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What is malt?

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Quick Answer

Malt is cereal grain allowed to germinate in water and then put through a drying process. Malt is frequently used in the production of beer and some whiskey.

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What is malt?
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Full Answer

Barley and rye are two common grain products used in malting, but wheat, oats and rice are also viable choices. First, grains are dried until nearly 85 percent of their moisture dissipates. The dry grains are stored for approximately six weeks and then soaked in water intermittently over the course of several days, allowing them to sprout. These sprouted grains are air-dried for five days to produce green malt, which is subsequently kiln-dried to finish the process. Kiln-dried malt varies in color from very pale to blackish.

Malting grains produces an enzyme, diastase, which aids in forming sugars from the grains' starch content. Other enzymes, called proteases, break down grain proteins into substances that are usable by yeast. When yeast are introduced to malts, they feed on the sugars and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts.

Cracking malt and immersing it in water releases enzymes and increases production of sugars, such as maltose. The result is a heavy syrup called malt extract, an important component in brewing beer and baking bread.

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