What’s the Difference Between Malt and Shakes?

There are some things that we, as consumers, just take for granted when it comes to food and drink. For those who love their sweet drinks, one of these things might be what the difference is between a malted milkshake and a regular shake. 

Often, we only notice that one tastes different than the other, or that we prefer one over the other. But what’s the actual difference between the two? Well, we’re going to find that out in this article. 

To quickly answer the question, one is a simple ice cream shake that consists of milk, ice cream, and whatever additional flavoring is desired. Add malt powder and you’ve converted it into a malted milkshake. 

What is Malt?

Generally speaking, malt is germinated grain. 

The Malting Process

Here is the bare-bones traditional way that malt was created. Though the current process is similar to the old ways, tech has developed more efficient systems to streamline this process.

  • Step 1: Drying– Grain is dried till the moisture content is about 14%.
  • Step 2: Steeping– After about six weeks of drying, the grain is then steeped in water for about two to three days. 
  • Step 3: Germination– After steeping, and the grain has regained about 46% of its moisture, the germination process begins by consistent turning of the grain for up to six days while being air-dried.
  • Step 4: Toasting– After the germination process is complete, the grain is called green malt. The green malt is now taken to be toasted in an oven under high heat until the desired condition is reached. Color is also a factor that determines toast length. 
  • Step 5: Smoking– What’s left is then spread out on a perforated wooden floor to be smoked and further dried. 

The most common grain that is used to be malted is barley. Barley is a common ingredient used in malted beers and other alcoholic beverages, as well as being used in malted shakes. 

Other grain types that are malted are rice, wheat, oats, rye, and corn. Though these are used for a variety of malt recipes, barley is most popular due to its high natural enzyme content. 

The malted grain is then mixed with milk powder, thus making the popular shake additive.

Prohibition and Malted Milkshakes

The introduction of malt into milkshakes came about in the 1920s. When prohibition was closing down pubs, saloons, and bars across the country, ice cream parlors stepped their drinks up for adults with malted milk powder.

In time, malted milkshakes became just as much a staple as the regular old-fashioned milkshakes, and are an option in restaurants and ice cream shops everywhere. 

Interesting Related Facts:

Another interesting historical fact- the malted milkshake was invented by a company called Walgreens, the same company that we know of today, but in its infancy. The man responsible is a Walgreen’s employee named Ivar “Pop” Coulson, who started adding malt to milkshakes in 1922.

Coincidently, this is the same year that the blender was invented, making shakes of all kinds much easier to make. 

The Common Milkshake

Without the malt, a milkshake is simply a milkshake. We understand a milkshake and an ice cream shake to be synonymous these days. Truth is, they’re not- well, at least they weren’t once upon a time. 

Before freezers, blenders, and all kinds of things that allow us to make shakes with ease today from ice cream mixed (or thinned out) with milk, there were milkshakes. 

The Original Milkshake

Originally, a milkshake was an adult beverage, that consisted of milk, crushed ice, sugar, and flavoring. These were then hand-shaken until all the ingredients blend. Eventually, in 1911, the drink mixer was invented, making the process all that much easier and more consistent. 

The First Ice Cream Shake

Believe it or not, the advent of the ice cream shake came at the same time as the malted variety of the shake by the same person in 1922. When Ivar “Pop” Coulson threw together his malted milkshakes, he would also add a couple of scoops of ice cream. 

Eventually, the original milkshake faded in popularity due to the tastiness and ease of ingredients of the common ice cream shake. Ice cream, a little milk, and whatever extra ingredients are desired are all that go into an ice cream shake.

Streamlined ingredients, a thicker and creamier texture, and the advent of the blender caused ice cream shakes to flourish throughout the decades.

Which is Healthier, a Malted Milkshake or an Ice Cream Shake?

Between the two, the malted milkshake is healthier than the ice cream shake. Make no mistake, neither are a health drink and are packed with calories. But in terms of which is healthier than the other, a malted milkshake takes it. 

Primarily it is due to the addition of the malt itself. The malted powder comes with a handful of vitamins and minerals that wouldn’t be in the shake otherwise. 

The malt powder contains:

  • Vitamin D
  • B2
  • B6
  • Selenium
  • Potassium

Again, this doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy shake. All of the unhealthy aspects of an ice cream shake remain, just with some good stuff in the mix. However, aside from being just a touch healthier, malted shakes are easier on the digestive system than a regular ice cream shake.

Being easier to digest is a bonus for the elderly, small children, or for those who aren’t feeling too well. 

Allergy to Barley

If someone didn’t know what the ingredients are in a malted shake, they might not feel too well after consuming one, and perhaps think that they’re having a bout of being lactose intolerant. 

Barley is one grain that, unfortunately, some people are allergic to. Knowing that malted shakes consist of a barley malt can explain one not feeling too well after consuming a malted shake if harboring an allergy, rather than it being the dairy end of the spectrum. 

Final Thoughts

The history of the shake is an interesting one, proving that a sweet tooth can be a mother of invention every bit as much as necessity. Whether it’s a milkshake, a malted milkshake, an ice cream shake, or a malted ice cream shake, there’s a favorite out there for everyone.

Fortunately, we have all that we need at our disposal to make them in the comfort of our own kitchens!