Malting & Roasting

Briess operates the most unique and specialized malting and roasting facilities in North America.

Unparalleled Portfolio

Customized drying and modern testing equipment combine with time-honored recipes and malting techniques to produce more types of specialty malts than any malting company in the world.

For Beer & Food

Briess malts are used in the production of beer and milled into particles and flours for the production of baked goods, bars, cereal, granola, prepared foods, and other finished foods.


Briess is the only vertically integrated malting company in North America making malt extract from our own malt.

What is Malt?

Malting is the process of sprouting and drying a grain seed. The product of this process is a malted seed. According to CFR (21 CFR 184.1443a) (2), “Malt is an enzyme preparation obtained from barley which has been softened by a series of steeping operations and germinated under controlled conditions.” Thus, for descriptive and labeling purposes, the use of the term malt, unqualified, refers to malted barley. The term malt is synonymous with malted barley because the majority of the cereal grain malted in the world is barley, which is malted for use in beer. Barley is the ideal cereal grain for malting because it is self-contained, having a husk to protect the germ, high starch-to-protein ratio for high yields, a complete enzyme system, self-adjusting pH, light color and neutral flavor.

Standard Malt and Specialty Malt

The malting process is a three-step process that requires only two ingredients: raw cereal grain (usually barley) and water. The majority of malt produced in the world is standard malt, which is characterized by a high amount of enzymes and light malty flavor and color. Standard malt is used in large quantities, up to 100%, for beer and very small quantities, often less than 1%, in yeast-fermented dough systems. By varying the times and temperatures of the three steps of the malting process, however, a wide range of specialty malts characterized by little to no enzyme activity and enhanced to robust flavor and color can be created. Specialty malts can be used in larger quantities, up to 25% in some applications, to deliver flavor, color and functionality to a wide range of foods including baked goods, bars, cereal, cookies, crackers, granola, gravies, roux, prepared foods, pet food, snack foods and more.

Each specialty malt begins with the first two steps of the basic malting process—steeping and germination. It’s the third step, drying, that is adjusted to produce specialty malts. Germinated barley destined to become standard malt is kiln dried at relatively low temperatures to stop germination but preserve the enzymes. Germinated barley destined to become specialty malt, meanwhile, may undergo special processing along with one of several drying processes:

Throughout the specialty malting process a veteran staff performs hands-on sensory testing. What are they looking for? In the case of caramel malt, it’s so that the starchy inside has reached a sweet, “liquid” consistency and then fully caramelizes. For all specialty malts color is checked during the roasting process by manually grinding the malt or barley and comparing it to control samples. Each lot of finished specialty malt undergoes a series of chemical and physical laboratory tests. Modern, calibrated testing equipment determines analytical data including diastatic power, color and protein levels. Wort is prepared by mashing each lot, and trained sensory specialists conduct sensory to assure it meets its target flavor and aroma profile.

Classes of Malt Ingredients

A distinguishing characteristic of all malts, whether standard or specialty, is the presence or absence of enzymes. Malt ingredients that contain enzymes are classified as diastaticNondiastatic malt ingredients are processed at higher temperatures, which inactives the enzymes. According to the American Institute of Baking, a diastatic enzyme is capable of causing the hydrolysis of starch, converting the starch to dextrose and fermentable sugar. The amount of enzymes available in Briess diastatic malt flours is identified by degrees Lintner. Lintner is a measure of diastatic activity that expresses the ability of cereal malt to produce sugar from a special soluble starch under specific test conditions. Higher lintner means higher diastatic activity. For example, Briess Maltorose Dough Improver has a standardized diastatic power of 20 degree Lintner, which is about one-tenth the amount of enzymes in Briess standard Malted Barley Flour.

Standard Kilned Malt — Diastatic

Standard Malted Barley Flour is the functional malt ingredient milled from standard diastatic malt. In baking, high enzyme levels make diastatic malted barley flour an effective dough conditioner as a minor ingredient, often less than 1 percent, that adds no flavor or color to the crumb. The benefits of diastatic malted barley flour include increased fermentation, decreased proofing time, improved machinability and extensibility, enhanced crumb and browning of crust, and little or no flavor contributions.

Other Kilned Malted Cereals

Cereal grains other than barley can be successfully malted. The most common include wheat and rye, both of which can be produced as diastatic or nondiastatic malts. When produced as diastatic malts, these cereal grains have enzymatic benefits similar to malted barley, but offer unique formulation, color and flavor characteristics. For example, malted wheat flour is characterized by a “creamy” flavor, whereas malted rye has applications in rye-flavored breads and crackers. Benefits of diastatic malted wheat and rye flours include enhanced flavor and enhanced color.

