Malt is a cereal grain (usually barley) that has been allowed to germinate for a limited period of time prior to undergoing a mild kilning (source Briggs, 1998).
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.
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 use sugar as an adjunct whilst in Asia solid adjuncts such as rice are predominantly used in the brewing process.
The malting process causes numerous chemical reactions are occurring between amino acids and reducing sugars 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.
Australia produces over 900,000 tonnes of malt per year (from 1,000,000t of barley), with around 200,000 tonnes consumed domestically (predominantly in the brewing industry) and over 700,000 tonnes exported predominantly into the Asian regional marketplace.
Our relatively new and growing production of Australian Malt Whisky, (from passionate distillers, most of whom are concentrated in Tasmania), currently utilise over 300 tonnes of malted barley, converting this into over AUD$20 million of whisky sales per annum.