Yes, it’s exactly what you’re thinking … a device for adding peat flavor and aroma to malted grains.
At the end of malting, the process of conversion is stopped by drying the grains through low heat. The heat normally stays below 130° to prevent burning the grains which is also just enough for the peat to burn slowly and make lots of smoke. After about one hour of smoking, the grains should be dried and will have enough peat permeating the seed husk to give a nice flavor to the finished product.
Peating grains is especially important to Scotch distillers, some of whom trademark the peaty flavor of their whisky to protect their product’s distinctive flavor.
Although I like my peater very much, commercial distilleries use a kiln, to dry and heat the grains post-malting. The kiln maintains temperature and allows more volume than my converted barbecue grill.
What’s cool about peating is the flavor added at the end of malting carries through the phases of liquor production, including fermenting and distilling. Having completed the peating myself, I’m looking forward to using my malt to produce a smoky flavored alcohol. I’ll keep you posted.