HARNESSING NATURE TO MAKE A NATURAL PRODUCT
The malting process mimics much of what happens in the field as a new crop of barley grows from seed. In the Maltings, grains of barley are allowed to germinate in highly controlled conditions. This growing process is slowed to a halt before the barley's food resources are used up in developing the roots and shoots necessary for a new plant to sustain itself in the field. These food resources, comprising starch, proteins and enzymes, are the raw materials and nutrients required by brewers and distillers for further processing into beer and whisky.
As in the field, the growing process is kick started by wetting the grain. The barley moisture is raised from 12% to about 42-45% by a succession of wet and dry phases where grain is submerged in water for a few hours then allowed to "breathe" after the water is drained away. At the end of steeping, the root (chit) begins to emerge from the grain, showing as a white dot. The increase in grain respiration and the demand for oxygen signals the beginning of germination.
Commonly, the steeped barley is moved to a custom germination vessel designed to control temperature and provide high flows of moist air to the active barley. During the 4-5 days of germination the barley is "modified" by the action of specific biochemical catalysts (enzymes) on grain structural components. The cell walls are broken down rendering the hard barley as easily crushable (friable) malt, releasing starch, originally locked inside the cells, to the brewers and distillers.
In order to halt germination in advance of significant nutrient losses, the germinated barley (green malt) is dried down in the kiln. Great care is taken to minimise enzyme damage as our customers must harness these compounds during the first stages of brewing. The malt is stabilised by reducing the moisture content to 3-6% and the colour and malt flavour characteristics required by our customers fixed.
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