The three stages of the barley malting process are steeping, germination and drying. In steeping, water covers the barley to encourage growth, increasing the moisture content from about 12 percent to between 40 and 45 percent. Germination allows the grain to grow under controlled conditions, creating sugars and enzymes. In drying, warm air blows over the grain to dry it and stop the growth while enhancing flavor and color.
The malting process takes about seven days. During the steeping stage, which lasts for approximately two days, water causes the grain to sprout, and the raw barley becomes what is known as chitted barley. Chit is term for the small roots that begin to emerge from the kernel.
The germination stage typically takes four to five days. Adjusting the temperature and humidity in the germination tank regulates the process. Mechanical turners keep the grain separate and prevent the roots from growing together.
The drying stage, sometimes called malting or kilning, halts the germination process. The grain heats in a kiln to between 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately two to four hours.
Beer making makes use of malted barley to provide complex carbohydrates and sugars for fermentation. Malt also helps to give beer its unique flavor and color. Malted barley is also an ingredient in baked goods, snack foods, cereal and granola. Because it is a natural grain, it is an ingredient in many products labeled all-natural, non-GMO and Kosher.