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

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.

Germination

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.

Kilning

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%.

Roasting (Bonus!!!)

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.

Malt Tables

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4 thoughts on “Give me Malt or give me Death

  1. If the steeping process isn’t done correctly and the correct moisture level hasn’t been reached, what happens to your final product? How do you know you’ve reached the correct moisture?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If the moisture level isn’t reach, the malt won’t germinate. We need it to germinate so that the inner capsule is broken and the sugars can be extracted.

      Moisture is usually measure by taken a sample of malt, grinding it and drying it at 104C for 3 hours. Moisture is measured by comparing the weight of the malt before and after the drying.

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