Specialty Kilned Malts — Diastatic

Diastatic specialty malts are dried further during kilning to develop intense bakery-type flavors, such as malty, biscuity or nutty, while preserving some enzymatic activity. Because they have reduced enzyme levels, Diastatic Specialty Malt flours are used at higher levels (up to 3 percent) to contribute more crumb flavor and color to breads, pizza crusts and other yeast-fermented dough systems. Benefits of Diastatic Specialty Malt flours include enhanced flavor and enhanced color.

Briess is a pioneer in kilned specialty malts. Our specialty malthouses are set up for flexibility with many storage bins and specialized processing equipment to allow for malting recipe changes needed to practice the maltsters art. With experience malting many different types of grain and other seeds over the years, we have the expertise and equipment needed to achieve consistent high-quality malt from many materials. Customers rely on us for over a dozen types of standard kilned specialty malts and many custom products. With four different kilns of various sizes and configurations, we have the capability to custom process batches from 40,000 to 400,000 pounds. Finished malts are available in bags, totes, blended totes, bulk trucks and rail. Many products are available preground or organic or both.

Specialty Roasted Malts — Nondiastatic

In addition to kilning at higher temperatures, an even wider variety of specialty malts is created through roasting. Nondiastatic Specialty Roasted Malts are characterized by pronounced flavors and colors. Decades of roasting experience and multiple roasters customized for the production of roasting malt have given Briess the largest variety of standard roasted malts of any maltster in the world.

Light roasting creates reddish hues and caramel/toffee flavors. Nondiastatic caramel malted barley flours provide distinctive flavors and warm colors without the addition of enzymes, so there is no breakdown of the dough system. Benefits of nondiastatic caramel malted barley flours include sweet caramel, toffee and malty flavors ranging from subtle to intense; rich, warm colors; enhanced texture and eye appeal; nondiastatic (no enzymatic impact on dough systems); whole grain ingredients; and rich in dietary fiber.

Dark roasting creates dark brown to black colors and flavors typical of other roasted foods, such as coffee and cocoa. Two distinctive styles of dark-roasted nondiastatic Malt Flours include Chocolate Malted Barley Flour and Black Malted Barley Flour. Chocolate Malted Barley Flour has distinctive cocoa flavors and is dark brown. It can be used to provide cocoa flavor and color by substituting up to 25 percent of the cocoa in a formulation, or it can be used in small amounts for color and eye appeal. Black Malted Barley Flour has a neutral, dry, slightly acidic flavor and is often used in very small amounts (1-5 percent) to naturally color dark breads, crackers and other dark colored baked goods while contributing little flavor.

When compared with cocoa, the color of dark roasted malts is more intense and much more soluble, with almost 70% of the flour solubilized. Dark roasted malt flours provide a source of fine, dispersed dark flour containing large amounts of soluble color. They work well in dark bread, cookie and cake mixes, as well as baked and extruded pet food applications. The benefits of nondiastatic roasted malted barley flours include chocolate or intense roasted coffee flavors at higher levels; no flavor contribution when used in small amounts for color; rich, dark colors; enhanced texture and eye appeal; nondiastatic (no enzymatic impact on dough systems); whole grain ingredients; and rich in dietary fiber.

Malted Barley Extracts

Malt can be further processed to produce liquid or dried sweeteners called Malt Extracts. Malt Extracts can be made from any type of malted grain. However, similar to the term “malt,” the term “malt extract” unqualified refers to an extract of malted barley. According to CFR, an extract of 100% malted barley can also be referred to as malt syrup. Extracts of other malted grains would be properly labeled as “extract of malted wheat” or “malted wheat extract”.

If the extraction conditions are adjusted, some of the natural alpha-amylase present in the malt survives the extraction process. Thus, it is possible to make a diastatic malt extract. Like malted barley blends, it is standardized to a certain enzyme activity, typical 20 or 60 degrees Lintner. Unlike Malted Barley Flour, which contains a wide range of enzymes, only the more thermostable enzymes survive this extraction process. Fortunately for bakers, it is the more stable enzymes, especially alpha-amylase, they normally require for functionality in baking systems. Diastatic malt extracts act both as a sweetener and enzyme source for baking. Because they are enzyme active, their usage rate is usually less than 5 percent.

Beer comes in a variety of flavors and colors, from dark stouts and porters to rich copper Oktoberfests. Malt Extracts (the “unfermented sugars of beer”) produced using specialty malts have a correspondingly wide variety of flavors, flavor intensities and colors. Because of the many types that can be made, Specialty Malt Extracts can have many different functions in bakery products, but they generally serve one or more of the following purposes: fermentable material or yeast food, browning and flavoring agents, colorant, sweetener and enzyme source. Selecting the right malt extract requires an understanding of the desired functionality and choosing the most appropriate product.

