A Simple Guide to Malted Barley

Malted Barley GrainMalted barley is used in brewing beer as it is a good source of sugars (especially maltose). These sugars are fermented during the process of making beer. During the malting process, the grain germinates a bit, which allows the beer to make full use of the nutritional qualities of the seed.

There are certain enzymes that are released during the germination process, and these enzymes break the protein matrix to create simpler carbohydrates that ferment more easily. If the germination process is allowed to continue, a plant will start to grow, and the starch that is required by the beer would be consumed by the plant. Not a good thing. This is why it is important to stop the germination process at precisely the right point.

From the point of view of a brewer, there are two types of malted barley: the one that needs to mashed, and the one that doesn’t’t.  In mashing, barley is soaked in hot water which lets the enzymes grow and convert starch into sugars. There are light colored malts like Pilsner beer malt and pale ale malts that are mashed to convert starch to sugar. Some of these malts are roasted or kilned to add different tastes.

Apart from the light colored malts, there are some malts that don’t need mashing. These are called specialty malts and are used to add unique flavor, color and aroma to the beer. They sometimes go through a special heating process where their starch gets converted to sugar, which is why they have complex sugars that have a caramel like sweet taste. They are sometimes known as caramel malts or crystal malts and they come in various colors and roasts. You can find more information on this in another blog post, What Are The Different Malts Used In A Homebrew Recipe?

Although barley is still the number one choice of most brewers, you can use other grains as well, like flaked rice, flaked corn, flaked oats, and flaked rye. When you are brewing at home, there is a lot to experiment, and the options are practically unlimited.

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