Malt Varieties

In the intricate domain of brewing, malt emerges as a quintessential ingredient that plays an indispensable role in shaping the overall characteristics of the beer, including but not limited to its flavor, hue, and quality. Comprising an assortment of types, each variant of malt contributes unique attributes, thereby altering the resultant beer’s organoleptic properties in a distinct manner.

Malt is essentially germinated cereal grains, often barley, that have been dried through a process called “malting.” This procedure develops the enzymes necessary for the modification of the grain’s starches into fermentable sugars, a vital transformation during the brewing process.

Base malts, for example, are commonly employed for their high enzymatic activity and are largely responsible for producing the fermentable sugars needed in brewing. These malts typically contribute a light color and neutral flavor to the beer.

Specialty malts, on the other hand, offer a diverse range of flavors and colors but have lesser enzymatic activity. Crystal malts, a subtype of specialty malts, are known for imparting caramel notes and a rich amber hue, owing to the kilning process they undergo. Dark malts, such as chocolate or black malts, are used sparingly and give beer its dark color and roasted flavors.

To put it simply, each type of malt serves as an elemental contributor to the multidimensional profile of a beer. The judicious selection and proportioning of these various malt types can facilitate the creation of a beer with a meticulously crafted balance between flavor, color, and quality. Thus, understanding the nuances associated with different types of malt is crucial for anyone invested in the art and science of brewing.

This serves as a reference for the most prevalent types of malts used in brewing. It is important to acknowledge, however, that this guide is not comprehensive. Various malt producers may employ different names for similar and proprietary malt varieties.

Malt Analysis Abbreviations:
ASBC: American Society of Brewing Chemists
IoB: Institute of Brewing
EBC: European Brewery Convention
TN/TP:  Total Nitrogen / Total Protein
SNR/KI/ST Ratio: Soluble Nitrogen Ratio / Kolbach Index /  ST Ration 
DP/DPWK/Lintner: Diastatic Power / DP Windisch-Kolbach / DP Lintner

Base Malts

Base Malt

The art and science of brewing beer are deeply intertwined, and one of the foundational elements that straddle this duality is the base malt. It serves as the bedrock upon which brewers construct a diverse array of flavors, aromas, and even mouthfeel. The base malt’s role in the mash, the mixture of malted grains and water, is of paramount importance. Its functions extend from providing fermentable sugars to offering the enzymes that catalyze the conversion of starches into these sugars, thus driving the brew to its final form: beer. 

The mash represents a critical phase in the brewing process where water interacts with the malted grains to extract sugars, proteins, and other essential components. In the context of the mash, the base malt serves as the main source of fermentable sugars, enzymes, and nitrogenous compounds, which are vital for the fermentative process facilitated by yeast. Depending on the type of beer being brewed, the base malt can constitute between 70% and 100% of the total grain composition.

When it comes to the flavors that the base malt contributes, there is a wide range of variability. In beers such as Bohemian Pilsners, the base malt assumes a dominant role in shaping the taste profile. In these beers, like Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic, Moravian Pilsner malt often serves as the base malt. This specific type of malt provides a clean and neutral backdrop that allows the Saaz hops’ characteristic piquant notes to shine. On the other hand, in complex, barrel-aged brews like Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout, the base malt adopts a more subdued role. While it is an essential ingredient, its flavor characteristics often get overshadowed by the complex interplay between specialty malts, barrel-aging, and other flavoring agents.

One of the most scientifically fascinating aspects of base malt is its enzymatic activity. Enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical reactions. In the case of brewing, the enzymes present in the base malt facilitate the conversion of complex starches into simpler fermentable sugars. This transformation is crucial because yeast cells metabolize these simpler sugars to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide, thereby completing the process of turning the mash into beer. The enzymatic action is not restricted to the starches within the base malt itself but extends to starches in any specialty grains or adjuncts that may be added to the mash.

