Saladin Box, a pneumatic germination vessel for malting. In the late 1800s French engineer Charles Saladin overcame the main shortcoming of the first designs of a pneumatic germination vessel designed by his compatriot Galland. (The vessel was pneumatic because air was blown through the grain bed to cool and humidify it, in contrast to floor malting, in which cooling occurs by convection and conduction.) See floor malting. Galland’s design took the leap from shallow (10 cm to 20 cm; 4 in to 8 in) germinating beds to deeper beds of 60 cm to 80 cm (24 in to 32 in) in rectangular boxes, thus reducing dramatically the ground area required for malting. However, his design did not address the turning of the germinating grain, which still called for substantial manual effort and time. Without constant turning, the rootlets of the sprouting barley will quickly tangle together to form an inseparable and useless mat of damp grain. Saladin designed a system of screw turners that were driven by belts and pulleys and that raised the grain from the bottom of the bed in the box to the top. This separated the growing barleycorns and prevented them from matting together and made the germination phase more even throughout the bed by moving corns from the cooler layers to the warmer and vice versa. The Saladin Box design is rectangular and often up to 50 m long, so the sets of screws are mounted on a moving crossbar that slowly traverses the box from one end to the other, usually two or three times each day.

Saladin’s design is still recognizable in modern malting plants, with the principal differences being the move to stainless steel construction, the scale of individual vessels, the use of direct drive motors rather than pulleys and belts, and, since the 1980s, the uniform acceptance of circular vessels. A more subtle difference has been the development of open ribbon screws, which turn the grain more effectively and with less damage than the original “Archimedes” style of screw.

See also germination and malting.