April 18, 2024
Malted Barley Market

Golden Grains: Malted Barley’s Rise to Prominence in Craft Beer and Distillation

Malted barley is one of the most fundamental and basic raw materials used in the brewing of beer. While beer contains water, yeast and hops, it is the malted barley that acts as the backbone and contributes much of the final taste, smell and mouthfeel of beers. In this article, we will explore the process of malting barley, its role and importance in beer brewing.

The Malting Process

For barley to be used in brewing, it must first undergo the process of malting. Malting involves steepening the barley grains in water which allows the grains to start germinating. This activates natural enzymes within the grains. The partially germinated barley is then dried in a kiln to halt the germination process. During kilning, the enzyme activity and fermentability of the barley is controlled. The end product is malted barley which brings a variety of enzymatic powers crucial for brewing.

The key steps in malting include:

  1. Steeping – Soaking barley grains in water triggers the natural germination process
  2. Germination – Allowing grains to sprout and start germinating under controlled conditions
  3. Kilning – Drying the partially germinated grains in a kiln to develop color and arrest germination
  4. Sorting and grading – Malted barley is then sorted according to size and density

Role of Malted Barley in Brewing

During the mashing process of brewing, the natural enzymes present in malted barley break down the starch in the grains into fermentable sugars like glucose and fructose. This makes the mash drinkable for yeast. The three main enzymes released are alpha-amylase, beta-amylase and proteases.

Alpha-amylase breaks starch down into dextrins – intermediate-sized sugar molecules. Beta-amylase further breaks down dextrins into maltose – a disaccharide sugar. Proteases break down proteins into amino acids and peptides, contributing to head retention and flavor.

The sugars produced during mashing are later fermented by yeast into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This gives beers their alcohol content. Meanwhile, proteins and amino acids impact beer qualities such as head retention, mouthfeel and flavor compounds. Overall, malted barley is arguably the single most pivotal ingredient for brewing.

Varieties and Color Ranges

There are various varieties of barley used for malting, the most popular being two-row and six-row barley. Two-row barley produces a more modified malt with more enzymes and less protein versus six-row.

During kilning, increasing temperatures impact malt qualities. Pale malts (~2-5 SRM) have little color but high enzyme activity. Amber (~10-15 SRM) and brown malts (~15-35 SRM) add sweet, nutty flavors. Darker roasts of black (~30-1000 SRM) and roasted malts imbue roasted, burnt, or chocolate flavors to porters and stouts. Overall, malted barley provides the backdrop as well as complexity and nuance to craft beers.

Applications Beyond Beer Brewing

While malted barley’s primary role is in beer brewing, it also finds applications in distilled spirits and foods. In whiskey production, malted barley is the cereal grain used in mashing and provides fermentable sugars. Bourbon, scotch and rye whiskeys take on flavors from the malt.

Malted barley flour is used as a specialty allergen-free flour in baked goods. As a whole grain, it provides protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. In Europe, specialty malted barley breakfast cereals and porridges are popular morning meals. With its versatility, malted barely continues to be important for brewers, distillers and consumers globally.

1.      Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2.      We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it