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Learning Center!

Please explore the various categories above to find useful resources. Our goal is  to support the full barley value chain: grower-maltster-brewer/distiller-consumer via research, education, and service. Feedback is always welcome! (hannah.turner2@montana.edu)! Check back often as we continually work to build this resource!
 

What is malt?

Malt, in terms of beer or distilling, is an important natural ingredient most often derived from barley which largely dictates many aspects of the beer in your glass - including: alcohol content, flavor, mouth feel, and color.

 

Why do we say "Know Barley, Know Beer"?

(when there are also other grains malted?)

Barley has two important aspects as a malt that other grains don't live up to. Barley has a husk and produces more enzymes than other grains. These are important attributes to the brewing process:

1) the barley hulls aid in beer filtration - beers made without enough barley need added rice hulls or other filtration aids

2) The high enzyme potential of barley (which has a multi cell aleurone layer to produce more enzyme compared to the single cell layer of other grains) allows efficient conversion of starches to sugars for fermentation. Beers utilizing adjuncts such as rye, oats, rice, corn, wheat etc benefit from a high % of barley base malt in the grist bill to provide enzymes for full starch conversion.

How is malt made?

Starting with grain from the field, malting follows three basic stages: Steeping, germination, kilning

Steeping:

The steeping phase brings grain up to ~45% moisture (from ~12% at harvest) over a period of roughly 2 days. Alternating between periods of water submersion (steeps) and air rests, the grain takes up moisture which triggers a sense of "spring rain conditions". This moves the grain into a germination phase.

Germination:

This phase is typically 3-5 days and allows the biological changes in the grain which break down cell walls and protein in the grain, exposing starch granules and preparing them for the brewing process.

Kilning:

For base malts this phase takes roughly a day and utilizes low slow heat to dry the grain down to ~4-5% moisture, making it stable for storage. Specialty malts can also be made in the kiln when modifying timing, moisture, and temperature. Much of the color and flavor in malt is developed during the kilning phase.

Grain Stages as Malting Progresses

Picture and animation graphics depicting the stages grain transitions through as it changes from barley to malt

Three Fantastic Videos on the Malt Process

We couldn't decide which we liked best, so here are all three - with points to why each is great!

Short and Sweet, Barley to Malt

Crisp malting

Crisp Malting, UK

This 5 minute video takes you from barley harvest through the malting process. Beautifully imaged and edited!

 

Craft Malt in the US

Riverbend malting

Riverbend Malt, NC

This 10 minutle flick walks you through a modern craft malt operation with one of the US's original maltsters. Their operation now includes both floor and neumatic malting!

 

Beer School - Malt From a Brewers Perspecitve

beer school

Muntons Malt, UK

This 13 minute video has a great vibe and shows the malting process while also creating more ties to the many ways malt impacts your beer!

  

We hope you find the content of these pages useful, informative, and interesting. We continually work to upload new material an updates, and we welcome your feedback any time - just an e-mail away!

Montana State University is committed to offering accesable content to all - if you are struggling to read or access anyting on our website please reach out to hannah.turner2@montana.edu so that we can assist!

Cheers!