Rice malt shows potential for gluten-free beer

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Brewing Gluten-free diet

Malted rice could offer formulators a new weapon in their gluten-free arsenal after tests showed the potential to product the ingredient at the pilot scale, Italian researchers report.

Elena Ceppi and Oreste Brenna from the University of Milan report they obtained gluten-free malt from rice at both the lab and pilot plant scale. The scientists chose rice because not only it is free of gluten, but it is also similar to barley, they said.

“Malted rice with [an] appreciable sensory characteristics could be used by food industries to produce a number of products, such as gluten-free foodstuffs (as well as beer) or baby and dietetic food,” ​they wrote in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry​.

If further studies, including additional scale-up, affirm the potential of the rice malt, it may see an interesting new ingredient added to the growing list of options available to gluten-free formulators.

Possibilities for a growing market

The gluten-free food market is blossoming and was worth almost $1.6bn last year, according to Packaged Facts. The market is experiencing a compound annual growth rate of 28 per cent over four years.

Sufferers of coeliac disease have to avoid all gluten in their diet, but diagnosis is not the only factor. Other sectors of the population, such as those who have self-diagnosed wheat or gluten intolerance or who believe gluten-free to be a healthier way of eating, are also strong drivers.

Perfecting malted rice

Ceppi and Brenna initially performed lab scale tests to identify the best malting conditions for the rice, which they subsequently found to be germination for seven days at 20 Celsius. While the rice malts were found to be “undermodified”​ when compared to barley, scale up to the pilot plant scale was found to “positively affect some characteristics of the final product”​.

“The amount of fermentable sugar [obtained at the pilot plant scale] is enough to allow a good fermentation and consequently the production of a beer-like beverage with a satisfying alcoholic degree,”​ stated the researchers.

“However, in view of the results obtained, some problems will surely arise; in particular, the viscosity of rice worts will definitely negatively affect the lautering process,”​ they concluded.

The brewing industry has its eyes on the potential of gluten-free. Indeed, Anheuser-Busch became the first major brand to create a gluten-free product, with its Redbridge beer in 2006.

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Published online ahead of print, Article ASAP​, doi: 10.1021/jf904534q
“Experimental Studies To Obtain Rice Malt”
Authors: E.L.M. Ceppi, O.V. Brenna

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