Different types of base malts bring their own characteristics into the brewing equation. For example, Pale Ale malt has a lighter color and is often used in brewing ales, while Munich malt imparts a richer, malty character and is commonly used in darker lagers. What unites these various types of base malts is their elevated enzyme content, which renders them capable of converting starches into fermentable sugars effectively. This quality underscores their fundamental role in the composition of any beer recipe. Whether it is a crisp lager or a robust stout, the base malt serves as the cornerstone, setting the stage for both the fermentative process and the final sensory experience of the beer.

Pilsner or Pils malt (aka Lager Malt)

Briess Pilsen Malt

Pilsner malt, or Pils malt, is a staple in the world of brewing that provides a unique flavor and aroma profile to the beers it helps create. This malt is treated at a relatively low temperature during its production process, allowing it to retain a high diastatic power. Diastatic power refers to the ability of the malt to convert starches into fermentable sugars, which are essential for the alcohol production during brewing. By maintaining its diastatic power, Pilsner malt can not only convert its own inherent starch but also additional starchy substances like corn and rice into sugar. Beers produced with Pilsner malt are frequently light, crisp, and widely enjoyed on a global scale.

Because of its high diastatic power, Pilsner malt is versatile. It is capable of acting as a base malt, which means it can be the primary malt in a brewing recipe, supplying the majority of fermentable sugars. Additionally, its ability to convert other starchy substances into fermentable sugars allows for the use of adjunct grains like corn or rice in the brewing process. These adjunct grains usually have lower diastatic power and are often included to produce a lighter, more neutral flavor and reduce production costs. With Pilsner malt in the recipe, brewers can be confident that these adjunct grains will be properly converted into fermentable sugars, resulting in a balanced beer.

The characteristics of beers made from Pilsner malt are often described as light and crisp, offering a neutral platform that allows other ingredients, like hops or specialty grains, to shine. However, the term “light” should not be misunderstood as lacking in flavor or complexity. The lightness refers more to the color and mouthfeel, derived from the low kilning temperatures that preserve the natural pale color of the malt. This creates an ideal backdrop against which other flavors can interact and be more perceptible. Thus, the beer can be rich in flavor while maintaining a clean, crisp profile.

The popularity of Pilsner malt extends across a variety of beer styles, but it is most closely associated with Pilsners and lagers. Originating from the Czech city of Pilsen in the 19th century, Pilsner beers have become a global phenomenon. They are characterized by a pale golden color, high carbonation, and a balanced hop bitterness, making them refreshing and easy to drink. The Pilsner style has inspired variations like the German Pils, American Pilsner, and others, showcasing the adaptability and universal appeal of Pilsner malt.

While Pilsner malt’s popularity is widespread, it’s crucial to remember that not all Pilsner malts are created equal. Various malting companies produce Pilsner malts with slight variations in flavor, color, and even diastatic power. Therefore, brewers often experiment with malts from different sources to find the one that aligns best with their vision for the beer.

In malt production, the terms “pilsner malt” and “lager malt” are often used interchangeably or as slight variations of each other. The terminology may reflect the malt’s geographical origin; for example, German producers like Weyermann and Bestmalz typically refer to their product as pilsner malt, while British companies such as Bairds and Thomas Fawcett are more likely to call it lager malt.

Common Brands, Variations: Weyermann Pilsner, Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner, Gladfield Lager Light, Gladfield Pilsner, Malteurop Pilsner, Thomas Fawcett Lager Malt

MOISTURE4.5% max4.5% max4.5% max
EXTRACT308 L°/kg81.5%81.5%
COLOR2.5 – 3.5° EBC2.8 – 4.0° EBC1.5 – 2.0 °L
TN/TP1.50 – 1.75%9.4 –  11.0%9.4 – 11.0%
SNR/KI/ST RATIO33 – 3738 – 4238 – 42
DP/DPWK/LINTNER60 min IoB200 min WK66 min °L

Pale Malt (Two-Row)

Pale Malts

Pale malt, particularly the North American Two-Row variety, is an indispensable component in the beer-making process, playing a critical role in shaping the final product that’s known for its relatively mild and neutral flavors. This is an advantage when crafting beers where subtlety is key. In a light lager, the aim is often to produce a crisp, clean-tasting beer where the hops and other ingredients can shine. The mildness of the Two-Row pale malt ensures that the malt does not overpower other flavors, providing a balanced and harmonious final product.

