What is malt?

The most important ingredient for brewers’ and distillers’ malt is malting barley, a cereal grain. Feed barley is more commonly used to feed animals and is a staple food across the world. As one of the first cultivated cereals, barley was already used in ancient Syria and Egypt to make bread and beer. Barley malt is made through a process known as ‘malting’. This comprises three phases; first, the barley is washed and soaked in water to start the germination process. The second phase involves the actual sprouting or ‘germination’ of the barley grains and in the third phase, the sprouted grains are dried to stop the germination process.

The malt process

From barley to malt

Our malting process comprises three main steps: steeping, germination and kiln-drying. For more detailed information on these steps, please see the information below.

Quality raw material & process

Using top quality raw materials in the malting process is a high priority within Holland Malt, which is why we use our multiple sourcing strategy to select the best quality grains. To ensure the very highest quality and delivery reliability, we also use our professional in-house laboratory to analyse the barley and malted barley. Accredited external laboratories later perform analyses to check for mycotoxins, pesticide residues, heavy metals and nitrosamines. We use the very latest technologies during our malting process and have designed our production processes using stainless steel to ensure that we meet the most stringent safety, quality and hygiene requirements. Our Maltsters also perform daily quality control checks during the malting process to ensure the high quality of our malts.


The malting process starts with soaking the barley grains for 24 hours in a steeping vessel. During this time, air is blown through the vessel (the steep) to add oxygen to the water and to provide a washing effect. Sand, dirt, and mould-infested kernels are washed away resulting in a clean product. After approximately 24 hours, the barley begins to sprout and the grain is transferred to the germination floor.


A moist and warm environment is required for seeds of any sort to sprout. After the grains have been soaked they need to be rinsed and placed in a warm and well-lit environment. The moist barley is spread out and allowed to germinate in a warm and light environment. During this process the sprouting barley produces heat. To control the temperature of the sprouts, these must be turned regularly. Historically, this was done by hand, but these days  it is done by mechanical turners. The modern techniques used in the Holland Malt maltings, such as fan-assisted aeration and cooling devices, allow us excellent control over the malting process enabling a germination process of 5,5 days.


Once germination is complete, the grain is loaded onto the kiln floor. There the temperature increases gradually, drying the sprouted grains and stopping the germination process. As the temperature rises even more, the sprouted barley is cured, which improves flavour and preserves the malt. Holland Malt only uses state-of-the-art computerised kilns, which ensures maximum quality control. The malted barley no longer comes into contact with fumes from burning natural gases. Instead, the green malt is dried using steam or heated air, thereby reducing the possibilities of smoke and fume impurities being transferred to the barley.

Get to know our Malt types


Holland Malt has a sister-company CereX which is a global player in producing malt extracts. CereX produces high quality malt extracts and compounds. Due to extensive experience in malting, brewing, soft drink and extract production in combination with state-of-the-art equipment results in the clearest and most stable malt extracts. Making them highly suitable for a wide variety of beverages (including beverages that require excellent foam stability). CereX excels in matching existing RTD’s, new product development and commissioning. Find more information about CereX and its services and products here:

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