Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Malting quality assessment tool

The entire European malting barley industry, from barley cultivation to beer production and distribution, represents over 70 % of the world trade in malt. Europe is also the number one producer of beer, which is a continuously growing industry.
Malting quality assessment tool
Currently, malting quality (MQ) assessment is a time-intensive, tedious and error-prone process. As such, it is critical to have a real-time MQ tool for application in the fields, cooperatives, maltsters and breweries. To meet these needs, the three-year EU-funded project OPTIMALT was initiated.

To define industrial specifications, the technological needs of barley growers and maltsters were first determined. From across the EU, 46 different barley samples were collected for testing and calibration. OPTIMALT investigated several optical inspection spectroscopy techniques such as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), automated vision system, Raman spectroscopy and photoacoustic Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR-PAS). Their ability to predict MQ parameters was assessed for application in different optical systems for barley growers and maltsters.

Based on laboratory analysis outcomes, NIRS was selected for assessing barley grain quality and other MQ parameters. This led to the development of a test-rig version of the at-line NIR system for harvesters that measures protein content in barley. The OPTIMALT germination unit was also developed using an automated machine vision unit for analysis.

Successful outcomes led to the development of three pre-competitive prototype systems, namely the OPTIMALT harvester unit, the OPTIMALT germination unit and the OPTIMALT spectroscopic system. These MQ tools were successfully validated at malt facilities, a laboratory and a farm. Besides detecting traditional parameters such as protein and moisture, these optical systems also detected other contents such as amino acids in barley and malt samples.

Project outcomes were disseminated through press releases as well as participation in trade shows and conferences. The development and testing of real-time commercial systems that rapidly, affordably and reliably monitor MQ parameters will ensure consistent product quality, leading to increased consumer confidence. The ability to select and use only high-quality malt along the entire malting barley chain will help reduce energy and materials waste and increase profitability. Ultimately, employment and European economies will be boosted through the commercialisation of OPTIMALT systems.

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