Malted barley grains, or malt, is considered to be the soul of a beer. We use this in our all grain recipes as the base of the beer and extract recipes for the steeping stage to extract flavor and color.
Before harvested barley is considered brewable, it must be malted. The process of malting is an art in itself and here, we will provide a brief overview of the process.
The process is centered around getting the naturally occurring enzymes and starches in each barley grain to be as abundant as possible. First, the grains are steeped in water for up to two days which jump starts the process of growth. Once the steeping process is completed, the grains are germinated which begins sprouting and opens the starch reserves. The germination process is stopped after about 5 days by way of kilning. If the grains were to continue growing, they would use all of the starch that we need to make beer. The kilning process also dries the grains and gives additional flavor and color.
Once the barley is malted, it is shipped to us whole. We crush it fresh which cracks the grain husks and exposes the starchy goodness inside.
Check out this link for an even more in-depth look at malting.