Coextracts of Malt and Other Cereal Grains

Other unmalted grains or starch sources can be converted into extracts, using malted barley as a natural enzyme source in the extraction process. this is done most often for economy and, in some cases, to make a lighter flavored syrup. Most commonly, corn or raw (unmalted) barley is used as an adjunct (cheaper source of starch) to make these extracts, which are properly labeled as “extract of malted barley and corn” or “extract of malted barley and barley”. The latter is sometimes correctly, but confusingly, referred to as “barley and malt extract”.

For many years, coextracts of malt and corn and blends of malt extract and corn syrup were mistakenly labeled as “malt syrup” or “liquid malt”. This mislabeling and adulteration led to the establishment of methods (such as stable carbon isotope ratio analysis) to detect corn products mixed with malt and to the issuance of an FDA policy statement on malt extract labeling. Since then, these coextracted sweeteners have generally fallen out of use, because much great savings can be realized by simply blending malt extract with corn syrup in applications where economy or a less intense malt flavor is desired.


Briess roasters are operated at all Briess malthouse locations and in our Insta Grains® heat treating plant. Our inventory of customized, flexible batch drum roasters range in size from 500 to 6,000-pound batches and, in addition to roasting malt, offers the ability to roast raw grains and starches. Used as whole kernel or milled into flours and a variety of particle sizes, these unique specialty ingredients naturally contribute color and enhance the flavor and texture of a wide range of food products. Our current Roasted Ingredients portfolio includes roasted wheat, barley and corn flour ingredients.

History of Malting

Malt, in substantially the same form as we know it today, was an important product long before the days of recorded history. Although its actual origin is buried in antiquity, there is a legend that early Egyptians manufactured malt by placing it in a wicker basket, which was then lowered into the open wells of that time. It was first lowered into the water for steeping, after which it was raised above the water level for germination.

The rate of germination was controlled by adjusting the height of the basket within the well. As germination progressed and heat developed, the basket would be lowered to a lower temperature level thus retarding growth and dissipating heat. To accelerate germination, the basket was simply raised to a higher level.

The malt was kept from matting by raising it to the top of the well and agitating the basket. Drying was by natural means, probably a simple process of spreading on the ground, and subjecting it to the direct rays of the sun. The use of malt at this time was thought to be exclusively for beverage purposes.

Floor Malting is Born

Of course, production of malt during this period was limited by the number of wells, and in efforts to increase production, maltsters next employed man-made cisterns and natural caves. These natural processes continued for centuries, because the next advancement in the malting process is found in the middle European countries. There, as the requirement for malt increased, it was found necessary to develop artificial means of controlling the temperatures and humidity.

The earliest known “malt house” was a simple structure located at the bottom of a hill or mountain adjacent to a stream, which could supply low temperature water by gravity. These houses had massive stone walls with floors of stone or mortar. Small windows set in these heavy walls were the only means of ventilation. Barley would be received into the top of such a house, and dropped into deep cisterns for steeping. From there, it would be deposited in a pile onto the stone floor of the house for germination. As growth commenced and heat was generated, the malt was shoveled from this pile and spread in a thin bed toward the front of the room.

Any necessary further cooling could only be accomplished during the cool evenings or night hours when experienced workmen shoveled the first thin layer of malt forward to another spot on the floor, throwing it into the air, and allowing it to fall in a thin shower. The proper moisture was applied by the simple old-fashioned sprinkling can. The process of shoveling to control temperature gradually moved the bed from the rear to the forward end of the floor, and as each successive steep was deposited onto the floor from the steeping cistern, it followed its predecessor down the length of the floor. In this way there were on each floor, a number of beds of malt in varying stages of germination. When the malt reached the front of the floor, its germination was completed, and it was shoveled by hand through a trap door into wheel barrows beneath, by means of which it was transported to the kiln for drying.

The kiln, at that time, was simply a room with a tile floor, under which were crude furnaces. The ceiling of the room assumed the shape of a high tapered dome, in which was located a large duct or chimney to pass off the moist hot air. After the germinated malt was spread on the floors, the fires were started, and drying accomplished by simple heating. The malt was agitated from time to time by a shovel. Later the tile floors were perforated, so that the combustion gases could pass directly through the grain.

All ventilation was by natural draft, and, of course, was influenced greatly by weather conditions. The art of malting under those conditions was one of the highest. The maltster personally controlled all processes, and through highly developed manual skill maintained proper conditions. He alone checked the temperatures, mostly by sense. It was he who determined when more moisture was required. In short, it was exclusively his skill and experience which brought out a finished malt of the proper character.

