The traditional way to make malt was in a floor malting. After the grain had been soaked in water sufficiently to start germination, the growing grain was spread out on large floor areas. The depth of grain on the floor was thickened or thinned to control the temperature of the growing grain.

Germinating grain produces heat, so this had to be dissipated by turning or raking the grain. When the malt was sufficiently modified it was loaded to the kiln, which had a tall cone shaped roof to produce a natural air draught through the drying malt.

Traditional malt kilns were very energy intensive, and used about the same amount of heat to produce a tonne of malt that it took to make a tonne of steel!

In the early floor maltings this work was all done by hand, but some mechanisation was gradually introduced, until by the 1960’s machinery was being used to reduce the amount of manual labour required.

The illustration is of a floor maltings at Shirebrook, near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, which was operated by R.Peach & Co Ltd. This company ceased malting in 1993, and the maltings was subsequently demolished, but the illustration is shown by their kind permission.

Compare this with one of the directions the industry took to increase throughput and reduce labour costs, the second “Tower” malting in the UK, built in Burton on Trent for Allbrew Maltsters in 1983.

The site is now owned and operated by Soufflet Malt (UK) Ltd. Gravity is used very effectively in this design, as water and grain are transported to the top of the tower, where steeping takes place. The germinating grain moves through each stage by dropping to the next level in the tower, ending up at the bottom of the tower as kilned malt. The modern malt kiln re-uses heat in various ways, to produce malt using about half the heat input of the traditional high cone shaped kiln.

The output of malt made per man for the tower malting illustrated could be about seventeen times the amount of malt produced per man in the floor malting shown.

The tower malting was merely one option open to the modern maltsters, a range of malting plants are used which can produce excellent malts under very exact process control. In more recent years technological developments have been in the field of monitoring and process control.