From malt to beer

Malt is the main ingredient of beer - it takes as much as 200 grams of malt to make a liter of beer. The other ingredients are water, hops (two grams per liter of beer), and yeast (one centiliter per liter of beer).

The malt provides:

  • the enzymes and starch. This starch will be broken down into simple sugars by the enzymes. These simple sugars will be used by the yeast, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide gas,
  • organoleptic compounds which react with the brewing process and the yeast used to produce the beer’s organoleptic profile,
  • the beer’s color (determined by the intensity of the Maillard reaction produced during kilning),
  • protein, part of which will be broken down by the enzymes to nourish the growth of the yeast, with the rest remaining in the beer to provide its body.

Depending on the malting process, different types of malt exist: Pale, Pilsen, Vienna, Munich, Caramel, Peated, Diastatic, Roasted, Black, etc.

Color is one of the differentiating factors. Colored malts are used for amber and dark beers, while pale malt is used in “Pilsen”- type beers.

Other types of malts exist, with production stages that can differ significantly. Peated malt (or whisky malt) imparts a particular taste (phenol) and is made by passing peat smoke through the kiln. Roasted malt is made using a process similar to coffee roasting.

A good malt must conform to the brewer’s specifications and the relative importance placed by each customer on the following three types of factors:

  1. Parameters such as moisture content, calibration, and extract have to do with the substances directly usable in brewing. These parameters must also be judged, however, in the light of cost and whether or not other types of starch are used.
  2. Depending on the brewery’s equipment, the types of beers made, and the types of brewing practiced or the types of yeast used, the desired malt will have more or less exact characteristics: Low viscosity or beta-glucan content can be desirable to maximize filtration results; proteolytic activity can be kept under control to correspond better to brewing diagrams; alpha-amino nitrogen needs to be high enough to nourish the yeast adequately, etc.
  3. Depending on brewery processes and equipment, the production of undesirable flavors may be controlled to a greater or lesser degree during malting. The malt’s alpha-amino acid content can influence the liberation of certain substances during fermentation and can be controlled through the barley varieties used. The good flavor of the final malt bears witness to good processes and proper control of hygiene during malting.