The malting of cereals diverts the work of the amylases generated by the embryo of a seed when it germinates for the benefit of man. Present in sufficient amounts in the malt, these enzymes will complete the conversion of starch into sugars during the liquid phase of wort production. The malting process is subdivided as follows:

  • moistening of the seeds to trigger the start of sprouting
  • controlled growth of germ and rootlets, lasting only 3-8 days depending on the cereal
  • drying to stop the germination of the seeds now called malt
  • optional roasting or kilning to colour the malt (this step is combined with the previous one, depending on the drying temperature and moistness of the malt)
  • degermination and storage. Crushing of malt grains before use

Brewing by malting (method no 2)




The sprouting of cereal seeds naturally generates amylases, among other enzymes, which convert the starch contained in the albumen of the grain into sugars.


This method, as old as insalivation, is known as malt making.


After 4 to 7 days of germination, the drying of the grains halts all enzymatic action. The resulting grain is the malt.


Dried and degerminated, the malted grains can be kept for a long time (several years) until the actual brewing by infusion or decoction of the crushed malt in hot water.

The ancient Near East, Europe its heir in terms of brewing, sub-Sahelian Africa, Andean cultures and ancient China have favoured the malting. These regions of the world coincide with massive cereal-growing civilisations. The Mesopotamians mastered malting from the end of the 4th millennium BC, the Egyptians shortly afterwards. As far as we can judge, the malting of millet and sorghum is an ancestral practice in Africa but without dating. Ancient China presents a hybrid case. Until the Han dynasty (-202 to 220), both malting (nieh = germinated grain, nieh mi = malt grain) and enzymatic ferments were used (brewing pathway no. 3). Then malting was gradually given up and only remained for a few centuries in northern China along the cultivation of millet. In Asia, the husking of rice removes the germ, preventing the grain from germinating. However, this does not explain the predominance of the brewing method no. 3 over malting throughout Asia.

The malting technique can be linked to the need for long conservation (1 to 2 years) of cereal grains. Causing the sprouting instead of undergoing it, then drying the grains prevents untimely sprouting in granaries or silos.

Malting has become the preferred technique of Western brewing and consequently of brewing activities in the rest of the world following its colonisation by European and American powers in the 19th and 20th centuries. All the literature and historical studies on beer focus on this brewing technique. There is no need to develop it further.




01/04/2013  Christian Berger