Maltitol – from seed to Eureba

En affordable, popular sugar alcohol with soft sweetness that performs well in chocolate, among other things. Maltitol is the most sucrose-like of all sugar alcohols, and also one of the most widely used in food production. But what about the aftertaste that so many sweeteners have? No problem with maltitol. So pick up some chocolate and read more about the sugar alcohol that comes from malted cereal.

19 November 2019 • and

Maltitol is a sug­ar alco­hol that is almost as sweet as reg­u­lar sug­ar and has many sim­i­lar prop­er­ties, but with few­er calo­ries and less impact on blood sug­ar lev­els. This makes malti­tol a pop­u­lar solu­tion for sug­ar reduc­tion. We also use the sug­ar alco­hol in sev­er­al of our sweet­ened fibres. But not only, because malti­tol is also noto­ri­ous for its effect on sen­si­tive stom­achs. Do you want to know more? Read on!


Like oth­er sug­ar alco­hols, malti­tol is pre­pared from a type of sug­ar. The name hints that it is mal­tose. We will return to exact­ly how this is done.

Maltos, in turn, can be man­u­fac­tured in two dif­fer­ent ways. One has a his­to­ry of thou­sands of years and is used exten­sive­ly today, but not so much for mak­ing malti­tol. For large-scale pro­duc­tion of malti­tol, a sig­nif­i­cant­ly mod­ern process is often used.

Let’s look at both. We start with the tradition-heavy.


An impor­tant source of mal­tose is grow­ing in our fields. It’s bar­ley. Other cere­als can also be used, but bar­ley has an ace up sleeve. We will return to what it is.

The process begins with the grain being soaked for one or two days. They should be thor­ough­ly moist­ened and allowed to draw plen­ty of water. It is called that they are steeped.

In the next step, the steeped grains are spread out and kept cool – typ­i­cal­ly 11–16 ° C – to allow them ger­mi­nate for a few days. It comes as no sur­prise that this is called ger­mi­na­tion. During this time, the germ pro­duce dif­fer­ent enzymes, one of which will play a cru­cial role lat­er in the process.

The lit­tle germ is allowed to grow for less than a week. When it is a lit­tle more than half as long as the bar­ley, the ger­mi­na­tion is stopped by dry­ing the corn. It’s called kiln­ing. First, the sprout­ed grains are dried around 40 °C. Then most of the water evap­o­rates. Then they are dried in warm air around 70 °C.

The process so far is called malt­ing, and the dried grains that have start­ed to sprout are called malt.

The ace up sleeve

A grain con­sists main­ly of a germ, which is an embryo for a new plant, and endosperm, which is the embryo’s food sack full of starch.

Between the germ and the endosperm is a wall con­tain­ing enzymes that are formed dur­ing ger­mi­na­tion. One of the enzymes is called amy­lase. It acts as a scis­sors that cuts starch into small­er pieces – includ­ing maltose.

Barley forms more amy­lase than oth­er cere­als. That is its ace up sleeve, because it makes malt­ed bar­ley bet­ter at con­vert­ing starch into mal­tose than oth­er malt­ed cereals.

Amylase makes starch sugars

Starches are long chains with hun­dreds of glu­cose mol­e­cules linked to each oth­er by gly­co­side bonds of a type called α-(1→4). It is these bonds that amy­lase cuts off. When this hap­pens, indi­vid­ual glu­cose mol­e­cules and short­er chains of glu­cose mol­e­cules are released. The very short­est chain con­sists of only two glu­cose mol­e­cules. It’s mal­tose. The longer are called mal­todex­trin.

In oth­er words, a malt­ed bar­ley con­tains every­thing need­ed to pro­duce mal­tose. The only thing need­ed is to give amy­lase free access to rav­age with starch of the endosperm. Time for mash­ing.


The next step in mak­ing mal­tose is to crush the malt­ed grains and pour them into warm water. The mix is called mash.

By stir­ring the mash while rais­ing the tem­per­a­ture incre­men­tal­ly, the amy­lase is giv­en the best con­di­tions to access the grain’s starch and con­vert it into sug­ars and mal­todex­trin. The process is called mash­ing and the result is wort.

With wort you can make many good­ies – for exam­ple beer and whiskey. But this is an arti­cle on malti­tol, so we will fol­low anoth­er track.

Malt extract

In fact, malti­tol pro­duc­tion devi­ates from the beer/​whiskey track already dur­ing mashing.

To get as much mal­tose as pos­si­ble, more starch is added to the mash. In fact, it’s real­ly the oppo­site. It is the malt that is added to starch dis­solved in water, as a way to add the enzyme amylase.

The result­ing wort is then con­cen­trat­ed by allow­ing the liq­uid to evap­o­rate. The result is a mal­tose rich syrup. When pre­pared in this way, it is called liq­uid malt extract. This will in the next step be trans­formed into a malti­tol rich syrup.

More modern production methods

Maltose rich syrup can also be pro­duced in a more “mod­ern” way.

The start­ing point is starch that comes from wheat, pota­toes, maize, rice, cas­sa­va or some oth­er starch rich crop.

By dis­solv­ing the starch in water and adding acid or enzymes, or both, and heat­ing the mix­ture, the starch is bro­ken up into small­er chains of glu­cose mol­e­cules, which in turn are bro­ken up into even small­er chains and so on. This is called hydrol­y­sis.

The enzymes used are dif­fer­ent vari­ants of amy­lase – the same ones found in malt. But instead of adding malt, bac­te­ria and fil­a­men­tous fun­gi that pro­duce amy­lase are used.

After remov­ing most of the water, a syrup con­sist­ing of glu­cose, mal­tose and mal­todex­trin remains. The pro­por­tions between them depend on which enzyme is used and how long it is allowed to act.

