Back to Basics: The Malting Process

Malt is an important (some might argue the most important) ingredient in beer, malt whiskey, and certain food products to add flavour, texture and colour. 

The malt itself comes from barley. Barley has starch needed to make beer and malt whiskey, but it is inaccessible in its natural form. That’s where the malting process comes into play. 

The process itself is defined as the “controlled germination and drying process that changes the microstructure of cell walls, proteins, scratch granules.

There are three major steps that barley has to go through to become malt:

  1. Steeping
  2. Germination
  3. Kilning 

First, the barley has to be harvested and checked that the barley is free from contaminants (such as plants and other grains). Once completed, the process can begin. 

Steeping is the first step, and this is where the moisture content of the barley is raised by immersion in water. The water is added to the barley to ensure that it has enough moisture to sustain the next stage of the process – germination.

The barley itself is full of starch which is a sugar that yeast can ferment, so it is transferred to germination units where germination continues. Enzymes are produced to break down the starchy material (endosperm) partially, and then a rootlet is formed.

Next up: Kilning 

Once the correct degree of modification is achieved, the green malt is transferred to the kilning unit as the barley is now known. Here, the controlled drying and curing process halts germination and imparts the final colour to the malt necessary for its final use. Kilning preserves the enzymes and sugars. It’s essential for adding flavour to the malt. The time and temperature have an impact on the flavour produced. 

Now in a stable condition, the malt is screened before storage, where it’s held for long periods before despatch.

Here at Don Valley, we have a whole division dedicated to malting and providing maltsters with the correct equipment. If you’re interested in what we have to offer or just simply want to learn even more about the malting process, click here!

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