Welcome to a new chapter in our series dedicated to beer disclosure! Because from the beginning of the creation of Beer Sapiens, one of our main objectives has been to promote the culture of beer from within, that is, to bring the public all the terms, techniques and knowledge necessary to make a good beer…and to taste it!
And we are convinced that the more you know, the tastier the beers you drink! Today we are going to talk about one of the fundamental ingredients of our favorite drink: malt
Malt: essence of beer
Without malt there is no beer. Or at least not traditional, since by beer definition is a fermented cereal drink.
But there is a small basic problem, and that is that, in its natural state, the grain is not fermentable, as are, for example, the fruits (with which cider or must is made). ). This is due to the absence of sugars in the beans. So what is done to ferment the cereal? Well, a previous process that is key, called malting.
Malting: the start of it all
Malt is not a type of cereal but the result of a process that we can do with different grains and that allows so that a fermentable must can be made with them. Malting is a raw cereal grain that has been soaked and germinated, and whose germination process has been interrupted by drying by heat.
It seems likely that this method was discovered by chance. Wild cereals were an important food source for prehistoric man, who softened their grains using heat and water (because they germinated and were more digestible and nutritious). It is logical that, at some point, one of these concoctions ended up fermenting…. And alcohol and the system to produce it were discovered!
The malting process
Today this process is not left to chance. Malting involves moistening the grain, drying it and roasting it (although this is not strictly necessary to make beer, but it is what gives it its great sensory richness). Let's see all the stages:
The raw barley, already clean of impurities (such as dirt or pebbles), is submerged in water. They alternate with periods in which the water is removed and the grains, already drained, rest in suitable humidity and temperature conditions that will facilitate germination.
In industrial processes, this soaking lasts approximately 48 hours during which the grain is soaked in water and dried at different intervals of four or eight hours, depending on the variety of barley and its absorption capacity.
Germination and modification
The grain goes to the germination tanks where it remains between four and five days. Here they are constantly stirred to homogenize the temperature and humidity and maintain oxygenation, so that all the grains germinate at the same rate and prevent them from getting entangled with each other.
During this germination, all the proteins and carbohydrates in the grain break down, until the starch reserves are fully available and easily accessible to the enzymes, which will allow them to be converted into sugar during maceration. process is called modification and is vital to the brewing industry.
If a grain of malt is easy to chew and floury, it is well modified, but if it is hard, it is poorly modified. Most of today's malts come fully modified.
Drying and roasting
At the end of the germination phase, the so-called green malt is obtained. It is then dried in the oven until its humidity drops below 4%. In this phase, ovens are used that range from 70ºc to 105ºc.
Then will be the roasting phase in ovens at higher temperatures. Drying and roasting are what give each malt its personality: its hue, which it will transmit to the beer made with it, its flavors and texture.
To obtain this malt, the brewer most often buys the whole grain, which must be ground in the factory to be able to mix with water and macerate to obtain the wort, but there are also extract and already ground presentations . What is clear is that this initial step in the recipe will mark the main features of the beer.