Malt - Handcrafting Specialty Malts

Handcrafting Specialty Malts

Making specialty malts differs from making standard malt in that batch sizes are generally smaller, it is a much more labor and resource intensive process, it involves more laboratory testing for consistency, and it requires the constant vigilance of an experienced maltster who relies upon his senses of sight, taste and smell to achieve the desired finished product from the beginning to the end of the process.

Each specialty malt begins with the first two steps of the basic malting process—steeping and germination. It's the third step, drying, that is adjusted to produce specialty malts. Germinated barley destined to become standard malt is kiln dried at relatively low temperatures to stop germination but preserve the enzymes. Germinated barley destined to become specialty malt, meanwhile, may undergo special processing along with one of several drying processes:

  • Kiln dried at higher temperatures for longer periods of time
  • Roasted
  • Kiln dried and roasted

Throughout the specialty malting process a veteran staff performs hands-on sensory testing. What are they looking for? In the case of caramel malt, it's so that the starchy inside has reached a sweet, "liquid" consistency and then fully caramelizes. For all specialty malts, color is checked during the roasting process by manually grinding the malt or barley and comparing it to control samples.

Each lot of finished specialty malt undergoes a series of chemical and physical laboratory tests. Modern, calibrated testing equipment determines analytical data including diastatic power, color and protein levels. Wort is prepared by mashing each lot, and trained sensory specialists conduct sensory to assure it meets its target flavor and aroma profile.

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Germinating barley

Checking the progress of germinating barley

Pulling a sample of roasting malt

Comparing the color of roasting barley to a control