As most people are aware of beer aside from water the main ingredient of beer is grains. Barley in particular. The majority of the barley is malted> What exactly is malted barley?
Malted barley is barley that is moistened and encouraged to sprout and during the sprouting process the barley is dried out and essentially the maltmeister kills the barley plant that was growing. What exactly does this accomplish? It starts the germination process and the plant starts to create enzymes needed to convert the starch in the seed to sugars. It is this combination of starch and enzymes the masher needs.
The next step is to crack the barley-corn, not into fine powder but into largish pieces, all we are trying to do here is to crack open the barley-corns so water can get at the contents of the corns more easily. Then we start to mash.
Mashing is the process of converting the starch in the barley-corns. This is done by steeping the corns in warm water for a time. The warm water plus the enzymes convert the starch into sugars and that is what we want! There are two types of sugars that can be formed, one type of sugar gets consumed by the yeast and turns into alcohol, the other sugar is not converted into alcohol but stays with the brew and adds to the beer's taste characteristics when consumed! The masher can favor one type of sugar by altering the temperature of the mash mix.
Malted barley is not the only grain used in the creation of beer, but it is the main one. Wheat, oats, unmalted barley, rice, toasted & roasted grains, etc can also be used. Wheat for instance is a significant ingredient in weiss beers (e.g. Hacker Pschorr), other grains utilized add color, body, or other flavors the brewer wants.
In the next installment we talk about hops!