Barley is the seed that is grown for the purposes of brewing beer and is very similar to wheat. This plant is grown mainly in Europe and North America. Malted barley is that which has been allowed to sprout or germinate to some degree and then later dried. The germination is usually done artificially by increasing the moisture content of the seed to about 40%, this is done by soaking the seed.
After the soaking, the water is removed and the seed is left to sit for around four to five days at a temperature of 60 F to allow germination. After the prescribed time, the grain is dried at a temperature of around 122 F. This process usually lasts for about 30 hours. After the drying, the germinated sprout is removed from the seed.
The purpose of germination is to break down the starch into simple sugars. This is done using the diastase enzymes produced by the seed and the simple sugars are the main ingredients in the beer making process. The simple sugars are the ones usually used by the plant in its early stages of growth.
The seed is then crushed into tiny pieces and mixed with water. This is known as mashing and it is done so that the sugars may be dissolved in the water. This mixture is usually kept at a base temperature of 160 F. This is the temperature where the diastase enzymes are active the most.
After the this mixture has sat at that temperature for a while, the conversion of the sugars process is usually complete. The grain and husks are then removed from the mixture through filtration and a sweet liquid is left behind. This solution is known as malt extract and is the main ingredient in the brewing process.
This process is a delicate one and should be done very carefully. For the brewing of darker malts, the barley ought to be dried at a degree higher than those of lighter malts which is often around 220 F. This makes the brew much darker than the conventional kind.