Malt of many colours

With a history stretching back over three centuries, expert maltsters French & Jupps blends modern technology with experience and tradition in the creation of its coloured malts

Malted grains have been used as an ingredient of beer for hundreds of years, but while the process has ancient roots, the successful businesses that manufacture malt today have honed and finessed the process down to a fine art.

One such expert is French & Jupps – not only one of England’s oldest manufacturing companies, but also the only maltsters in the UK specialising solely in the manufacture of coloured malts. The same family has run the business for over 300 years, and it was current Managing Director David Jupp’s great-grandfather, also named David, who moved the company to its current Hertfordshire location in 1885, and constructed two malting buildings. Such is their heritage, that the buildings have an important significance not only in the local history, but in English history in general.

Now listed buildings, the French & Jupps facilities nevertheless represent the most modern malting practices, thanks to the company’s continuous investment programme. Part of this strategy not only restored a kiln that had been in use for 100 years, but also adopted a sympathetic approach to preserving the history of the buildings. The kiln refurbishment project enabled the company to increase the capacity of the kiln as well as installing modern handling equipment and a new indirect heating system. The control system for the kiln is now fully automated such that it can be loaded, dried, and discharged without an operator being present.

The kiln at French & Jupps is used to produce white malt, which is roasted to yield coloured malts such as Black, Chocolate and Amber. Alongside those mentioned above it also produces Cara Gold, Cara Malt, Brown Malt, Crystal Malt and Roasted Barley.

Diversity of flavour
In recent years, high quality coloured malts have greatly increased in popularity as many more brewers experiment with speciality brews (especially now with the increased popularity of real ales). The production of seasonal ales, winter warmers, stouts, porters and head brewer’s choice beers have grown as a result of the guest beer market and the increasing search for variety from the consumer.

Speciality malts provide key ingredients needed to create these new recipes, from low colour Cara Malt to highly coloured Roasted Barley, they can offer the brewer a convenient means of creating a diversity of flavour profiles in new recipe beers. Roasted and coloured malts need not only be used in darker beers, they can also be incorporated in lighter beers to impart new flavours and characteristics.

As the popularity and demand for specialised coloured malts rises, so too does French & Jupps’ determination to install the latest technology in its modern roast house. The control systems for the germination drum fans and humidification systems have been computerised and automated control for the steeping vessels has been introduced.

Thanks to the improvements made by the company, its coloured malts are now produced in a roasting cylinder or drum. The size of these machines can vary from those handling a batch of 500kg to the modern high capacity machines capable of handling a batch of 3.5t. These machines, which are modified coffee roasters, rotate at approximately 30rpm. They are fitted with vanes which impart a dual mixing system on the grain. This ensures an even roast and minimises damage to the corn.

The drum is heated by burners, which provide uniform heat throughout. These burners are accurately controlled to enable the operator to maintain the correct temperature profile throughout the roast. With direct heating, hot dry air passes through the drum; for indirect heating the grain is heated at a constant moisture level giving a ‘stewing’ effect. Coloured malts provide an extensive range of brewing materials capable of imparting flavour characteristics as well as controlling the colour of beer.

Proud history
It is clear that coloured malt manufacture is a sensitive process that requires intensive energy usage, capital investment, supervision, technology and quality control. Most importantly it requires highly skilled and experienced operators. This combination of factors is what makes French & Jupps so successful, and means that its range of products is used to supply food and brewing companies across the UK, and indeed, all over the world, including countries as diverse and far afield as the US, Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Entering 2019 as a strong, independent family malting company, French & Jupps’ ability to adapt and evolve continues, with a significant investment in the overhaul of its use of gas oil to more sustainable LPG. The company also developed space within the maltings for its own Business Centre, which now provides office space and services to small and medium-sized companies.

Looking to the future the current managing director David Jupp is confident that remaining a family-run business with family values will continue to be the key to its success. He concludes: “Our family has a long and proud history of producing coloured malts and, by having the confidence to invest substantially in our plant in recent years, we are well positioned to take advantage of opportunities that will arise in the future. We will remain focused on the organic growth of our niche market, and perfecting our range of coloured malt products.”