Definition Of Malt
Malt is a germinated seed used to produce starch and flavors in beer during the fermentation stage. The malting process involves soaking, sprouting, and drying cereals such as wheat, oats, barley, rye, etc. The result is malty grains that contribute a sugary and bread-like character to the brew.
Furthermore, malt provides sugars that yeast utilizes to generate alcohol and carbon dioxide. Interestingly, these byproducts make the beer stronger and sweeter. If you consume malted wort quickly due to its flavor and smoothness, you will get buzzed immediately.
How Is Malt Prepared?
By now, you’re probably curious about the process of making malt, right? Preparing this grain is easy and inexpensive. Just follow these simple steps:
First, ensure you have a jar filled with hot water at around 170°F (about 77°C) to soak the cereals. However, do not use tap water, as it may deactivate the malting bacteria and not mix well with the essential ingredients.
After soaking the grains, wait for approximately 24 to 48 hours and check the experiment. Make sure that the seeds swell when filled with water. This activates enzymes that catalyze the conversion of sugars into simpler compounds.
Do not confuse steeping with mashing. In mashing, the wort is mixed with water to break down the malty starch into soluble sugars. With steeping, however, the seed is mixed with water, but the starch is not necessarily broken down.
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As you learned in elementary class, germination prepares the seeds for growth by providing factors like warmth, oxygen, and water. The same applies here. Ensure the seeds have sufficient airflow, temperature, and moisture. Continue germinating the cereals until you observe some rootlets sprouting.
When you see that, it means the carbohydrates and proteins in the grain have been broken down. It also indicates that the seed is producing starch as food for the growing plant. Rotate all grains regularly to ensure even germination. This process typically takes four to six days.
Starch is the desired product in malting, and allowing excessive germination will consume all the sugar. To prevent this, subject the experiment to a kilning chamber. Here, roast the product until it becomes completely dry. Some enzymes also perform well in this chamber.
Note that the flavor of the final product depends on how you roast or kiln the grist. Pilsner and Pale malts are mild because their starch is fully utilized during malting. In contrast, special malts like caramel or roasted malts are not completely dried.
At this stage, the malt is complete but needs to be purified. The solution is taken to a cleaning silo where rootlets, husks, chaff, and cereals’ dust are washed away or filtered. Once the malt is free from these impurities, it is packaged for sale or ready for use.
What Is The Role Of Malt In Beer?
The most crucial role of malt is to provide starch for flavoring the brew and increasing alcohol content in the fermentation process. Without malt, there would be no alcohol in beer. During steeping, the seeds’ starch is broken down by enzymes present in the grains into maltose. Maltose, a disaccharide, is then used in the fermentation process to produce alcohol.
Furthermore, when cereals germinate, they store starch as food for yeast during fermentation. Since it is an anaerobic reaction, no air is allowed. Yeast converts starch, carbohydrates, and proteins into soluble sugars, thereby increasing alcohol content.
You might have wondered why most beers are brownish and taste similar to bread. This is due to the kilning process. The method of kilning greatly influences the final taste.
In case you didn’t know, the base malt is the standard type used in beer production. By lightly roasting germinated seeds, a pale hue base malt is obtained. Some brewers may also prepare specialty malts like caramel, roasted, toasted, or chocolate malts. For these, the cereals are roasted to a lesser extent compared to base malt.
For example, chocolate malts give the beer a thick, dark texture with a coffee-like taste and earthy finish. Caramel malts contribute a sweet note, while pilsner malts offer honey and floral aromas.
Now that you have a better understanding of malt and its influence on the taste of beer and alcohol production, you can choose the best malt types for your home-brewing endeavors. If you’re unsure, consult an expert brewer who can guide you in selecting the right malty styles.
Additionally, you have learned the steps involved in preparing malt, including steeping, germination, and kilning. These steps can serve as a starting point for you to make malt at home or even start your own beer brand. Perhaps it could be your next business venture.