Enzymes with preference for different lengths

There are three types of amy­lase, which cut starch into small­er pieces in slight­ly dif­fer­ent ways. The three types are denot­ed by the first three let­ters of the Greek alpha­bet: alpha (α), beta (β) and gam­ma (γ).

α-amy­lase cuts the starch some­what ran­dom­ly. It results in glu­cose, mal­tose and mal­todex­trin. Depending on how long the cut­ting is allowed to con­tin­ue, you get dif­fer­ent types of syrup.

If the process is inter­rupt­ed ear­ly, you get a syrup with most­ly most mal­todex­trin. Although the syrup also con­tains oth­er things, it is usu­al­ly also called mal­todex­trin (but should real­ly be called mal­todex­trin syrup).

If the process goes a lit­tle fur­ther, you get more mal­tose and glu­cose. Such syrup is called mal­tose-glu­cose syrup. If it is made from corn starch, it is also called high-mal­tose corn syrup.

If you con­tin­ue for even longer, more and more glu­cose will be cre­at­ed. When at least 20 per­cent is glu­cose, the result is called glu­cose syrup.

If you want almost 100% glu­cose syrup, γ-amy­lase can also be used. It only cuts off a glu­cose mol­e­cule at a time.

And if only mal­tose is want­ed (as in our case), you can use β-amy­lase, which cuts starch into chains of two glu­cose mol­e­cules (i.e. mal­tose). The result is mal­tose syrup.

Convert maltose to maltitol

Whether we have liq­uid malt extract, accord­ing to the 7,000 year old method, or mal­tose-glu­cose syrup or mal­tose syrup, using the sig­nif­i­cant­ly more mod­ern method, we can con­vert mal­tose to malti­tol by adding hydro­gen under high pres­sure in the pres­ence of a met­al. This is called hydro­gena­tion.

The met­al, which often is a nick­el alloy, acts as a land­ing site where a mal­tose mol­e­cule and a hydro­gen gas mol­e­cule can set­tle before unit­ing and becom­ing malti­tol. None of the met­al is includ­ed; it is just a catalyst.

But it wasn’t just mal­tos in the syrup we start­ed with. That’s why we also get oth­er “hydro­genat­ed starch hydrolysates”. For exam­ple, glu­cose is con­vert­ed to sor­bitol. But most of the syrup will of course be con­vert­ed into malti­tol. Therefore, the result is called malti­tol syrup.

A typ­i­cal malti­tol syrup con­tains 50 to 80 per­cent malti­tol, with most­ly sor­bitol in addition.

Almost like sugar

Maltitol is a sug­ar alco­hol with many strings on its lyre. It can be used as a bulk­ing agent, emul­si­fi­er, thick­en­ing agent, sta­bi­liz­er and to retain mois­ture. But above all, malti­tol, with 90 per­cent of the sweet­ness of reg­u­lar sug­ar, is a sweetener.

As a sweet­en­er, malti­tol trumps reg­u­lar sug­ar: 40 per­cent less calo­ries and 47 per­cent low­er GI. But malti­tol is not best in class. That price goes to ery­thri­tol that does not affect blood sug­ar lev­els or adds calo­ries at all.

But on the oth­er hand, ery­thri­tol has a notice­able cool­ing effect in con­tact with sali­va, which malti­tol doesn’t. On the con­trary, the sweet­ness of malti­tol is described as clean, soft and harmonious.

And we don’t have to wor­ry about tooth decay; malti­tol is not cariogenic.

But the stom­ach can be upset. Maltitol binds water in the large intes­tine, which makes it lax­a­tive and can cause diar­rhea. Therefore, prod­ucts con­tain­ing more than ten per­cent malti­tol must be labeled with the notice that exces­sive con­sump­tion can have a lax­a­tive effect. In addi­tion, malti­tol is yum­my for the good bac­te­ria of the colon, which rewards our friend­li­ness with gases.

Maltitol in foods

Maltitol, which in many respects is sim­i­lar to sug­ar but has sig­nif­i­cant­ly less calo­ries and less effect on blood sug­ar lev­els, is very use­ful in solu­tions for reduc­ing sug­ar in foods. Maltitol is espe­cial­ly good for choco­late and milk prod­ucts, and works well in sweets and chew­ing gum.

But it is rarely a good idea to replace one kilo of sug­ar in a recepie with one kilo of malti­tol. Not least, it can cause stom­ach prob­lems for con­sumers. Therefore, malti­tol should be used with oth­er ingre­di­ents to reduce or com­plete­ly avoid added sugar.

The ques­tion is what the oth­er ingre­di­ents should be, and in what pro­por­tions they should be used. In addi­tion, new ingre­di­ents pose new chal­lenges in man­u­fac­tur­ing. All that is solved by sweet­ened fibres.

Sweetened fibre with maltitol

Sweetened fibres is a homo­ge­neous com­po­si­tion of dietary fibre, high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er and oth­er ingre­di­ents. The point is that they can be used instead of sug­ar with­out the need for recipes or man­u­fac­tur­ing to change.

Sweetened fibres can be described as a turnkey solu­tion for food pro­duc­ers who want to reduce or com­plete­ly avoid added sug­ar, but who can­not afford the time and cost need­ed to devel­op a whole new recipe with new and per­haps for­eign ingre­di­ents such as maltitol.

There is no sin­gle sweet­ened fibre that can be used every­where. Different appli­ca­tions need sweet­ened fibres with dif­fer­ent com­po­si­tions. But quite often, malti­tol is part of the solution.


If you are want to try sweet­ened fibres in your recipe or for­mu­la, we can send you a sam­ple of sweet­ened fibres of our brand EUREBA®. Call us at phone num­ber +46 8 613 28 88 or send us an email to info@​bayn.​se. You can also read more about them and down­load prod­uct sheets.

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