How malt is made
The most important ingredient for brewers' malt is barley, a cereal grain. Apart from being a key ingredient in the brewing of beer, it is more commonly used to feed animals and as a staple food all around the world. As one of the first domesticated cereals, barley was already used in ancient Syria and Egypt to make bread and beer.
Barley malt is made by the process called 'malting'. It consists of three phases; first, the barley is washed and soaked in water to start the germination process. Secondly, the actual sprouting or 'germination' of the barley grains and, third, the drying of the sprouted grains to stop the germination process.
The malting process starts with soaking the barley grains for 24 – 48 hours in a steeping vessel.
During this time air is blown through the vessel (the steep) to add oxygen to the water and to cause a washing effect. Sand, dirt, and mould infested kernels are washed away resulting in a clean product. After approx. 24 hrs. the barley begins to sprout and the grain is transferred to the germination floor.
For seeds of any sort to sprout, a moist and warm environment is required. After the grains have been soaked they need to be rinsed and situated in a warm environment with light available to them.
The moist barley is spread out and allowed to germinate in a warm and light environment. During this process the sprouting barley produces heat. To control the temperature of the sprouts, they have to be turned on a regular basis. Historically, this was done by hand, but in modern times it is done by mechanical turners.
The modern techniques used in the Holland Malt maltings, such as fan assisted aeration and cooling devices allow us excellent control over the malting process enabling a germination process of 5 to 6 days.
After the germination is complete, the grain is loaded onto the kiln floor. There the temperature increases gradually, drying the sprouted grains and stopping the germination process. As the temperature rises even more, the sprouted barley is cured, which improves flavour and preserves the malt.
Holland Malt only uses state of the art, computerized kilns to ensure maximum quality control. The malted barley no longer comes into contact with the fumes from burning natural gases. Instead, the greenmalt is dryed using steam or heated air, thereby reducing the possibilities of impurities in smoke and fume being transferred to the barley.
Why malting is useful
The malting of barley produces the enzymes that convert the starches present in barley into sugars. The process also produces various other proteins that can be utilized by yeast. Both the sugars and the proteins are required for alcoholic fermentation, the process of creating the alcohols in beer.
Malting is also important since it affects beer flavour in a positive way. Typical caramelish flavours can not only be used in specialty beers, but also improve flavour and colour of pilsner beers. Furthermore, malting can be seen as one additional purification, screening and cleaning process within the barley-malt-beer chain. By this we provide in a safe primary raw-material for the production of beer.
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