Beer is made of these core ingredients: barley/malt, hops, water, and yeast. In this blog post, I'll be writing about malt and some of what I've been reading in Robert Moser's Tasting Beer. First off, barley is the grain of choice for making beer, although other options exist. But regular old barley isn't in a good condition for releasing starches for making alcohol. Barley first needs to be malted.
First, barley is soaked in water for about 24 hours, or until it reaches 45% water content. The grain is pulled from the water and allowed to cool and dry. During this process, the grains will start to sprout. This growth and cracking of the shell is vital to getting what brewers want from the malted barley. The grain is then kilned to complete the drying process and to roast the grain to the desired darkness. It is possible to create two different malts of similar color but different flavors by varying the moisture content during kilning. If roasted dry, there will be a sharp, biscuit-like toastiness. If roasted moist, there is more of a toffee-like richness.