Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Once the barley reaches the desired balance of enzymes and sugars, the maltster fixes that balance by drying and heating it in a kiln. The dehydration and heat kill the embryo, and they also generate color and flavor. To make malts with high enzyme activities, the maltster dries the barley gently, over about 24 hours, and brings the temperature slowly up to around 180°F/80°C. Such a malt is pale, and makes a light-colored, light-flavored brew. To make malts that have little enzyme activity but are rich in color and flavor, he kilns the barley at a high temperature, 300–360°F/150–180°C, to encourage browning reactions. Dark malts develop flavors that range from toasted to caramelized to sharp, astringent, and smoky. Brewers have many different kinds of malt to choose from— their names include pale or lager, ale, crystal, amber, brown, caramel, chocolate, and black—and often mix two or more malts in a single brew to obtain a particular combination of flavor, color, and enzyme power.