Brewing them all with a single malt: Brew and infant food are linked by Swetha Sivakumar.

Brewing them all with a single malt: Brew and infant food are linked by Swetha Sivakumar.

Grain malting breaks down complicated starches into simpler ones that yeast may consume. Learn about its discovery and how some of the most well-known beverages of our youth and adulthood were produced using it.

What’s the connection between beer and infant food? It’s just the malting process, so don’t panic.

As every beer aficionado is aware, one cannot simply mash cereal, add yeast, and anticipate a delectable beverage. Cereal grain starch is a complex polymer that forms a chain connecting hundreds of glucose molecules. Simple sugars with a maximum length of three glucose units are what yeast loves. Any cereal, usually barley, can be fooled into believing it is time to create a baby plant by imitating the germination process to prepare the grain for the yeast.

The enzymes (named diastase) in the grain are activated during the germination process. They are crucial enzymes. They operate like tiny factory workers, snipping away at the starches in their immediate vicinity to produce maltose, a less complex form of sugar. While any grain can be used for this, barley is recommended due to its high enzyme content. Malting is the process of converting complicated starch into maltose.

Similar to yeast, babies are better able to digest simple carbohydrates. The first infant formula was created in 1865 by a German chemist named Justus von Liebig using malt flour, milk, wheat flour, and potassium bicarbonate. A little more than 20 years later, in 1887, English businessmen James and William Horlick to Chicago to develop this method before bringing it back to England for commercial production. Horlicks was the name given to their “malted milk.” They eventually started marketing Horlicks to both youngsters and adults. Travelers like the Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd made it popular as a wholesome dish. Since the 1940s, it has been promoted in India as a healthy beverage for the family, and it still has a sizable following in this country.

The modern malt mixes contain many ingredients (such as chocolate, vanilla traveledflavoring, protein extract, etc.), but strangely, the basic procedure is virtually unchanged. It still takes time and effort to malt grain, whether it’s for beer or a nutritional supplement. The grains must first be soaked twice or three times over some time. The second phase, germination, begins with tiny roots and shoots emerging from the damp grains’ ends. The grains need to be spread out and turned a few times a day to encourage germination while avoiding scorching and mold. This is accomplished either manually, using a rake, or using pricy pneumatic equipment.

Horlick’s malted milk was initially sold to travelers and became well-known as a healthy snack.

The time has come to dry the grain out and stop the germination once sufficient enzymes have been produced (for beer) or sufficient starches have been converted to simple sugars (for nutrient-rich meals). The “malted grain,” which retains all the advantages of a sprouted plant, is made by kilning or drying the germinated grain.

Are the advantages worthwhile given the challenging process? Well, the best method for converting grain into alcohol in the case of beer is still malting along with yeast. And throughout history, people have taken extraordinary measures to make alcohol. For example, Inca women travelers utilized human salivary enzymes to chew maize and create a paste, which they then combined with cooked corn to create chicha, a popular alcoholic beverage in portions of South America (the method is still in use among certain tribes).

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