Malt extract is obtained from barley. Barley grains undergo a series of steps that turn it into malted barley which contains sugars. The malted barley is then cook into a soup, known in home brewing as a mash, and then condensed into a malt extract. This extract is the centerpiece of a home brew recipes. It is what provides the color, the body and the sweetness in a beer.
Brewing grains are soaked in water to accelerate germination. However, just before the barley fully sprouts, the grains are heat dried and in most cases roasted or toasted to varying degrees. Although this step prevents the growth of barley seedlings, it retains important enzymes in the barley malt.
The malted barley is then crushed or cracked through a grain mill and added to water to form a mash. The mash is then cooked at precise temperatures to release the goodness from the barley grains — this goodness being primarily sugars, enzymes and proteins.
Once the mashing has been completed the liquid is further subjected to evaporation to reduce its mass and make it more concentrated. Although most extracts are liquid based, some maltsters prepare dry extracts as well. This is done by taking a reduced mash and spray drying it into a powder.
Types of Malt Extract
Most home brewers use liquid malt extract as opposed to dried. Each as their advantages. While liquid incorporates into the kettle more easily, the container it comes in needs to be used in total. Dried malt extract works well when a beer recipes calls for an odd amount. Once the package is opened the rest can be saved for later. Regardless of the form chosen, they readily come in either: light, amber and dark.
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