Artisans have utilized malt shovels in brewing techniques for centuries. The malt shovel has made a recent comeback as a tool, being used by microbrewers across the world.
What is a Malt Shovel?
A malt shovel is a tool that brewers have used for hundreds of years to move grains through the various stages of screening, soaking, partial germination, drying, kilning and deculming.
Malt is the base for making whiskey, for brewing beer or, for creating vinegar. Brewers utilize the malt shovel to move the grains through the various processes to mix the grains.
Though the functions such as steeping the grains have changed over time, the need for the malt shovel remains.
In today’s era, brewers utilize wood and steel malt shovels, with steel generally preferred due to the ease of cleaning them.
When Were Malt Shovels Invented?
The creation of the malt shovel is a mystery as it is information that history has buried.
The most common and available historical documentation points to malt shovels in English oast houses, brewery mills, and malting houses in the 16th century.
However, according to Beer and Brewing, the first time man-created malt dates back to a legend of the Egyptians utilizing a wicker basket and a well in 63BC.
Hieroglyphics also depict ancient Egyptian brewers using a similar method with their hands and feet for creating and loading a mash.
Imagine what they could have done if someone could go back in time and bring them a malt shovel!
Given the above information, it is not unreasonable to believe that the malt shovel was more than likely in existence when the Egyptians were creating malt.
However, I suspect the look and form of the shovel were unique to the time frame.
Check out our guide on the History of the Shovel to get an idea of what shovels looked like back in the day and the resemblance of the malt shovels used today. https://shovelzone.ca/history-of-the-shovel
A great example of a malt shovel from this era is this antique piece from England.
You can see a massively long shovel made of old, dark wood used in the malting process. The shovel was this size as the malting barrels and tanks used to create and ferment a "mash" of different grain malts were very large.
Do I Need a Malt Shovel To Brew?
If you are a microbrewer, you will be aware of the malting process, as one of the two most popular types of microbrewing or homebrewing uses tanks or buckets.
The shovel is used to aid the filling, mashing, and fermenting process. Brewers have needed a malt shovel for this purpose for many years.
Today your need for a malt shovel depends on the type of microbrew or homebrew setup you have.
If you use a bag brewing system for your malt mash, you probably will not need a malt shovel.
However, if you are a user of the incredibly popular Braumeister, an all-in-one electric grain brewing system, or any other type of malting tank, the malt shovel will be the tool for you.
If you are a homebrewer, consider that you might not brew often and do not use enough hops so an investment in a specific, dedicated malt shovel will be helpful to you but maybe a luxury as far as financial value.
The malting shovel is more beneficial for slightly larger-scale microbrewers. So consistent, repeated, and larger-scale microbreweries will utilize a malt shovel.
The shovel will help out managing the malting of your hops and scraping down your tanks and barrels while not wasting any of the remaining mash.
So, as well as helping you load up your mash, the malt shovel is an excellent tool for cleaning up too!
Where Can I Get a Malt Shovel?
There are loads of different places online you can buy microbrewing tools.
Of course, what you want to get depends on your budget, the size of your tanks and barrels, and how often you will need to use them.
Below are our recommendations based on occasional home brewing. By occasional we mean 1 to 4 times per year. We have include a review of some paddles for stirring your mash as well as malt shovels to get your grains to the kettle.