03 August 2005

Malt

Beer is liquid bread. Bakers and brewers both use grains and yeast to make their products. Brewers just use more water!

Beer's base grain is barley. The barley goes to a malting house, where it is stored until certain enzymes in the barley loosens and softens the husk which allows it to absorb moisture more readily. Then the barley is placed in steep tanks where it sits for about 48 hours. The barley is ready for germination. The moist barley is spread evenly on the floor of a large compartment up to a depth of 3 to 4 feet. The floor is perforated and warm, humid air is forced up through the grain. This duplicates the conditions in the soil where the grain germinates. The barley begins developing enzymes that will convert the barley starch into food for a young plant. Fortunately for us, the same starch will become the fermentable sugars when the grain is mashed. The grain is then dried to remove excess moisture, and is now known as malt. The malt is then roasted to various degrees of color, for use in any of dozens of recipes.

The homebrewer takes the barley malt, cracks it and cooks it at certain temperatures to mash it. The mashing process converts the starches in the malt into sugars which the yeast will use to make beer.

Some malt houses mash the grains for us, and either dry or reduce the moisture in the resulting product. The process makes Malt extract, either dry or syrup, that allows the homebrewer to bypass the time consuming, and exacting mashing process, and get straight to brewing. A full grain batch of beer can take up to 8 hours to get into the fermenter, while a partial mash or extract only recipe only takes a couple of hours (including prep and cleaning time).


posted by Jeff Holt at 07:35

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