This blog provides information for educational purposes only. Read our complete summary for more info.

December 13, 2019

The Malting Process - Visiting Riverbend Malt House

 

 

 

 

malting_process_riverbend_malt_houseBarley, hops, and yeast, that’s what makes a good beer. But most people don’t realize what goes into the first ingredient, barley. So we took a trip to Riverbend Malt House in Asheville, NC, a malt house that prides itself in making malt for craft beer. With breweries such as New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, and Oskar Blues on their list of customers, chances are you’ve already had a beer with their malt in it. Read on to learn about Riverbend and the malting process.

outside_riverbend

 

 

Brian Simpson and Brent Manning started Riverbend Malt House in 2007. At this time, there were very few craft malt houses in the United States. Riverbend spawned from this shortage, but also from a desire to support local agriculture with a sustainable business.

Brian_Riverbend_cofounder

Brian Simpson - Riverbend Co-Founder

Brent_cofounder

Brent Manning - Riverbend Co-Founder

Watch this video to learn about Riverbend and the malting process

The Malting Process

According to Brian, there are 5 steps to malting grain.

  1. Sourcing
  2. Cleaning and Grading
  3. Steeping
  4. Germination
  5. Kilning

Most people overlook sourcing, cleaning and grading and talk only about steeping, germination, and kilning. The first two steps of the malting process are extremely important and involve sourcing grain from a farmer, and then cleaning and grading the grain based on its quality. The grain that Riverbend sources is of the highest quality and has already been cleaned and graded. Once the grain arrives at Riverbend it is ready for them to start the steeping process.

 

Steeping

In the steep tank, grain is submerged in water. Riverbend puts their grain through three cycles involving a submersion period and then an air rest period. Steeping the grain causes it to start germinating, or growing rootlets as if it were planted in the ground.

malting_steep_tank

Riverbend's steep tank

Germination

Once the grain starts germinating, it’s put onto the floor of a separate climate controlled room. The germination room is kept around 60-62 degrees Fahrenheit and is very humid. 

malting_germinating_grain

Kentucky Distiller's Malt - Day 3 of Germination

malting_germinating_grain

While the grain is germinating, it’s turned with a rake. This keeps it from clumping up and releases CO2 and other gases that are produced during germination.

malting_raking_grain

Emmet Raking Grain

Kilning

After the germination process, the grain is put into a kiln. The goal here is to stop germination in order to give the grain color and flavor. The first step is drying the grain out with air, no heat is applied at first. Removing moisture is what stops the germination process, not adding heat. The grain goes through a curing process once it’s dry. This is where the color and flavor of the finished malt is created.

malting_kiln

 Riverbend's Kiln

After kilning, the grain can be considered malt.

Floor Malting Vs. Automated, Pneumatic Driven Malting

The previously described process is traditionally referred to as the floor malting method and is completely manual. The other half of Riverbend’s facility is dedicated to a mostly automated and pneumatic driven system. This automatic system revolves around a pneumatic steep tank and GKV, or Germination-Kiln Vessel. 

pneumatic_malting

 The Other Half of Riverbend's Facility

In the automatic process, grain is put into a pneumatic steep tank and then transferred to a GKV. 

pneumatic_steep_tank

Pneumatic Steep Tank

GKV_wide

A GKV

grain_GKV

Grain Germinating in a GKV

In a GKV, grain goes through the same germination and kilning processes, but all in one vessel. The automatic process is unique due to its ability to create custom malts and emulate historical malts.

Post-Kilning

After kilning, the grain still has all the rootlets that it grew during the germination process. In order to knock these off, all grain is sent through a rootlet auger. From the rootlet auger the grain goes into a seed cleaner. The seed cleaner separates any waste material and puts out a uniform final product.

malt_packaging_and_cleaning_wide

Kilned Grain Is Stored in a Hopper (right) and Goes Through the Orange Conveyor, Leading it to the Rootlet Auger
seed_cleaner

 A Seed Cleaner

seed_cleaning

Clean Grain Leaving Seed Cleaner

During the cleaning process, a sample is pulled every 5-10 minutes. These samples later go through in house sensory tests that are used to test the quality of malt before it goes to customers. 

seed_cleaning_sample

Taking a Sample From Seed Cleaner

Riverbend uses the hot steep method that was developed by the American Society of Brewing Chemists to test their malt. When following this method to assess malt quality, you basically make a malt tea. This “tea” is then tasted and assessed based off of its flavor and color.

hot_steep_method

Equipment Used For The Hot Steep Method

The final step? Packaging. Once the grain is clean, its put into bags and sent out to homebrew stores and craft breweries. 

grain_bagging

Grain goes into a bag

bag_sower

Through a Sower

malting_bagging

And Then Down a Conveyor Belt To Be Stacked on a Pallet

malt_bags

Riverbend focuses on craft breweries in the Southeast and has made malts for breweries such as Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Wicked Weed, Burial Beer and Fonta Flora. If you ever visit Asheville, most breweries in the South Slope will have a beer on tap that uses Riverbend Malt.

TL;DR - Malting is basically wetting grain, getting it to germinate and then drying it back down so a brewer can use it in a mash.

Leave a comment

Please note, the design of our website does not allow us to respond directly to blog comments. Please email us directly regarding questions about products. We don't answer questions about recipes, procedures, etc. However, feel free to leave a comment or respond to comments made by others!