Malted vs Unmalted Barley: Everything You Should Know!

You might get different tastes on various beer items thinking of malt as the catalyst! However, unmalted or raw versions of barley play a major role in differentiating flavors, tastes, etc.

Worry not, we are here to guide you so that separating these barley types comes simple.

So, what are the key differences in malted vs unmalted barley?

Between malted and unmalted barley, you need germinating seeds for malted barley. Carrying it on until getting enough of enzymes, sugars, and starches makes barley malted. Meanwhile, unmalted barley requires a cereal mash procedure while brewing. But malted barley comes here ready-made.

Still, many more to shoot at you for better understanding! So, spare us a few minutes to get the spilled beans.

Now, let’s get to the point without wasting time!

Malted vs Unmalted Barley: A Quick Glimpse

Before diving into the details of malted vs unmalted barley, you must know which aspects we are going to cover! So, let’s get a sight of it below!

Comparing FactorsMalted BarleyUnmalted Barley
Maturity LevelCompletes three process including steeping, fermentation and germinationRaw and unaltered version of barley
Brewing ProcessNo special steps need to be addedRequiring cereal mash procedure in the middle of the process
Quantity of beta-glucansLesserMore
FlavorSweet and nuttyDirty or muddy
Whiskey TypesScotch and Irish whiskySingle pot still whiskey
ColorDepending on roasting level, usually comes black and brownishMostly lighter brown or golden

Enough of having a quick glance! Now, it’s time to get all things briefed.

Malted vs Unmalted Barley: Detailed Comparison

Let’s start with the main differences of nature between these.

Maturity Level

The Mating process of the barley requires three steps to complete. From steeping barley to germination and even kilning are the key steps for malting.

After the cleaning process of barley, you need water to get near to it. The steeping or immersing process comes so that the water content of barley can increase.

Absorbing water into it activates the enzymes. You might find this process ongoing for almost 24-48 hours. 

Once the barley hits a fine moisture level, steeping comes to an end. However, it allows a consistent breakdown of starches and proteins.

Source: indiamart

Meanwhile, unmalted barley is the raw version of grains. It carries starches but enzymes are absent. And, unmalted barley don’t have a proper cleaning process like this. So, no starch, protein breaking down is possible afterward.

Next step of the malting process deals with the growth and improvement of the barley. 

Initially, barley will turn into green malt by breaking protein down. 

Meanwhile, you require separating the barley into periodic cycles. It will avoid clumping issues and even non-uniform heat.

However, this process takes almost 5 to 7 days to get barley germinated. 

Comparison between torrified and flaked wheat will also show you temperature issues as a differentiating factor.

In the malting barley process, you might need 7°C as a standard temperature. If you increase the temperature, the process might get delayed for over 3 days. 

However, unmalted barley remains golden or lighter brown-ish for the absence of germination. Along with that, keeping them at a proper temperature is not mandatory.

Lastly, kilning is the step where germinated barley gets dried. This process lessens the moistness of barley. And, the malted barley gets ready for flavor. 

As a result, you will find a malty, smoky flavor here.

Meanwhile, unmalted barley won’t get any changes in flavors as kilning wasn’t applied here. Also, no drying process is required here.

These basic differences you will also find in malted rye and unmalted rye.

Brewing Process

While having the brewing process, choosing the barley type won’t be an issue. But why? We know these types bring so many modifications. 

As a result, you might see differences increasing here. But a simple trick added here will make your confusion go away. Malted barley holds easier steps of bringing sugar. 

Factors behind the whole process would require steeping, fermentation, germination, and so on! Meanwhile, focusing on steeping might show you the usage of unmalted is not that difficult here. 

All you need is to have a post mash. It will gradually take you having things steeped. However, there is nothing in the middle of steeping and fermentation in malted barley. 

But unmalted barley requires cereal mashing to add. As this type of barley didn’t get malted, you should know the cereal mash procedure. 

That’s how these two barley types will become similar in nature inside the brewing process. Similarly, you can explore the rye brewing process.

Winner: Malted barley.


Malted barley tastes sweet along with an essence of nuts there. Malting process breaks the complicated carbohydrates down into simple sugars. 

As a result, you will get a sweet taste. However, you may find its taste similar to fruits like raisins. 

Along with that, caramel, coffee, or toast flavored taste are also found in malted barley.

Meanwhile, unmalted barley tastes like dirt or fece due to having fewer sugars to ferment. 

Winner: Malted barley.

Whiskey Types And Flavor

Malted barley you will mostly find in Scotch and Irish whisky. This barley type leads to the whiskey having a premium rich flavor. 

You will get a toasty, cereal-ish flavor along with smoky, briny essence here.

Single pot still whiskey is the key example coming from unmalted barley. And, adding unmalted barley to the whiskey brings a different flavor than usual types.

You will have this barley-ish whiskey coming with a typical spiciness. Along with that, a hefty, granular texture will appear there. 

So, having this type of barley makes a slighter difference from Scotch or even Irish whiskeys. A funky cereal flavor creates the key flavor difference brought by unmalted barley.

However, it helps in enhancing the grain and cereal-ish nature of the whiskey. As a result, getting a lighter and sharper soury flavor is found. And, you may feel it like having green apple or lemon juice.

Winner: Most people like malted barley for enhancing better taste.

Final Verdict

Both of the barley types hold the same amount of starches. However, malted barley can activate enzymes while unmalted ones remain clueless to activate it.  

Meanwhile, unmalted barley comes with more beta-glucans than malted ones. 

However, you may try a different way in terms of converting unmalted to sugar. Base malts come as the key factors here that are required for mixing with unmalted barley. 

So, a cross-combination between them in making malts has a chance. Through this process, items like whiskey, beer, etc., can be made. However, tastes, flavors will be quite different from regular ones.

Winner: In terms of flavor and taste, malted barley keeps the crown.

Here’s our recommendation for malted barley.


Why Is Malted Barley Used For Beer Brewing?

Malted barley is used in beer since it can produce a nicer variant and texture in beer. Also, you will get a sweetened flavor with dextrins. As a result, it generates protein in order to form natural sugars required for the fermentation process. Its grades of spit-roast impact the color, and taste of the beer.

Which Alcohols Come With Malted Barley?

Barley malt you will find in mostly Scotch whisky or this class of alcohols. Bourbon is another hit item in beer brewing that uses malts. To make other kinds of alcohols/whiskies, grains such as corn, oat, wheat, and rye are used. Finding spice in whiskies usually indicates having rye in them. 

Can I Eat Roasted Barley?

Yes, you can eat roasted barley. Coming with a toasted flavor it makes consumers satisfied. Meanwhile, many people consider it an ideal alternative to coffee. Keeping it chilled might serve you the best result. However, consumers often add roasted honey or corn to this barley for additional sweetness.

Final Words

That’s all we have got to portray the differences between malted vs unmalted barley

We bet you have newly unfolded several things throughout our article. In the long run, these will enable you to differentiate things in a better way.

That’s all for today! Best of luck!

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