Skagit Valley Malting Update
At the end of May, we brought our sixth single vessel malting machine online, which means in less than one year we were able to double our malting capacity. The newly expanded malthouse is now producing over 300,000 pounds of finished product every month!
This was no easy feat, our operations team builds and fabricates these complex machines themselves, but we continue to become quicker and more efficient in their production. Furthermore, now that we have years of experience operating these machines we can test out new upgrades and continue to unlock the potential of these systems.
We are always improving our infrastructure, it increases our grain quality and consistency, and it makes receiving larger amounts of grain easier and more efficient for our farmers. These improvements began at the start of the year when we built four more 220-ton silos... further increasing our storage capacity and our ability to explore new varieties. (Learn more: What is Varietal Exploration in Malting?)
Building silos is the simple part of this process, the more complicated process is getting the highest quality barley quickly cleaned and prepped for its storage in these silos. Our first step in making this happen was to get all of our equipment underneath the same roof.
When a truck comes in from the fields the grain will first go through a scalper before heading to storage. The scalper is a mechanical method for removing waste material, foreign material, and chaff. All of this extra material could compromise our ability to store this grain long term so it’s important to remove it quickly without slowing down the rest of the grain receiving. Furthermore, by removing this material we get an accurate weight of the grain we take in and we can pay the farmer of the usable barley.
Once we are ready to start malting the grain we pull it from the silos and begin a thorough cleaning/ sorting process that will make the grain “malt ready”.
1st- The grain drops through a debearder that removes the awns from the barley (an awn is a bristle-like appendage growing from the ear of the barley). The awn's spikes and sharp edges serve a purpose—to stick and hold fast to surfaces so that they can spread their seeds to surrounding areas.
2nd- After the debearding process, the grain drops through the indent. The purpose of the indent is to remove cracked kernels, thus producing more uniform malting barley.
3rd- The barley travels through the Q Sage, which is our grain sorting system. The grain falls through several layers of shaking screens, which sorts out the largest material, then the grain that is perfect for malting and lastly removes the “smalls” which will become animal feed.
This entire system is also supported by our outdoor infrastructure, which consists of hundreds of feet of conveyors and a dust collection baghouse that keeps the facility clean. All these steps and all of this customization ensures that we produce the highest quality malt year after year. With our largest harvest ever just a few weeks away, all of the improvements we have made should also make it our most efficient harvest yet! It is no easy task to take in some 3000 tons of malt in a window that only lasts a couple of weeks but we are excited and eager to see our hard work in action.