Two-Row pale malt offers several advantages to the brewer. One such attribute is its high enzymatic activity. In simpler terms, this malt has enzymes that effectively convert its own starches and those of other grains into fermentable sugars during the mashing process. This is essential for the creation of alcohol and means that a brewer can rely on this malt to drive the fermentation process successfully.

Two-Row pale malt tends to have a high yield, meaning that it produces a significant amount of fermentable sugars. This is not only economically advantageous but also allows for a smoother brewing process with fewer complications. High yields also make this malt type an excellent base malt, around which other specialty malts and ingredients can be added depending on the desired beer style.

While its mildness is often considered an asset, some brewers argue that it lacks the complexity and depth of flavor found in other types of malt, such as the European Pilsner malt. Additionally, the light color may not be suitable for brewing styles that require a darker, more robust appearance and flavor.

However, for its target applications, specifically in the brewing of light lagers, Two-Row pale malt remains a compelling choice. It offers a blend of technical efficiencies, a pleasing color profile, and a level of flavor neutrality that makes it an ideal foundation upon which to build a wide range of beer styles. Although it is extensively used in the brewing of light lagers, its mildness and advantageous brewing properties make it a viable base malt for virtually any style of beer. From Pale Ales to Stouts, the Two-Row serves as a blank canvas, allowing other specialty malts and hops to impart their flavors and aromas. Its high yield and lower protein content make it economical and efficient, offering brewers a way to achieve excellent results without compromising on quality.

Common Brands, Variations: Thomas Fawcett Golden Promise, Bairds Maris Otter, Bairds Pale Ale Malt, Malteurop Pale Malt, Malteurop Mild Ale Malt, Weyermann Pale Malt, Gladfield Pale Malt.

MOISTURE4.0% max4.0% max4.0% max
EXTRACT310 L°/kg82.0%82.0%
COLOR4.0 – 6.0° EBC5.0 – 7.0° EBC2.0 – 3.0 °L
SNR/KI/ST RATIO36 – 4240 – 4540 – 45
DP/DPWK/LINTNER60 min IoB215 min WK65 min °L


Pale Ale Malt

Briess Pale Ale Malt

Among the different malt varieties, pale ale malt sometimes referred to by its specific cultivar, such as Maris Otter or Golden Promise stands out for its unique characteristics and the specialized treatment it receives during malting.

In the case of specific cultivars like Maris Otter and Golden Promise, the influence of genetics, soil conditions, and cultivation practices cannot be overstated. Maris Otter, for instance, is prized for its rich, biscuity flavor and its exceptional enzymatic potential, which aids in the conversion of starches to fermentable sugars during mashing. Similarly, Golden Promise is cherished for its mild, malty flavor and excellent consistency, making it a favorite among craft brewers. Both cultivars undergo specialized kilning processes that are tailored to bring out their unique flavor attributes. Therefore, the choice of a specific cultivar can dramatically influence the sensory experience of the beer.

These special cultivars of pale ale malt serve as the backbone of numerous iconic British beers. When utilized in brewing, these malts contribute a depth and complexity of flavor that is both engaging and comforting. They act as the canvas upon which other ingredients, such as hops and yeast, can express their attributes, forming a harmonious amalgamation that reflects both tradition and innovation. Moreover, the higher kilning temperatures contribute to a more stable shelf-life for the beer, an attribute particularly valuable for craft brewers who may not have access to industrial-level preservation techniques.

