After reading a number of different sources regarding whisky production, I am still a little unsure as to the exact purpose of malting, and wondered if anyone could enlighten me.
I have read in some places that malting allows starch in the barley to be converted into soluble sugars such as maltose, but have then been told by different sources that malting produces no sugars as such, rather it produces enzymes which will then later convert starch into sugar in the mash tun.
Does anyone know if malting does both or just one of these things?
Cheers, and apologies for the anorak-like/hair-splitting nature of the question!
The grain kernel is full of starch, its way of storing energy. The maltster encourages the grain to sprout, as if it were going to grow into a plant. The starch is converted into sugar, which would be readily usable to the growing plant, at this time. When the grain has reached the optimum level of conversion, the maltster dries it, essentially killing it. Cut down in the full blush of youth!
The grain is then ground into a grist and mashed, or steeped in hot water. This dissolves the sugars in the water, now called wort. This is cooled and yeast is then added. Yeast eat sugar, piss alcohol, and fart carbon dioxide (forgive the crudity, but that's the simple explanation). Distillation proceeds from there. (More than you asked for here, but relevant to the question.)
What precisely goes on in a kernel of barley when it is sprouting is perhaps rather complicated, and beyond my level of (so-called) expertise, in any case. I'm sure someone here will explain it shortly!
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