Malt: an indispensable ingredient for beer and whiskey. It is a grain product, the Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us, used in food and beverages for fermentation, flavours, and nutrition.
Breweries all over the world produce malt. However, there is something special about Belgian malt, though Belgium ranks 45th in the list of countries that produce barley, the main ingredient of malt.
We discuss here what’s so special about Belgian malt, Green malt And Organic malt along with a discussion on the process of malting. Other oft-used terms like green malt and organic malt also get covered in this article.
The Malting Process Malt is prepared from cereal grains by a controlled germination process that alters the natural food substance of the grain. The malting process involves three stages. During the first stage of steeping, the grains are soaked in water to absorb moisture.
The embryo within the kernel germinates in the process. The grain breaks out into sprouts with little rootlets in this second stage of germination. Sprouting activates the enzymes to disintegrate the carbohydrate in the kernel. This carbohydrate content is necessary for forming roots and stems.
These same enzymes soften and break the outer wall of the seed to give it the typical malty flavour. That is where the third stage of kilning begins. Kilning is the process of halting the natural germination process by passing hot air on the grains through perforations on the floor of the kiln.
It is possible to malt corn, rice, wheat and other grains also. However, the most commonly malted grain is barley. Both beer and single malt Scotch whiskey use only malted barley, though their processes of use are completely different.
The term green malt refers to the germinated grains produced in the second stage of malting. The third stage of kilning begins once green malt has emerged. Green malt is, thus, germinated barley, corn, rice, or wheat that is yet to undergo drying.
There have been experiments to brew beer using pre-kilned green malt, as reported in an article published way back in 1963. This article demonstrates that it is possible to produce stout beer from green malt. However, a hammer mill is necessary to grind the pre-kilned malt.
Most home and commercial brewers agree that the full flavour of malt is not available till green malt has been dried through kilning. Also, it is considerably difficult to grind green malt.
The term ‘organic’ in farming or food and beverage production implies the non-use of any chemical products such as fertilizers, pesticides or preservatives. With reference to malt, the term ‘organic’ refers both to the cultivation process of the grains used and the malting process.
Organic malt denotes barley or any other grain such as corn, rice, or wheat that has been cultivated without using any chemical fertilizers or pesticides. It also means no chemicals are used during the malting process.
Most countries in the world have specific standards that need to be followed to get organic certification. An authentic organic malt would have such certification from the relevant authority of the country that has produced it.
To most beer connoisseurs, Belgium is the country to be in. There is something truly special about Belgian malt. That is true about both basic and specialty varieties. The Belgium-Luxembourg combine is the third-largest malt exporter globally.
The market value of Belgium-Luxembourg’s total malt export in 2017 was US$362 million according to an Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) report.
Several factors contribute to the distinctiveness of Belgian malt:
The barley grown especially for malting has its roots in the earliest barley cultivation in the Middle East where barley first got malted
- High extract yield from the grains
- Modern innovation combined with traditional malting processes
- Robust quality control
Enjoy your next pilsner of beer or your glass of single malt Scotch whiskey that much more. You now know what exactly is malt!