It is worth noting that the appreciation for pale ale malts has transcended British brewing practices. With the globalization of the craft beer industry, these specific malt varieties have found their way into a broad array of beers, from American IPAs to Belgian-style ales. The ability of pale ale malts to offer a nuanced but not overpowering flavor profile makes them incredibly versatile, adaptable to various brewing styles and philosophies.

Pale ale malts, particularly specialized cultivars like Maris Otter and Golden Promise, offer remarkable possibilities in the world of beer brewing. The slightly elevated kilning temperatures serve a dual role: eliminating undesirable flavors while also imparting unique, complex undertones. These malts have become cornerstones in the crafting of British-style ales, providing them with a distinct malt character that is both nuanced and inviting. With their burgeoning use in diverse brewing styles, pale ale malts are not just a tribute to traditional British brewing but a testament to the universal appeal of well-crafted malt. Therefore, understanding the characteristics of these malts provides invaluable insights into the complexity and artistry involved in brewing high-quality beers.

Common Brands, Variations: Thomas Fawcett Golden Promise, Bairds Maris Otter, Bairds Pale Ale Malt, Malteurop Pale Malt, Malteurop Mild Ale Malt, Weyermann Pale Malt, Gladfield Pale Malt


MOISTURE4.5% max4.5% max4.5% max
EXTRACT306 L°/kg80.8%80.8%
COLOR2.5 – 3.5° EBC2.8 – 3.9° EBC1.5 – 1.9 °L
TN/TP1.30 – 1.65%8.0 – 10.0%8.0 – 10.0%
SNR/KI/ST RATIO38 – 4843 – 5443 – 54
DP/DPWK/LINTNER50 min IoB150 min WK55 min °L

Vienna Malt

Vienna Malt

Vienna malt occupies a unique position in the world of brewing, acting as a bridge between the lighter pale ale malts and the darker Munich malts. With a rich history dating back to its origins in Vienna, Austria, this malt serves as an essential ingredient in traditional European beers, most notably Vienna Lager, Märzen, and Oktoberfest brews. Over time, its unique characteristics have made it an appealing choice for modern craft beers as well.

Vienna malt is known for imparting a toasted, nutty flavor and an amber to reddish hue to the beer. Its characteristics stem from its unique malting process, which involves exposing barley grains to higher kilning temperatures for a shorter duration than pale malts but lower than what Munich malts endure.

In the case of Vienna malt, the kilning temperatures range between 210°F to 220°F (approximately 99°C to 104°C), higher than those for pale ale malt but lower than for Munich malt. The kilning duration is relatively short, usually less than that for Munich malt, giving Vienna malt a distinct profile. This particular combination of temperature and time results in a malt that has a more complex sugar composition and more Maillard reactions. Vienna malt achieves its trademark toasted, nutty character and amber-reddish hue.

Vienna malt typically has a color range between 3 to 6 Lovibond units, a scale that measures the color intensity of beer and its ingredients. The color range allows brewers to create beers with hues that vary from golden to light amber.

When used as a base malt, Vienna malt produces beers with a full-bodied mouthfeel and a complex flavor profile that is not as intensely malty as that of beers made with Munich malt. The toasted, nutty notes it imparts make it a popular choice for Vienna Lager, a style named after its city of origin that showcases the malt’s attributes. It is also commonly used in Märzen and Oktoberfest beers, traditional German styles brewed for autumn festivities. In these styles, Vienna malt adds depth and complexity, elevating them beyond the straightforward maltiness of beers that use only pale malts.

Moreover, Vienna malt is highly versatile, extending its applications beyond traditional European styles. In the contemporary craft beer scene, brewers use it as a specialty malt to enhance the malt backbone of various beer types, including American Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, and even Stouts. Its complex flavor profile also makes it a perfect pairing for hop-forward beers, as it can balance the bitterness and bring a rounded, malty sweetness to the palate.

