From malt to corn to golden syrup, our food is loaded with syrups. While golden syrup comes from sugar cane, and corn syrup obviously comes from corn, malt syrup comes from barley — an unusual source for a not-so-sweet sweetener commonly found in baked goods and breakfast cereals.
Malt syrup is produced using a process called malting. This is the same process used to create many foods and food ingredients, the most famous being beer. In places like the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe, beer is not the only popular beverage produced from malting. Malta, a soft drink consumed in many countries, is also produced from malted barley.
Malting takes place when grains are allowed to germinate for only a short period of time. Before their germination is complete, the process is interrupted, allowing for enzymes within the grain to cut its starches into smaller compounds, such as maltose. Because maltose is part of the same family of simple sugars (monosaccharides) as glucose and fructose, malt syrup, which contains maltose, functions as a sweetener.
Nevertheless, malt syrup is less sweet than other sweeteners. This difference is due to the fact that malt syrup is primarily composed of maltose, as opposed to other monosaccharides. Thus it is unlike sucrose, which is 50 per cent glucose and 50 per cent sucrose; or high fructose corn syrup, which can be as high as 90 per cent fructose but is most often 55 per cent fructose. Malt syrup is also unique because of its protein content, which is not found in other sweeteners.
Though many food additive syrups are currently the subject of much debate and criticism, malt syrup doesn’t fall into the same category. It is a safe ingredient, not to be feared on a food label.