Who knew they even had balls?
Do you know what rye balls are? I didn't, until Fred Noe explained them to me.
Never heard of the term, although I bet it is very similar to bed compaction that brewers face when working with huskless grains.
Sounds like they just need a giant whisk...something that I believe is not too uncommon in large scale brewing (motorized stirring).
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From reading over the years, I've gleaned other information on why rye is sometimes difficult or inconvenient to work with.
It has a tendency to "foam" and spill over the fermenter. I think its sticky gelatinous qualities cause this.
At one time at any rate, rye sometimes had a taste of onions because apparently wild or other onions often take root in lands used to cultivate rye. This affected in some cases the quality of rye spirits.
Also, rye tends to produce acidic distillates (high acid content) which perhaps was more significant when distillates were consumed much younger than today.
Yet another factor: livestock didn't like rye backsets as much as those made from corn or other grains. Not sure if this factor still figures today.
On the plus side: according to some early writers, rye produced more spirit than any other grain, a significant factor when its price was low.
Also, "pound for pound", rye tends to have more flavor, in my opinion, than corn or wheat, and I think this is why mashes that incorporate some rye in the bill are still fairly dominant in the industry (subject to some well-established and high quality exceptions as we know).
Mash cookers all have agitators, but rye balls are tricky buggers.
In brewing they are referred to as "dough balls" and can be problematic with not only rye, but malt as well. This occurs when the grist is not sufficiently mixed into the water, leaving pockets of grain that do not convert, nor lend any flavor to the beer. I'm not sure how pro-brewers handle this, but I add grain to water in stages and stir/agitate aggressively.
Since modern distillers like to use a thick beer for energy efficiency, that's probably a factor too, keeping water to a minimum.