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An Account of the Manner of Making Malt in Scotland (1667)

by Sir Robert Moray

Malt is there made of no other Grain, but Barley. Whereof there are two kinds; one, which bath four Rows of Grains on the Ear; the other, two Rows. The first is the more commonly used; but the other makes the best Malt.

The more recently Barly hath been Treshed it makes the better Matt. But if it hath been Threshed fix weeks or upwards, it proves not good Malt, unless it be kept in one equal temper; whereof it easily failes, especially if it be kept up against a Wall: for that which lies in the middle of the Heap is freshest, that which lies on the outsides and at top is over dry'd, that which is next the wall shoots forth, and that which is at the bottom Rots. So that when it comes to be made into Malt, that which is spoiled, does not Come well (as they call it) that is, never gets that right mellow temper Malt ought to have, and so spoils all the rest. For thus some Grains Come well, some not at all, some half, and some too much.

The best way to preserve Treshed Barly long in good temper, is, Not to separate the Chaff from it. But as long as it is unthreshed, it is always good. Brewers use to keep their Barly in large Rooms on boarded floores, laid about a foot in depth, and so turned over now and then with Scoops.

Barly that hath been over heated in the Stacks or Barnes, before it be separated from the Straw, will never prove good for Malt, nor any other use. But though it heat a little after it is Threshed, and kept in the Chaff, it will not be the work, but rather the better for it; for then it will Come the sooner, and more equally.

A mixture of Barly that grew on several grounds, never proves good Malt , because it Comes not equally. So that the bell Barley to make Malt of, is that which grows in one Field, and is kept and thresht together.

Take, then good Barley, newly threshed, and well purged from the Chaff, and put hereof eight Boles, that is, about fix English Quarters, in a Stone-Trough. Where let it infuse, till the water be of a bright reddish colour ; which will be in about three days, more or less, according to the moistness or dryness, smalness or bigness of the Grain, season of the Year, or temper of the weather. In Summer Malt never Makes well. In Winter it will need longer infusion, than in the Spring or Autumn.

It may be known when steeped enough, by other marks betides the colour of the Water, as the excessive swelling of the Grain, or, if over steeped; by too much softness; being, when in the right temper, like that Barley which is prepared to make Broath of, or the Barley called by some, Urge wonder.

When the Barley is sufficiently steepd, take it out of the Trough, and lay it on heaps, so let the Water drein from it. Then after two or three hours, turn it over with a Scoop, and lay it in a new heap about twenty or twenty four inches deep. This Heap they call the Comeing Heap. And in the managing of this Heap aright, lies the greatest Skill. In this Heap it will lie forty hours, more or Ids, according to the formentioned qualities of the Grian, &c, before it come to the right Temper of Malt ; which that it may all do equally, is most to be desired.

Whilst it lies in this Heap, it is to be carefully looked to, after the first fifteen or sixteen hours. For about that time, the Grains will begin to put forth the Root, which when they have equally and fully done, the Malt must, within an hour after, be turned over with a Scoop; otherwise the Grains will begin to put forth the Blade or Spire alto, which by all means must be prevented: for hereby the Malt will be utterly spoil'd, both as to pleasantness of Taft, and strength.

If all the Malt Come not equally, because that which lies in the middle being warmest, will usually Come first; turn it over, so as the outmost may lie inmost, and so leave it till all be Comen alike.

So soon as the Malt is sufficiently Come, turn it over, and spread it to a depth not exceeding five or fix inches. And by that time it is all spread out, begin and turn it over and over again, three or four times. Afterwards, turn it over in like manner, once in four or five hours, making the Heap -thicker by degrees, and continuing so to do constantly, for the (pace of forty eight hours at least.

This frequent turning of it over, cooles, drys and deads the Grain; whereby it becomes mellow, melts easily in brewing, and then separates entirely from the Husk.

Then throw up the Malt into a Heap, as high as you can. Where let it lye, till it grows also hot as your hand can endure it: which usually comes to pass, in some thirty hours space. This perfects the sweetness, and mellowness of the Malt.

After the Malt is sufficiently heated, throw it abroad to cool, and turn it over again about fix or eight hours after, and then dry it upon the Kiln. Where, after one fire, which must serve for twenty four hours, give it another more flow, and if need be, a third. For if the Malt be not thoroughly dryed, it cannot be well ground , neither will it dissolve well in the brewing, and the Ale it makes will be red, bitter, and will not keep.

The best Fewell, is Peat. The next Charcoale, made of Pit-Coal or Cinders; Heath, Broom and Furzes are naught. If there be not enough of one kind, burn the best first, for that gives the strongest; impression, as to the Taste.

From Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, (1677-8) Volume 12, pages 1069-71.

Copyright © 2004 the Brewery History Society