Common Brands, Variations: Weyermann Vienna Malt, Gladfield Vienna Malt

MOISTURE4.5% max4.5% max4.5% max
EXTRACT302 L°/kg79.8%79.8%
COLOR5.0 – 9.0° EBC5.5 – 9.9° EBC2.5 – 4.2 °L
TN/TP1.30 – 1.65%8.0 – 10.0%8.0 – 10.0%
SNR/KI/ST RATIO36.0 – 42.040.0 – 46.040.0 – 46.0
DP/DPWK/LINTNER42 min IoB145 min WK50 min °L

Munich Malt (Light)

Briess Munich 20L

Light Munich Malt serves as one of the quintessential elements in the art and science of brewing beer. This specific type of malt possesses characteristics that contribute not only to the flavor and color of the beer but also to its overall complexity.

One of the most striking characteristics of Light Munich Malt is its flavor profile. It delivers a rich, malty flavor that is often described as “bread-like” or “biscuity.” Unlike darker malts, which can introduce notes of caramel or chocolate, the Light Munich variety tends to provide a more straightforward, less embellished malt character. It acts as the backbone, so to speak, allowing other specialty malts and hops to shine without overpowering them.

In terms of color contribution, Light Munich Malt typically imparts a golden to amber hue. This color range makes it highly versatile and applicable in an array of beer styles, from lighter lagers to robust ales. The coloration is not merely an aesthetic choice; it is an indicator of the Maillard reactions that occur during the malting process.

Brewers often find this malt to be invaluable for achieving specific gravities—essentially, the measure of the density of the wort, which is the unfermented liquid extracted from malted grains. Light Munich Malt offers moderate fermentability, meaning it produces a moderate amount of fermentable sugars. This attribute has a significant impact on the final alcohol content and mouthfeel of the beer. A higher gravity wort will generally result in a beer with a fuller body and higher alcohol content. In contrast, a lower gravity wort typically yields a lighter, less potent beer. Light Munich Malt strikes a balance between these extremes, making it an excellent ingredient for brewers seeking to achieve particular sensory profiles.

It is also worth noting that Light Munich Malt has excellent compatibility with other types of malt. For instance, pairing it with Pilsner malt can enhance the crispness of a lager, while combining it with caramel malts can create a more rounded, fuller-flavored ale. Its balanced attributes make it a linchpin in recipe formulation, allowing for a wide range of creative expressions and nuanced flavors.

Light Munich Malt is more than just another ingredient; it is a key player that enriches the complexity, flavor, and color of beer. Its moderate fermentability, unique flavor profile, and color characteristics make it an adaptable and invaluable asset in both traditional and innovative brewing practices.

Common Brands, Variations: Briess Bonlander Muntons Munich, Fawcett Munich, Weyermann Munich I, Bairds Munich, Simpsons Munich, Bestmalz Munich, Dingemans Munich, Gladfield Munich, Voyager Munich / SM40

MOISTURE6.0% max6.0% max6.0% max
EXTRACT300 L°/kg79.3%79.3%
COLOR15 – 25° EBC17 – 28° EBC6.7 – 11 °L
TN/TP1.40 – 1.85%9.0 – 12.0%9.0 – 12.0%
SNR/KI/ST RATIO36.0 – 42.040.0 – 44.040.0 – 44.0 
DP/DPWK/LINTNER35 min IoB120 min WK 40 min °L

Munich Malt (Dark)

Briess Munich 20L

Dark Munich Malt has gained increasing attention in the field of brewing science. Originating in Germany, this malt variety has been an essential component in traditional beers like Dunkels, Märzens, and Bocks, but it is also seeing a broader application in a myriad of other beer styles. The malt itself is rich in color, flavor, and aroma, offering a warm, toasty, and somewhat caramel-like profile that can significantly impact the overall character of a beer.

One of the most critical aspects to consider is the color range, typically measured in degrees Lovibond or EBC (European Brewery Convention). Dark Munich usually ranges from 8 to 30 degrees Lovibond, meaning it can significantly influence the beer’s color, depending on the amount used in the grain bill. The grain bill is the total amount and types of grains used in brewing. A more substantial quantity of Dark Munich will not only make the beer darker but also enhance its flavor profile.

