Malt Vinegar: What It Is and What Are Its Properties?

The nutritional value of malt vinegar is little known. In fact, it's often only known that it has peculiar sensory qualities. We'll tell you more about this ingredient.
Malt Vinegar: What It Is and What Are Its Properties?
Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor

Written and verified by the nutritionist Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor.

Last update: 23 October, 2022

When we think about vinegar, the first thing we tend to feel on our taste buds is a sensation of salivation due to its acidity. Malt vinegar is no exception. This type of vinegar is characterized by a very aromatic and slightly bitter taste that’s reminiscent of the product that gave it its origin: beer.

This product is traditional in British and Canadian cuisine. It’s made with the same barley used to brew beer. Its particular flavor makes it a favorite for marinades and pickles. What are its main uses? Find out in this article!

What is malt vinegar?

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines vinegar – without any other qualifier – as “a liquid fit for human consumption that’s produced exclusively from products with a high starch or sugar content by means of a double fermentation, first alcoholic and then acetic.”

The main component is acetic acid, but there are also other accompanying substances that will depend on the raw material from which it’s made. These substances determine the specific sensory characteristics of each type of vinegar.

This is how we find malt vinegar, which is defined as the product obtained without intermediate distillation by the process of double fermentation – alcoholic and acetic – from malted barley, with or without the addition of more grains.

Malt vinegar on fries
Malt vinegar has a characteristic flavor that’s used as an accompaniment to chips, fries, and salads, among other preparations.

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Malt vinegar production

According to Molina Cano, malt vinegar is made from barley, which is a grain that’s rich in starch. This grain is subjected to a process known as “saccharification,” in which the optimum conditions are achieved for the starch to degrade into maltose. Hence the name “malt vinegar.”

At the same time, other sugars such as glucose, maltotriose, and dextrins are also formed. The following are the steps involved in its manufacture.

The saccharification process

Malted barley comprises the following processes:

  • Cleaning and storage of the barley grain.
  • Maceration in water: This step allows the barley starch to hydrate and swell and is the beginning of grain germination.
  • Germination: This lasts between 8 to 12 days, during which time the first sprouting of the grain occurs. Starch is transformed into simple sugars until it forms maltose. All of this occurs due to the action of the barley’s “diastase” or “amylase” enzymes.
  • Drying and roasting: After sprouting, the grain is dried and roasted at 45 to 50 degrees Celsius. This keeps the enzymes active.
  • Sifting: This consists of removing the sprouts from the barley to obtain the malt.

Obtaining the vinegar

  • Alcoholic fermentation: Once the malted barley is obtained, it’s mashed, heated to 65 degrees Celsius, and hops are added. It’s then boiled, filtered, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast is added to let it ferment. At this stage, the sugars are converted into alcohol and gas.
  • Acetic fermentation: This stage consists of filtering the wort containing alcohol and then heating it. Then, the Acetobacter aceti bacteria are planted, which will transform the ethanol into acetic acid. It’s then left to ferment for 30 days and then filtered. The result is a light brown vinegar, which contains a 5 % concentration of acetic acid.

The properties of malt vinegar

Malt vinegar has particular sensory properties. It’s not considered a type of food as such  because it doesn’t have a high nutritional value. However, it is a flavoring agent and preservative.

During maturation and aging, the brown color becomes a little lighter. Thus, when fresh, it has a raw, intense, and invasive flavor, but when aged, the flavor mellows.

Other possible properties are associated with its acetic acid content. However, so far, the evidence on the effects of malt vinegar is limited. Therefore, it should be used in moderation.

Vinegar may help promote weight loss

It is possible that the presence of acetic acid in vinegar promotes weight loss. In research shared in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, obese patients were given either 1 or 2 tablespoons of vinegar for 12 weeks.

Those who took one tablespoon lost 1.2 kilos, and those who ingested the two tablespoons lost 1.7 kilos. Their body fat, waist circumference, and triglycerides also decreased.

Another study revealed that overweight adults who ate a low-calorie diet accompanied by two tablespoons of vinegar lost an average of 4 kilos, compared to the control group that lost only 2.4 kilos.

Like this article? You may also like to read: The Health Benefits of Water with a Tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar

It helps with satiety

It is possible that acetic acid reduces hunger and helps satiety. In fact, a small study found that when people consumed 1.3 tablespoons of vinegar diluted in water before eating, their caloric intake was reduced by 200 to 275 calories per day.

This may be another reason why vinegar also promotes weight loss.

It’s a great substitute for dressings high in saturated fats

Malt vinegar can be a perfect substitute for those dressings high in saturated fats, sodium, and trans fatty acids, such as tartar sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, etcetera. The latter are usually prohibited in the diet of people with metabolic and cardiovascular disorders.

It improves the absorption and digestion of certain nutrients

Acetic acid helps to break down food and improve the absorption of certain nutrients, such as minerals. For example, iron and calcium are better absorbed in the intestinal lumen when the pH is acidic.

The calcium contained in green leaves or the iron in spinach, broccoli, and parsley is better utilized this way.

It’s a very versatile ingredient

The three main uses of malt vinegar in cooking are based on its sourness and the specific flavor imparted by malted barley. These encompass the following:

  • Coating: It’s great for sprinkling blue fish such as mackerel, tuna, and sardines,  among others, especially when they’re being prepared in the oven.
  • Salad dressing: A simple and delicious dressing is a combination of malt vinegar with olive oil.
  • Pickling: Pickles based on onions, peppers, eggplants, mushrooms, and other vegetables go very well with malt vinegar. However, make sure that the acetic acid content is 5%, as this is the ideal concentration for safe food preservation.

Malt vinegar is popular in England for accompanying the flavor of fish and chips, as the sourness combines with the malt flavor to create a special seasoning. In fact, it also goes well with sugar. It can be used in the following preparations:

  • Spicy sauces
  • Marinades for meat
  • Brines
  • Garnishes

However, it’s not recommended for use in preparing herbal or flavored vinegars. This is because its flavor invades that of the essential oils of herbs, which can be unpleasant.

Malt vinegar
A common use of malt vinegar is the manufacture of vegetable pickles.

Some recipes with malt vinegar

Several culinary ideas with malt vinegar to give your preparations a different touch are given below:

  • A maple and bourbon glaze: Barbecue sauce can take on a different twist when you add malt vinegar to a mixture of brown sugar, maple syrup, bourbon, and Worcestershire sauce. This will make a delicious glaze for meat.
  • Bean salad: Cook and dress different types of beans, such as green beans, lima beans, and white beans, to make a salad. Then add malt vinegar and mix.
  • Aioli: Mix malt vinegar with olive oil and egg yolks. Whisk until you get the aioli sauce that you will use to dip french fries or beer-battered seafood.
  • Cabbage salad: Instead of the traditional white vinegar, add malt vinegar to your salad.

What to remember about malt vinegar

Malt vinegar is a good option to use in cooking as a salad dressing or for pickles, toppings, and marinades, among others. However, you should not exceed 1 or 2 tablespoons since its strong flavor could modify the acceptability of any preparation.

More studies are needed on the specific health effects of malt vinegar. However, its acetic acid content suggests that it has similar benefits to other kinds of vinegar.

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