to space them eight to ten inches apart.

Lay out your rows however you like since this is something you’ll have complete control over.

When sowing the seeds, cover them with about a quarter inch of soil. If possible, keep them watered until they sprout, but don’t worry too much about them since they’re pretty hardy plants.

Cereal Rye Information: Learn How To Grow Rye Grain At Home - Image

Each seed should grow into a small plant, and since there are so many seeds in just one package, you’ll have more than enough to allow for some natural wastage.

Harvesting Cereal Rye

Cereal rye is ready to harvest in the late summer or early fall, though you can leave it to grow until the first hard frost comes along if you want. When you’re ready to harvest, use a sharp blade (a knife or scissors will do) to cut off the heads of the rye plants just above the base.

You can leave these out to dry further, or if you’re in a hurry you can bundle them up and hang them somewhere warm and dry (like a basement) for several days to finish the drying process. Once the rye is dry it should be stored in airtight containers until you’re ready to make some whiskey.

Cereal rye can also be planted in the spring for a late-summer harvest, or between late summer and early winter for a harvest during the first half of the new year. The process is all the same, but the time you’ll have to wait before the rye is ready will vary.

Cereal Rye Seed Vs. No.1

When you buy your cereal rye seeds, you may see some that are marked “No.1”.

These are the same as regular cereal rye seeds, but they’ve just been specially packaged or labeled for sale to gardeners or farmers. The only difference is that they may cost a little more.

Making Rye Whiskey At Home

Once you’ve got your cereal rye plants ready for harvest, it’s time to make your whiskey. You can make this in a large pot still (which we’ll cover in greater detail later), or in any other vessel as long as it can hold at least two gallons of liquid.

If you’re using a pot still, you should double or triple your recipes to account for the extra space the pot will take up.

You Will Need:

Two gallons of cereal rye (or six pounds of malted grain)

1.5 to 2 pounds of sugar

0.5 ounce of hops (bittering variety)

A packet of yeast (try not to use the kind that needs to be added to water)


As with all alcohol, the process of making it is very simple and requires very little effort once you’ve got everything set up. First you need to crush the cereal rye or malted grain to make it easier for the yeast to digest.

You can do this by putting it in a bag and hitting it with a hammer, or putting it in a container and leaving it in the back of your pickup on your next trip to the golf course. After doing this just take it out and put it in a bucket of water for a couple days to let the sand and other bits float to the top.

Skim this off the top and keep repeating the process until you don’t see anymore sand at the top.

After crushing the cereal rye or malted grain, you need to mix in your other ingredients. The best way to do this is to put all of the crushed cereal rye in one container, all of the sugar in another, all of the hops in a third, and boil a small amount of water to very near boiling, then adding it to a fourth container.

Once all of your ingredients are in their respective containers, you need to thoroughly mix them together.

Once the ingredients are mixed, the next step is to transfer the contents of all four containers into your cooking container (pot still or other vessel). You need to make sure that everything is dissolved and mixed properly, so using something like a whisk might help to get rid of clumps or grain that won’t go down.

Sources & references used in this article:

Control of cereal rye with a roller/crimper as influenced by cover crop phenology by SB Mirsky, WS Curran, DA Mortensen… – Agronomy …, 2009 – Wiley Online Library

Soybean yield as affected by biomass and nitrogen uptake of cereal rye in winter cover crop rotations by ML Ruffo, DG Bullock, GA Bollero – Agronomy Journal, 2004 – Wiley Online Library

Utility of interseeded winter cereal rye in organic soybean production systems by KD Thelen, DR Mutch, TE Martin – Agronomy Journal, 2004 – Wiley Online Library

The potential for cereal rye cover crops to host corn seedling pathogens by MG Bakker, J Acharya, TB Moorman… – …, 2016 – Am Phytopath Society

Biomass Production and Nitrogen Accumulation by Hairy Vetch–Cereal Rye Mixtures: A Meta‐Analysis by R Thapa, H Poffenbarger, KL Tully… – Agronomy …, 2018 – Wiley Online Library

The roots of temperate cereals (wheat, barley, oats and rye). by A Troughton – … of temperate cereals (wheat, barley, oats and rye)., 1962 – cabdirect.org

Structure and evolution of seed storage proteins and their genes with particular reference to those of wheat, barley and rye. by M Kreis, PR Shewry, BG Forde, J Forde… – Oxford surveys of plant …, 1985 – cabdirect.org



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