While the color is an important aesthetic element, the flavor contribution of Dark Munich is arguably its most celebrated characteristic. The malt provides a toasty backbone that can complement various hop profiles and other malts. Moreover, it is rich in melanoidins, complex organic compounds that impart mouthfeel and fullness to the beer. Mouthfeel is the physical sensations a food or drink produces in the mouth, including texture and viscosity. In essence, Dark Munich serves as a potent tool for adjusting the beer’s body and complexity.

Dark Munich possesses sufficient enzymatic power to convert its own starches and even contribute to the conversion of other grains in the mix. However, this enzymatic power is generally lower than that of lighter malts like Pilsner or Pale Ale malt, and therefore, it’s advisable to use Dark Munich in conjunction with these lighter malts for a more efficient conversion.

Dark Munich can be versatile, but it also comes with considerations that brewers must take into account. For instance, using a high percentage of this malt could result in a beer that is overly malty and lacking in balance. Similarly, the higher kilning process reduces its diastatic power, the ability to convert starches to sugars, making it less effective as a base malt compared to lighter malts. Careful calculations and recipe adjustments are necessary to optimize the benefits that Dark Munich can provide.

Dark Munich is a compelling ingredient in the world of brewing. Its historical roots in German brewing have allowed it to find its place in traditional styles, but its attributes of color, flavor, and enzymatic content make it relevant for modern brewing applications as well.

Common Brands, Variations: Briess Munich 10 Muntons Munich, Fawcett Munich, Weyermann Munich II, Simpsons Munich, Bestmalz Munich Dark, Dingemans Munich MD, Gladfield Munich, Voyager Munich

MOISTURE4.5% max4.5% max4.5% max
EXTRACT295 L°/kg78%78%
COLOR35 – 45° EBC39 – 50° EBC15 – 19 °L
TN/TP%38 – 44%9.0 – 12.0%
SNR/KI/ST RATIO38.0 – 45.040.0 – 48.04.0 – 48.0 
DP/DPWK/LINTNER 40 min IoB 124 min WK 45 min °L

Bonlander Munich Malt

Bonlander Munich Malt

Bonlander Munich Malt is a specialized type of malted barley that plays a significant role in the brewing industry, that is frequently used to introduce complex flavors and rich, amber hues to the beer. This malt is a great addition to porters and brown ales and makes great Oktoberfests and Altbiers.

The production of Bonlander Munich Malt demands precision and expertise from maltsters. The choice of barley variety, moisture content during steeping, and duration of kilning are all variables that need to be meticulously controlled to produce malt of consistent quality. The ability of maltsters to adapt and control these parameters is a testament to the technical ingenuity underlying this craft.

In the case of Bonlander Munich Malt, its production involves a unique kilning process that facilitates Maillard reactions, yielding a malt that is rich in flavor and dark in color. The temperature is maintained at a specific range, often higher than that used for pale malts. The result is a malt that is darker in color and richer in flavor, possessing toasty, biscuity, and sometimes caramel-like attributes. This malt category is specifically designed to enhance the depth, complexity, and mouthfeel of the beer, without contributing excessive sweetness or becoming overly dominant in the flavor profile.

In terms of practical applications, Bonlander Munich Malt is frequently used in ratios ranging from 5% to 20% of the total grist, depending on the beer style and the brewer’s objectives. Lower percentages will offer subtle toasty and malty undertones, while higher percentages will contribute more prominently to the flavor and color of the beer. Brewers often pair Bonlander Munich Malt with other types of malt, such as pale malt or pilsner malt, to achieve a more balanced flavor profile.

It is important to note that while Bonlander Munich Malt is often used in traditional German-style beers such as Munich Dunkels or Märzens, its utility is not confined to these styles. Craft brewers and homebrewers have increasingly begun to utilize this malt in various ale and lager recipes, appreciating its versatility and the layers of complexity it can add to the finished product. That said, its unique characteristics also necessitate caution during the brewing process. An overabundance of Bonlander Munich Malt can overpower other flavors in the beer, making it crucial for brewers to find the right balance.

