Skip to main content
View All Vacancies

PhD Studentship- Barley malting - a steep learning curve

Microbiology, Brewing & Biotechnology

Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Friday 13 January 2023
Reference:  SCI2125

Supervisor: Professor David Cook (Brewing Science)

Secondary Supervisor: Dr Luke Ramsay (Cell and Molecular Sciences, The James Hutton Institute). Industry supervisor: Dr. Jeremy Derory (Limagrain).

Subject Area:A multi-disciplinary project including: barley and malting science, barley breeding/ genetics. Full training/ expert support is available in these key disciplines in both the academic and partner companies.

Research Title
Barley malting - a steep learning curve

Research Description

Malting is one of the oldest biotechnologies, but urgently requires innovative approaches to reduce energy and water consumption to deliver long-term sustainability. Steeping is the first step in the malting process and is where the barley grains are submersed in water to increase the moisture content of grains homogeneously and trigger germination. Steeping also acts to clean the grain and remove germination inhibitors. Steeping normally entails using successive wet (under water) and dry stands (‘air rests’), which ensure the grain does not ‘drown’ from continuous immersion, improves germinative vigour and the rate of water uptake overall. Two or three wet steep cycles are commonly employed, which contribute significantly to the maltings water usage (typically 2.5-6 m3/tonne). Each steep utilises around 0.8 m3/tonne (conical bottomed or Eco-steep vessels) or 1.3 m3/tonne (flat bottomed vessels). Thus, the industry is looking towards technologies, raw materials and processes which enable more water efficient steep processes using fewer steeps. Examples of this include the use of ‘pre-steep’ processes in washing screws (0.3 m3/tonne) followed by one ‘main’ steep, or the recently developed ‘Optisteep’ technology. The latter continuously circulates steep water through a 2-stage water purification and oxidation process which enables a faster and continuous 1-wet steep.

We hypothesise that malting barley varieties will react differently under these novel conditions as plant breeders will not have been selecting lines to meet these new criteria. The aim of this project is to identify the best performing lines in these new steeping regimes and to identify genetic markers that can differentiate good and bad performing lines. To achieve this goal, the project will use a diversity panel, comprising mainly spring barley lines, to identify these key loci using genome-wide association studies. The final panel will comprise both old and new varieties and will be selected from a larger set of material that has been assessed for its germination index following steeping. The screen will allow for an investigation of the physiological and genetic characteristics that enable barley lines to germinate homogeneously under these differing water regimes and whether the result of these selection pressures would have positive or negative effects on agronomic performance. The project will be able to investigate whether known QTL for germinative energy, identified in the IMPROMALT project, explain some of the genetic variation or that novel loci are important for this new malting environment.

Award Start Date: 01/10/2023

Duration of Award: 48 months

Terms and Conditions

This research studentship is available to UK (Home) or International applicants and includes full payment of Tuition Fees and a student stipend payable for 4 years (£17,668 in 2022/23 and paid thereafter at RCUK national minimum doctoral stipend rate). A CASE enhancement* of £2,000 per annum is payable.
*Co-operative Awards in Science & Technology

Applicant Qualification Requirements

BSc (Hons) 2i or above, or Msci/MChem (Hons) 2i or above or MSc in an appropriate scientific discipline (examples include Brewing Science, Food Science, Plant and Crop sciences, Agronomy, Plant Genetics/ Breeding/ Crop Improvement, Biotechnology, Biochemistry).

How to Apply

Candidates are welcome to contact Prof. David Cook ( with any queries and for an informal discussion.

This PhD is part of the Doctoral Training Centre BARIToNE (Barley Industrial Training Network), a £3.6 M BBSRC funded six-year Collaborative Training Partnership led by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute and supported by the James Hutton Institute and the Universities of Dundee and Nottingham. It will be based at the University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus.
Please see also our BARIToNE project advert:
Applications MUST be made to the BARIToNE doctoral training centre, to which this PhD is affiliated. For details and to apply, please see:
Email details to a friend


Forgotten Details


This site requires the use of cookies as defined by our Terms and Conditions.  We have provided a detailed description of how cookies work and are used on the site.  To accept cookies, please click the "Accept Cookies" button.