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How do craft breweries handle and store malt?

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How do craft breweries handle and store malt?

Malt is a fundamental ingredient in beer production, providing the fermentable sugars necessary for fermentation and contributing to the flavor, color, and body of the final product. Proper handling and storage of malt are crucial for maintaining its quality and ensuring consistent brewing results. This article explores how craft breweries manage these aspects, from receiving and handling malt to storing it under optimal conditions.


Receiving and Inspecting Malt

Receiving Malt Deliveries:


Bulk Shipments: Larger craft breweries often receive malt in bulk deliveries, transported in trucks equipped with pneumatic systems that transfer the malt into silos.

Bagged Malt: Smaller breweries may receive malt in 25- or 50-kilogram bags, which are easier to manage in limited spaces.



Visual Inspection: Upon arrival, malt should be visually inspected for any signs of damage, contamination, or pests. Bags should be intact, and the malt should appear clean and consistent.

Moisture Content: Using a moisture meter, breweries check the moisture content of the malt. Ideal moisture levels are typically between 3-5%. Higher moisture levels can lead to mold growth and spoilage.

Aroma and Taste: Experienced brewers often smell and taste the malt to ensure it has the desired characteristics and is free from off-flavors.

Handling Malt

Transportation within the Brewery:


Conveyors and Augers: In larger breweries, conveyors or augers transport malt from storage areas to the mill. These systems are efficient and minimize manual handling.

Manual Transport: In smaller operations, malt bags are manually transported to the milling area. This requires careful handling to prevent spillage and contamination.


Commercial Brewing Equipment

Milling Process: The malt is crushed in a mill to break the grains outer husk and expose the starches inside. Proper milling is crucial, as over-crushing can produce too much flour, affecting mash filtration, while under-crushing can lead to poor starch conversion.

Mill Settings: Adjusting the mill settings based on the type of malt and the desired crush size ensures optimal extraction efficiency during mashing.

Storing Malt

Storage Conditions:


Temperature: Malt should be stored in a cool, dry place. Ideal storage temperatures are between 50-70°F (10-21°C). High temperatures can accelerate the degradation of malt quality.

Humidity: Low humidity is crucial to prevent mold growth and maintain the malts low moisture content. A relative humidity of around 50% is generally recommended.

Storage Facilities:


Silos: Bulk malt is often stored in silos made of stainless steel or aluminum, which protect the malt from moisture and pests. Silos are equipped with aeration systems to maintain air circulation and prevent condensation.

Bags: Bagged malt should be stored off the ground on pallets and away from walls to ensure good air circulation. Stacking bags properly prevents crushing and damage to the lower bags.

Pest Control:


Preventative Measures: Regular inspections, sealing cracks and openings, and maintaining cleanliness in storage areas help prevent pest infestations.

Monitoring: Use of pheromone traps and routine checks for signs of pests ensure early detection and control.

Inventory Management:


First-In, First-Out (FIFO): Implementing FIFO ensures that older malt is used before newer shipments, reducing the risk of using stale or degraded malt.

Regular Audits: Conducting regular inventory audits helps manage stock levels and ensures the brewery always has the required types and quantities of malt.

Handling Specialty Malts

Craft breweries often use a variety of specialty malts to create unique flavors and styles. These malts require special attention:


Separate Storage: Specialty malts are often stored separately from base malts to prevent cross-contamination.

Small Batches: Because specialty malts are used in smaller quantities, they are often purchased and stored in smaller batches to maintain freshness.

Best Practices for Malt Handling and Storage

Cleanliness: Maintaining a clean storage area is essential to prevent contamination and pests. Regular cleaning schedules and protocols should be established.

Training: Staff should be trained in proper malt handling techniques to minimize damage and ensure quality.

Documentation: Keeping detailed records of malt deliveries, inspections, and usage helps in tracking quality and identifying any issues that may arise.


Proper handling and storage of malt are vital for producing high-quality beer. Craft breweries must pay meticulous attention to receiving, inspecting, transporting, milling, and storing malt to ensure it retains its freshness and desirable characteristics. By following best practices and maintaining optimal storage conditions, breweries can consistently produce excellent beer that meets their high standards and satisfies their customers.

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