Malting industry urges caution when drying malting barley

Farmers should carefully consider the risk of quality damage before pursuing on-farm drying of malting barley, says the Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute, an organization representing malting and brewing companies.

“A maximum moisture content of 13.5 percent is needed for good quality malt with a germination rate of 95 percent or more,” says Erin Armstrong, Institute President and CEO. “On-farm drying can be a tricky process and applying excessive heat can damage germination in the kernels. Germination is critical to the malting process.”

Overly rapid drying is another risk with on-farm drying. “Drying too quickly can cause kernel brittleness, increasing their vulnerability to breakage,” she says. “Damaged kernels can also have germination problems.”

Malting barley that fails to reach the 95 percent rate of germination will be rejected, says Armstrong. “Producers should be cautious. If they choose to dry their barley, they should take all necessary precautions to avoid having their barley rejected for not meeting minimum requirements.”

If heat is applied, the maximum air temperature must not exceed 43°C (109°F). “Dry slowly with large volumes of air. When feasible, continuous drying is better than batch drying,” she explains.

The drying process should include a cooling period. This reduces the bin temperature, preventing heating within the bin’s core.

When aerating, the fan should be kept on until the drying process is complete. If the farmer chooses to shut off the fan, it should be for no longer than a few hours at a time, says Armstrong. “A crust can develop on the grain that prevents sufficient air flow when aeration begins again.”

If barley was initially turned down because of high moisture content, producers should remember to resubmit samples of dried grain, she says. “The Malting Barley Industry Group has recommended that farmers should first notify the selector that the grain is drying. Then resubmit a sample in a moisture-proof bag when drying is done and ensure the producer’s name and the date is labeled on the bag. Once received, the selector can re-examine the sample.”

During wet harvest conditions, producers should not mix higher-moisture barley with dry barley in their delivery. “This practice could result in rejection of the barley,” says Armstrong.

Achieving malt barley quality is a delicate balance of a lot of factors. “The malting industry basically needs dry, pest-free, non-heat damaged barley with good germination, requiring close attention to detail at all levels of the supply chain.

More on-farm drying information is available at the following Web sites:

Established in 1948, the Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute has a mandate to support the development and evaluation of new malting barley varieties in Canada. It accomplishes this by supporting basic research and variety testing. The Institute also communicates and liaises with producers, government and others in the industry on issues related to malting barley quality.

Institute information and news can be found on the organization’s Web site at:

For further information, contact:
Dr. Erin Armstrong
President and CEO
Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute
Phone: (204) 927-1407