Because temperature controls were dependent on atmospheric conditions, malting at that time was confined to the cool months, which averaged about five months per year. During the rest of the year, the house was completely closed. Naturally, with this short production season, volume was very definitely limited.

Malting Goes Modern

The basic principle of these early malt houses again prevailed for centuries, but always with the search for new means of increasing production. It was not until the advent of steam, and later electrical power, that any major change occurred in the malting process. Undoubtedly, someone at some time drove ventilating bellows by water power in an effort to continue malting during the warmer weather, but there is no definite record of such device.

With the advent of modern power, the first changes that occurred were the introduction of ventilating fans and water pumps into the older type houses as described. Later, more modern buildings were introduced incorporating the various devices made available by the new power. In these earliest modern houses, steel tanks were substituted for the old-fashioned cisterns, large fans were employed for ventilation, and adequate sprinkler systems installed. However, the old-fashioned masonry floor still persisted with the consequent heavy work of hand shoveling. It was under these semi-modern methods that malt acquired its present status.

The next step was to the modern construction known as the compartment system. Here the steeped barley is deposited on perforated floors in a single bed through which moist cool air is drawn by fans to control temperatures as desired. Agitation is by means of large turning machines which periodically agitate and redistribute the malt. When germination is completed, the malt is scooped into mechanical conveyors by mechanical shovels. The conveyor deposits it in the kiln house, which again has perforated metal floors through which hot air is drawn by other fans. In this case, however, the floors are sectional, so that they can be opened, and the malt dropped through. It is possible in a modern kiln to reduce the moisture content to 3 percent.

After drying, the malt is dropped directly from the floor to hoppers located beneath, which feed conveyors, which, in turn, transport the finished malt to the cleaning and storing house. The prime object of modern houses is not only to give maximum production in a given area, but to decrease manual labor by the use of mechanical devices.

Through all of these centuries, malt as a finished product has changed very little, probably only to the extent that better grades of barley have been developed.

(Courtesy of the Saladin Corporation, Minneapolis, Minnesota)

The Malting Process

Malt is often called the “Heart of Beer” for good reason. Malted barley, or malt, is the basic ingredient used in the production of beer, providing complex carbohydrates and sugars necessary for fermentation, as well as contributing flavors and colors that are uniquely characteristic of beer. Those same benefits are equally effective in the production of yeast-fermented dough systems, baked goods, bars, cereal, granola, prepared foods, snack foods and other finished food products. And because malt is made from whole grain and minimally processed, it is an all natural ingredient that helps achieve product claims like natural, healthy, Kosher and non-GMO. Making malt requires only a cereal grain, usually barley, and water and a three-step process: steeping, germinating and drying.

1. Steeping

The basic malting process, although more of an exact science today than when man first dipped baskets of grain into open wells in Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago to prepare it for brewing, remains a three-step process: steeping, germination and drying.

During steeping water is absorbed by the raw barley kernel and germination begins. Steeping starts with raw barley that has been sorted and cleaned, then transferred into steep tanks and covered with water. For the next 40-48 hours, the raw barley alternates between submerged and drained until it increases in moisture content from about 12% to about 44%. The absorbed water activates naturally existing enzymes and stimulates the embryo to develop new enzymes. The enzymes breakdown the protein and carbohydrate matrix that encloses starch granules in the endosperm, opening up the seed’s starch reserves, and newly developed hormones initiate growth of the acrospire (sprout).

Steeping is complete when the barley has reached a sufficient moisture level to allow uniform breakdown of the starches and proteins. One visual indicator that the maltster uses to determine the completion of steeping is to count the percentage of kernels that show “chit”. Raw barley that has been properly steeped is referred to as “chitted” barley, the “chit” being the start of the rootlets that are now visibly emerging from the embryo of the kernel.

2. Germination

In a process called “steep out,” the chitted barley is transferred from the steep tank to the germination compartment. Germination, which began in the steep tank, continues in the compartment where the barley kernel undergoes modification. Modification refers to the breakdown of the protein and carbohydrates, and the resulting opening up of the seeds’ starch reserves. Good modification requires the barley to remain in the compartment for 4-5 days. Germination is controlled by drawing temperature-adjusted, humidified air through the bed. Turners keep the bed from compacting and rootlets from growing together, or felting.

3. Drying

Germination is halted by drying. If germination continued, the kernel would continue to grow and all of the starch reserves needed by the brewer would be used by the growing plant. Base or standard malts are kiln dried, typically with a finish heat of 180-190° F for 2-4 hours. This develops flavors ranging from very light malty to subtle malty. Specialty malts are dried in a kiln at higher temperatures for longer periods of time, roasted, or both. Varying the moisture level and time and temperature of drying develops the flavor and color characteristics of each specialty malt.

Ask how we can craft a solution for you

Ask an Expert