Our Process

From certified seed to finished malt

Malt processing equipment

Whether you’re a brewer, looking to add a certain special something to a new and innovative beer, or a distiller on the hunt for an infinitely complex and subtle taste, as specialist malt grain suppliers we’ve got the perfect malt to meet your needs.

Farmer kneeling next to a pile of malt

Working with our suppliers

We’ve founded a robust supply chain upon our long-standing relationships with our farmers. Farmers contracted to grow the finest UK two-row barley from 100% certified seed.

Our agricultural trading divisions, McCreath, Simpson & Prentice (MSP) and John Guthrie trade combinable crops and supply a full range of services and inputs. They employ staff who are qualified and certified to advise our farmers on nutrient planning, crop protection and long-term crop programmes.

With its focus on the future, the MSP seed department works years in advance to identify appropriate new varieties of barley, developing our next generation of seed stock.

“It’s exciting to see how things turn out when you are trialing new seeds. Of course, it’s time consuming to run trial plots because you need to recalibrate everything whenever you start a new trial but I love innovating and being at the forefront of technology.”
Rodney Smith, Trial Plot Manager and Arable Farmer, Beal Northumberland

Our MSP divisions ensure we have a secure and consistent supply of quality barley, fulfilling the specific malt grain supplier demands of our customer partners.

All barley that arrives at our maltings is sampled, tested and recorded for full seed, field and store traceability. Only after testing do we release it, ready for storage on site and then processing.

“It’s as Robert Free said in 1888, ‘The art of making good malt out of bad barley has yet to be discovered.’”
Peter Simpson, Director

Malt steeping process

Our storage

Having full responsibility for the storage of our raw materials is a vital consideration in our processes. We set precise quality control measures both at our maltings and our storage premises. We keep each harvest secure with temperature-control and low moistures. We check each load before intake and then store it safely, monitoring temperature, moisture and germinative viability.

Each of our two maltings has an ancillary barley store to supplement storage on site. Craigswalls was purchased in 2000 to match the growing Tweed Valley maltings.

Extra storage close to the Tivetshall maltings is in the form of a former airfield in Fersfield, purchased in 1997. The airfield’s perimeter track, Nissan huts, runways and T-2 hangars surround our stores here.

Our aim is to purchase and store 100% of our annual barley requirements at harvest time every year. The barley is stored within our control, in quality assured stores, ensuring our high standards are consistently met and therefore securing supply.

Our steeping process

After screening and grading the first step in the malting process, according to the needs of the grain, is to put it through our barley washer. The washing process takes around four hours and has a number of key benefits. It further cleans the barley, it saves water usage and it initiates the steeping process, laying the foundations for and ensuring a consistent uptake of water in the steephouse.

As they are washed, the barley kernels begin to absorb water, increasing their moisture level from 12% to 25%. At this point, the germination process begins.

The newly germinating grain then steeps in water extracted from our own onsite boreholes in cylindro-conical bottomed stainless steel vessels. This stage takes around 40-48 hours.

“We can adjust our steeping process for each batch, including changing the temperature of the water by a few degrees. This prevents external ambient temperatures from interfering with the process.”
Mark Mitchell, Site Manager, Berwick-upon-Tweed

High volumes of low-pressure air rouse the grain at regular intervals in the steeping vessels. At this stage oxygen circulates and carbon dioxide releases as enzymes activate and rootlets or ‘chits’ emerge from the embryo of each kernel.

Our germinating process

We transport the chitted barley on belt conveyors to our stainless steel germinating and kilning vessels. This method ensures gentle handling and protects the chits.

Hygiene is a key consideration during the germinating process. The fixed beam and rotating floor of our stainless steel GKVs allow for inspections to take place with ease and at any time and reduce the risk of contaminating the grain.

We usually germinate the barley for between 4-6 days. We blow temperature controlled air through the bed of grain and the proteins and carbohydrates within each kernel begin to break down and release starch.

The germinating grain lifts on turners and moves from the bottom of the batch to the top. At this stage, when the barley is in the germination phase, it is referred to as ‘green malt.’ The regular movement keeps the green malt from matting or felting and ensures consistent results.

Simpsons Malt employee examining malt

Our kilning process

Once germination is complete, we replace humidified air with temperature-controlled air, adjusting the kilning schedule as per each required specification. The green malt dries and cures and colour and flavour are added.

Our roasting process

The Tivetshall site has five roasting drums where we produce speciality-roasted products like Crystal Malt, Golden Naked Oats and Roasted Barley. The roasting drums rotate constantly, to keep the product moving and give an even application of temperature.

“Simpsons has invested in germination drums to mimic the action of gentle floor maltings, making sure that the green malt is undamaged before the vigorous roasting process begins.”
Christopher Trumpess, Quality Control, Tivetshall Maltings, Norfolk

Our highly trained roasters achieve our customer partner specifications, altering temperatures and timings during the drying and curing process, so we can meet specific requirements and develop our wide range of unique colours and flavours.

“The roasting process involves a lot of feel. It’s reasonably easy to understand – but very difficult to master. It’s not something you can do from a book but rather it’s a skill to be acquired over many years.”
Nick Archer, Manager, Tivetshall Maltings, Norfolk

Simpsons Malt branded truck being loaded

Our bagging and transportation process

From bulk containers loaded with malt for global shipping, to the palettes of bagged malt that we transport around the country in curtain-sider lorries, Simpsons Malt is available in a wide range of bulk and bagged amounts.

Our award-winning fleet of vehicles transports and tracks our barley and malt deliveries across the UK

As with all our produce, user experience is paramount and so we use our own state-of-the-art ‘easy-open’ bags, clearly branded with the Simpsons Malt logo to transport our high quality malt.

Our malt is available in:

  • 25kg easy-open bags
  • 50kg easy-open bags
  • 0.5 metric tonne totes
  • 1 metric tonne totes (supersacks)

Our own, award-winning fleet of vehicles transports our malts, tracking each delivery for efficiency via a bulk transport network that ships our bags all around the world.

Our Milling Process

If required, we can mill our malt to order and match our customers’ need for either coarse or fine-sized grounds. If a customer is replacing an existing malt with Simpsons Malt, we’ll ensure that our malt is milled to their expected requirements, ensuring consistency and a smooth transition between the two products.

At Simpsons Malt we understand that once a malt is milled, it has a certain shelf life. That’s why we only ever mill our malt to order, ensuring it reaches you in the best and freshest condition possible.

Peter Inglis, Planning and Logistics Manager, Berwick-upon-Tweed

Our transparency and focus on quality

Our vertical integration and supply chain management process has been designed to evolve quickly, meeting challenges and any need for adaptation with ease.

“It’s not easy to recruit good maltsters because the role requires a unique set of skills that are hard to find. At Simpsons we‘re proud that our staff retention levels are high, meaning we hold onto quality people with comprehensive knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation.”
Nick Archer, Manager, Tivetshall Maltings, Norfolk

We pride ourselves on a production process and infrastructure that’s robust, secure and sustainable. Our supply chain is both traceable and transparent, from certified seed to finished malt.