The base of any alcoholic beverage(yes, beer included) is sugars, but what kind of sugar and where do they come from? For every brewer there is 1 main source of these sugars, malted barley.
Malted barley starts its life a simple, raw grain that is allowed to germinate and is then kiln dried to preserve the sugars. The barley is watered and this give the naturally present enzymes a chance to breakdown the more complex sugars and cell membrane of the barely to allow more of the sugars to be extracted later on in the brewing process.
It is a 3 step process: Steeping, Germination and Kilning.
Steeping involves soaking the grains for several hours at a time, multiple times. This process increases the overall moisture content of the barely to approx. 44%. This increase in moisture is the key to life; the moisture activates enzymes that trigger the growth cycle (telling the barley its time to start growing). The process is consider done when a root sprout is visible.
Once the rootlet is visible, the barley is moved to the germination floor. The barley spends 4-5 days being constantly turned to avoid the barley from becoming entangled. During this time, the barley`s proteins and carbohydrates and broken down into simpler, more easily digested sugars.
We don`t want all the carbohydrates to be consumed during germination, so its time to dry out the barley. A maltster`s 2 best friends are time and heat; the germinated barley is heated to between 71 and 104oC for several hours to several days until the overall moisture level is reduced to 4.5%.
Kiln dried barley is now ready to be used in the brewing process, but it can always do more! Kilning at a higher temperature results in a darker barley, leading a different spectrum of tastes and colors. These specialty grains are critical to making a range of different beers with a wide range of colors and tastes.