Natural Sweeteners - What is Malt Extract?
What is Malt Extract?
Malt can be further processed to produce liquid or dried sweeteners called Malt Extracts. There are several classes of Malt Extracts, including Standard Malt Extracts, Specialty and Black Malt Extracts, and Coextracts of Malt and Other Cereal Grains.
Standard Malt Extracts can be thought of as the original starch- or grain-based sweetener. Long before the advent of acid conversion, genetically modified enzymes, and corn syrups, starch-based sweeteners were created for bakers and food processors using malted grains and water. Produced using a variant of the brewing process, malted grains are mixed with water, allowing the enzymes to break down the starch and proteinaceous material of the malted seed. Insoluble fiber is removed, and the resulting sugary liquid, instead of being fermented into beer, is concentrated to make a viscous, stable liquid sweetener or is dried to make a powder. Due to the type of enzymes naturally present in malt, malt extracts have carbohydrate profiles very similar to a high-maltose syrup. Because they are made from a whole grain, they also contain about 6% protein (8% db), as well as an abundance of free amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. These constituents, which are not present in starch-based syrups, increse the nutritional value of malt extract as a nutritive sweetener and account for its use as a yeast food and browning agent. Malt Extracts can be made from any type of malted grain. However, similar to the term "malt", the term "malt extract" unqualified refers to an extract of malted barley. According to CFR, an extract of 100% malted barley can also be referred to as malt syrup. Extracts of other malted grains would be properly labeled as "extract of malted wheat" or "malted wheat extract".
Specialty and Black Malt Extracts. Beer comes in a variety of flavors and colors, from dark stouts and porters to rich copper Oktoberfests. Malt Extracts (the "unfermented sugars of beer") produced using specialty malts have a correspondingly wide variety of flavors, flavor intensities, and colors. Because of the many types that can be made, Specialty and Black Malt Extracts can have many different functions in bakery products, but they generally serve one or more of the following purposes: fermentable material or yeast food, browning and flavoring agents, color, sweetener, and enzyme source. Selecting the right malt extract requires an understanding of the desired functionality and choosing the most appropriate product.
Coextracts of Malt and Other Cereal Grains. Other unmalted grains or starch sources can be converted into extracts, using malted barley as a natural enzyme source in the extraction process. this is done most often for economy and, in some cases, to make a lighter flavored syrup. Most commonly, corn or raw (unmalted) barley is used as an adjunct (cheaper source of starch) to make these extracts, which are properly labeled as "extract of malted barley and corn" or "extract of malted barley and barley". The latter is sometimes correctly, but confusingly, referred to as "barley and malt extract". For many years, coextracts of malt and corn and blends of malt extract and corn syrup were mistakenly labeled as "amtl syrup" or "liquid malt". This mislabeling and adulteration led to the establishment of methods (such as stable carbon isotope ratio analysis) to detect corn products mised with malt and to the issuance of an FDA policy statement on malt extract labeling. Since then, these coextracted sweeteners have generally fallen out of use, because much greater savings can be realized by simply blending malt extract with corn syrup in applications where economy or a less intense malt flavor is desired.