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Meeting the exacting specifications laid down by brewer and distiller customers is critical to the business of any maltster and is dependent on the quality of the Malting Barley. The laboratory is the key to control, as the accuracy of its assessment determines if the barley is suitable to be taken into the plant and its tests are the basis upon which any subsequent dispute can be resolved.


Controlling the intake of grain at maltings.

For a brief note on how grain delivered to maltings is tested as being the quality as purchased by the maltster, and fully ‘fit for purpose’

Since 2002 maltsters have been reporting to the MAGB the tonnages of barley that they have refused, and the reasons why. This data is collected every year to see if our malting barley supply chain perfomance is improving, and also highlights to growers the problems that have been experienced each season.

Details of the methods of sampling and analysis of barley at intake, barley in storage malt in process, finished malt and co-products are found in the Analytica EBC and in individual company analytical manuals and work instructions.

It is a requirement of ISO 9001:2000, Assured UK Malt and FEMAS that maltings staff receive structured training and that companies maintain training records for individual staff. This includes analysis of grain, malt and co-products.

Daily standards, performance in MAPS and NIR ring checks indicate when individual staff or teams require follow up training. See further information below on both of these important schemes that assist maltsters with the accuracy of their analyses.

The MAGB recognise the importance of training to the industry and offer the following support:

AHDB Grain Analyst Training tools give guidance on the execution of barley sampling, sample preparation, barley analytical methods and quality assurance procedures. By signing up on the AHDB website, they become interactive training tools.

Fundamentals in Malting. This training scheme covers all aspects of practical malting including barley intake and analysis. It is aimed at experienced practical maltsters as well as those commencing their careers.

Malting Diploma.  Entry is open to all, no formal qualifications required.  The examination consists of the 3-hour papers covering Raw Materials, Processing and Health, Safety, Food Safety & Environment.

MAGB Master Maltster. This prestigious qualification is for experienced maltsters with extensive practical and technical experience in all areas of malting (minimum of 2 years). It involves the execution of an industrial project and the submission of a detailed project report, plus an oral examination.

MAGB members have established and maintain a high level of analytical accuracy in their intake laboratories to insure consistency of results to their customers and suppliers. To insure these standards are maintained 98% of all intake laboratories are members of the UKAS accredited Malt Analytes Proficiency Testing Scheme (MAPS).

When grain arrives at a maltsters grain store it is carefully sampled, and before any analyses are undertaken, the grain is first inspected to ensure that it is of the quality expected, and the load offers no obvious food safety risk. This will include checks that there is no insect infestation, no presence of mould on the grain, or evidence of any other contamination.

Once the grain passes the ‘hand evaluation’, it will then be analysed for a range of tests, dependent on which one of a range of options the grain is being presented under. This could be from grain coming in from stores under the maltings control, or grain from others storage control, or grain coming in direct from farm.

The usual procedure for testing delivered grain to maltings is first to screen the sample, and measure the amount of screenings present. The screened sample, effectively represents the grain available for malting. The moisture of the grain is determined, and the nitrogen content of the grain can be evaluated.

These tests can be carried out in a variety of ways, NIR (Near Infra Red) can be used to test the whole grain, whilst other chemical tests (e.g. Dumas) involve grinding the grain and make a fine flour to analyse.

Even if these results all match the purchased specification, the grain is only of use to maltsters if the germination capacity of the grain is at a minimum of 98%.

Various tests can be used for checking germinative capacity, which merely measure the viability of the embryo within the grain to germinate, not how vigorously it will grow. The most common test is the Tetrazolium Staining Test, which stain live embryos red, but do not affect non-viable embryos. This test is also most useful in years when ‘pre-germination’ may occur in the grain due to adverse weather conditions.


To see photographs of cross sections through Tetrazolium stained barley showing a range of test results from full germination to pre-germination with descriptors.

To read about UK Maltsters promotion of the benefits of the Tetrazolium staining test at EBC Prague in May 2005

Near Infra Red (NIR) analyses testing of malting barley
The UK NIR Grain Network is a group for people involved with the analysis of grain (barley, wheat, oilseed rape, oats) who have common objectives of achieving accurate results from their NIR instruments and reducing the disagreement between analytical results within the grain industry. The Network provides a means towards achieving this and following ideals of good laboratory practice whilst reducing effort and cost by working together to achieve the common aims. Parameters covered are barley-moisture, nitrogen, specific weight; wheat – moisture, protein, specific weight Hagberg Falling Number; OSR – moisture, oil; and oats – moisture and specific weight).

Malt Analytes Proficiency Testing Scheme (MAPS) The Malt Analytes Proficiency Testing Scheme (MAPS) launched in January 1997 is operated by LGC, a leading provider of proficiency testing (PT) schemes, with significant technical expertise in malt and barley analysis. MAPS currently has over 75 participating laboratories from more than 15 countries on all continents. MAPS has been accredited by UKAS to ISO/IEC 17043.

More Information on MAPS is available on their website the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC) who operate the scheme.

AHDB have published a grain sampling guide that brings together the key requirements for effective grain sampling for everyone involved, from growing to purchasing. It seeks to minimise duplication of effort, maximising efficiency. In this guide, sampling refers to the collection of physical grain and also sampling for moisture, temperature, pests and moulds.

View here more information on Maltsters’ laboratories Link to page update first