Basic facts

Malt is a natural food product that results from the transformation of a cereal grain. Barley is the grain most used today, but wheat can also be used for making "white" beers. Malt is the main ingredient used in brewing beer, along with water, hops, and yeast.

Malt’s high enzyme content enables the production of simple sugars and amino acids from the starch in the proteins. Thus malt is the source of sugar, which is then transformed into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas in the beer. It also contributes color and taste to the beer.

The main use of malt today is in brewing, for making beer. It is also used in distilling, to make whisky. It can also be used as a component (as malt extract) in food manufacture (in making bread, cereal bars, and energy drinks). Because of the product’s energetic and enzymatic potential, other uses for it are emerging or could be developed.

Various species of barley, both winter and spring barleys, may be used in malt production. For a given species, different varieties are used. The choice is made according to economic criteria, but also depending on the type of malt to be produced – total protein content and soluble protein content, the desired color, etc.

The barley – the raw material of malt making – has a strong impact on the quality of the malts. The quality of the harvest, climatic conditions, the soil, the species, and the variety are all variable factors that generate diversity.

The difficulty – but also the fascination – of the maltster’s trade is precisely that of transforming living, natural products that are variable by their very nature into a wide variety of standardized products that meet brewers’ specifications.