Barley – Primarily for Beer
However, unlike other food crops, a clear majority of barley never makes it to the food table. Instead, it’s mainly used for making beer.
In today’s post, we look at the role of this crop in brewing your favorite drink. And, we also explore the scientific process of turning this grain into beer. So, if you’ve always been interested in the brew-making process and wonder what goes behind the scenes, then this one is perfect for you.
Grab a mug of your favorite beer and get settled for an informative read.
What is Malted Barley?
Commonly known as malt, malted barley is the most preferred grain for brewing beer. Simply put, it’s regular barley that has been soaked in water and allowed to germinate. This germination process prepares the starches in the grain for easy conversion into fermentable sugars.
Malting is the first step in the brew-making process. Sadly, it’s often the most underrated. This is because only very few brewers malt their own barley. The rest purchase malted burley directly from the market.
Another reason for the underratedness of this malting step is that the actual change in the grain happens at a microscopic level and there isn’t much to see. Yet, this is one of the crucial and most fascinating steps of brewing.
It all Starts with a Good Long Soak
Most brewers make use of either six-row or two-row barley for brewing. The process of malting starts with beer making. The grains are dumped into large steeping tanks filled with water. They soak up water for a couple of days.
Side Note: Differences between two-row and six-row Barley
Barley that is grown for beer making is divided into two main categories:
As the name implies, the differences between these two types of barleys lie in the arrangement of the kernels. Six-row barley has more enzyme and protein content, and lesser carbohydrates and is thinner when compared to two-row barley. It’s mostly grown only in the North American continent.
Also, there are flavor differences between the two. Six-row barley is grainier while two-row barley has a fuller maltier flavour.
Once the barley has soaked well, it’s moved to a large aerated room from the soaking tanks. Here, the grains are spread out and turned regularly and held at a temperature of 60◦F. The idea here is to allow the grain to germinate, and during this fermentation process, the starches in the grains are converted into sugars which in turn become alcohol eventually. During this stage, the barley is referred to as “green malt.”
One factor to be noted here is that – you want the grains to germinate but not too much. After five days of soaking in water, the grain begins to form roots and grow into a new plant. The people in charge of the malting process, the maltsters halt the germination before the grains reach this stage.
Halting the germination happens with heat.
Green Malt Kilning
The maltsters stop the germination process by kilning or drying the green malt. This is done by slowly increasing the temperature from 60◦F to 120◦F. The final temperature varies depending on the type of malt preferred.
Irrespective of the final temperature – the end result is the same – to terminate the growth of sprouts. At the end of this stage, you are left with a dried barley grain that is rich in starch, sugar, and a type of enzyme named diastase.
The level of the final heating temperature of the green malt plays a crucial role in determining the style of the beer brewed. This temperature determines the color of your brew.
- For instance, lower temperatures result in pale-colored beers like lagers and pale ales.
- Medium temperatures form amber-colored brews like Scottish ales, amber ales, and Oktoberfest.
- Higher temperatures cause the malt to form dark brown beers like dunkels and brown ales.
- The maximum temperatures result in the formation of the darkest and almost black beers like stouts and porters.
Roasting of Malts
Sometimes the finished malt is roasted right after the kilning. A roaster is used for this very purpose and high temperatures are usually used. Just like above, the roasting temperature determines the color of the beer as well as the amount of carbonation it can hold.
Introduction of Yeast to the Malts
During the fermentation process, a particular strain of yeast is added to the beer. For instance, both lagers and pale ales use the same temperature during kilning. What differentiates them is the type of yeast added.
Adding ale yeast results in the formation of a pale ale. On the other hand, adding lager yeast to the same malt creates a lager.
Apart from the yeast, several other factors determine the type of beer produced. For instance, a variety of adjuncts, sugars and other grains may be added to differentiate the brew type. Yet, the malted barley determines the way a particular brew is headed right at the very start of the beer-making process.
Transforming Dried Barley into Beer
Once the grain reaches the main brewery, the brewer dumps the grains into hot water, named “strike water.” This helps the diastase to transform the starches of the grains into simple sugars. These sugars then dissolve in the hot water. This is the wort, which is then fermented to make beer.
Once fermentation is completed, the brew is spun or filtered to remove the yeast cells from the drink. This is followed by carbonation. Your beer is now ready for consumption. Some beers are pasteurized to achieve a long shelf life, while others may be aged to bring out the hidden flavors.
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Wrapping it up
We hope this post gives you an insight into the usage of barley in the beer-making process. And, if this has got your brewing passions piqued, you know where to turn to. Yes, reach out to Micro Brewery India, the largest and most trusted supplier of brew-making equipment in India, with over 60 successful installations, all across the country.
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