What is Malt & How is it Made?
Malt is a cereal grain (usually, but not limited to, barley) that has been allowed to germinate for a limited period of time prior to undergoing a mild kilning.
Malt is produced from the malting process, where raw barley is steeped, germinated and kilned to change the raw barley seed into a friable biscuit-like texture – but it still looks from the outside just like a barley kernel.
It is then easily crushed in the brewery mill in preparation for the sugar conversion that takes place in the brewery mash tun. The malting process converts around 10% of the carbohydrate in the raw grain into fermentable sugars via the process of germination. The malting process prepares the grain for more modification that will be undertaken in the brewhouse.
The malting process involves a multitude of biochemical changes during the germination and growth of the barley grain. Amino acids and reducing sugars combine in different ways to develop colour and flavour compounds. Malt extract is a natural flavouring and colouring that is high in protein and natural sugars and is a major natural energy source. In addition to its use in brewing, it is also widely used in baking, confectionery, breakfast cereals, malt beverages, dairy products, condiments and as a caramel substitute.
Australian Malt Production & Markets
Australia produces approximately 920,000 tonnes of malt per year (from close to 1,100,000t of barley), with about 190,000 tonnes consumed domestically (predominantly in the brewing industry) and around 730,000 tonnes exported mainly into the Asian regional marketplace.
A point of difference for the Australian barley industry is that there are two distinct markets to service – a domestic market and an export market, each of which have different requirements and needs for their respective malt and raw barley. This is due to a fundamentally different style and method of brewing whereby in Australia brewers primarily use sugar as an adjunct to malt whilst in Asia solid adjuncts such as rice are predominantly used in the brewing process. In general, brewers tend to use a higher proportion of malt and less adjunct in their premium brand recipes.
Usage of malted barley for distilling in Australia is relatively low, when compared with malt usage for brewing beer. Exact figures on the volume of malted barley and cereal grains used for distilled products in Australia are difficult to procure, but there were in 2019 over 200 distilleries operating in Australia2.
- Estimate by Australia’s commercial maltsters, 2019
- The Whisky List, 2019 (https://thewhiskylist.com.au/distilleries)