What is Maltose?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Also known as malt sugar, maltose is formed by uniting two units of glucose that provide the first link in a process that eventually results in the creation of starch. It is an important component in the process of creating fermented barley that in turn can be used to brew beer. Adding in a third unit of glucose produces a sugar that is known as maltotriose, while further units make it possible to produce maltodextrins. All these steps create concentrations of sweet product that can be used in a number of different food applications, in addition to producing beer.

Barley, a type of cereal grain, is used as a base for creating maltose.
Barley, a type of cereal grain, is used as a base for creating maltose.

Creating maltose in nature is not difficult at all. Using barley as the base, the process begins with allowing the grain to germinate. After a certain amount of time, which varies depending on how the malted barley will be used, it is heated to stop the germination process. Malting the germinated barley helps to increase the concentration of amylase enzymes in the material. When the grain is combined with water and heated, the amylase breaks down the starch in the grain to produce maltose.

Fermenting barley is a key step in brewing beer.
Fermenting barley is a key step in brewing beer.

The produced maltose is added to yeast as the fermentation process continues. Water-soluble sugar forms and when introduced into the liquid stages of the process helps to release both ethanol and carbon dioxide. Assuming the mix of sugar and the yeast is correct, the beer that results from the process will be smooth, full bodied, and tasteful.

Maltose can also be artificially created in a laboratory. This is accomplished by heating the medium with the addition of a strong acid for roughly ten minutes. Because heating can accelerate the process of preparing maltose for use in the creation of beverages, many large-scale producers choose to use this method as a means of creating large batches of product.

Maltose is not a substance that should be consumed as a separate sweetener in the same manner as table sugar. However, it is an excellent additive to many different types of packaged foods, including non-alcoholic beverages.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@MrsWinslow and medicchristy: Sources and references would be nice from time to time, especially if you want some legitimacy.


@medicchristy - High fructose corn syrup gets a bad rap, but the evidence is unclear so far whether it is really worse for you than dextrose, maltose, or plain old sugar. All added sweeteners (yes, even "pure cane syrup") have been linked to metabolic issues, tooth decay, weight gain, etc.

My understanding is that some studies are showing the high fructose corn syrup is particularly bad for the metabolism because of how it is processed by the body, but other studies are finding that sweeteners are all pretty similar.

The best thing to do, of course, is to cut back on foods with *any* added sweeteners! Especially processed food. Instead of sweetened breakfast cereal, how about steel cut oats (you can make them overnight in the crockpot to save time in the morning) sweetened with just enough maple syrup or honey? (Those are both less processed than sugar.)


@grumpyguppy: Maltose corn syrup, also known as maltodextrin, is a corn syrup. It is rich in maltose. It’s kind of like high fructose corn syrup is high in fructose. Maltose corn syrup is a processed food, but it is not nearly as bad as HFCS.

It has been determined that it is not as harmful. The human body can metabolize the maltose without strain on the liver. However, it is pretty new so the actual effects on the body are still unclear.

Maltodextrin is derived from cornstarch, rice starch, or potato starch.


What exactly is maltose corn syrup?

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