Common Brands, Variations: Paul’s Mild Ale, Munton Mild Ale, Weyerman Munich Type I (light), Weissheimer Munich, Malteries Franco Belges Sp. Aromatic

MOISTURE3.3% max3.3% max3.3% max
EXTRACT 298 L°/kg78%78%
COLOR12.0 – 15.0 EBC6.5 – 27.5 EBC6.7 – 10.8 °L
TN/TP1.45 – 1.85% 9 – 12%9 – 12%
SNR/KI/ST RATIO33.038.0 38.0
DP/DPWK/LINTNER65 min IoB194 min WK40 min °L



Brumalt, a term commonly associated with the malting process in brewing, is a specialized type of malt that has high levels of glucans and proteins. While this may sound highly technical, one can think of brumalt as the hearty, multi-grain bread of the brewing world. However, despite its complex makeup, brumalt often takes a back seat to other types of malts. In this article, we’ll delve into the complexities of brumalt, highlighting its unique properties, its impact on brewing, and how it adds value to various beer types.

Brumalt  (Honey Malt is Gambrinus Malting’s name for bruhmalt) is subjected to a modified malting process that retains higher levels of soluble nutrients like proteins and glucans, which are carbohydrates. These retained elements make brumalt distinct from traditional malts. Usually, in the malting process, barley grains are soaked in water, germinated, and then dried in kilns to produce malt. The primary aim is to modify the starches into simpler sugars that can be easily converted during the brewing process. Brumalt, however, undergoes a specialized germination phase that allows it to keep higher concentrations of nutrients.

After germination, Brumalt is exposed to elevated temperatures around 122°F (approximately 50°C). It is important to note that this is significantly higher than the temperatures to which other malts are exposed during similar stages. The purpose of this elevated thermal exposure is twofold: first, to deactivate some of the enzymes that were activated during germination, and second, to commence the Maillard reaction, a type of non-enzymatic browning that contributes to flavor and color. Following this, Brumalt is steeped at about 140°F (approximately 60°C), which serves to further modify its properties.

The culmination of the Brumalt production process involves drying and curing at temperatures ranging between 176-194°F (approximately 80-90°C). The precise control of these temperatures and durations is crucial for the eventual characteristics of Brumalt. Unlike other malts, this meticulous approach imbues Brumalt with a unique ability to add a honey-like sweetness to the beer. The sugars in Brumalt are more complex, and its specific attributes offer a shortcut to brewers, especially in the making of particular types of beer like Bock.

The unique characteristics of Brumalt make it highly suitable for specific brewing endeavors. For instance, in brewing Bock, a strong lager originating from Germany, the flavor profile is enriched by the honey-like sweetness and complexity Brumalt brings to the table. The traditional brewing process for Bock often involves boiling the ingredients for an extended period to caramelize the sugars, achieving a deep richness and complexity. However, the inclusion of Brumalt eliminates the need for prolonged boiling, thus saving time and energy without compromising the desired flavor and body.

Common Brands, Variations: Gambrinus Honey Malt, 

MOISTURE5.5% max5.5% max 5.5% max 
EXTRACT 305 L°/kg80%80%
COLOR35 – 55.0 EBC39 – 61 EBC15 – 23 °L
TN/TP1.50 – 2.00% 9 – 13%9 – 13%

Chevallier Malt

Chevallier Malt

While modern barley varieties have gained traction for their optimized yields and reliable performance, there has been a notable resurgence in the interest and application of heritage malts. Among these, Chevallier Malt stands as a beacon, embodying a blend of historical significance, robust flavor profile, and modern quality control.

Chevallier Malt, a heritage barley variety, can trace its origins to the early 19th century. It was first selected in the 1820s and quickly gained prominence as a mainstay of English barley production throughout the 19th century. Over time, the cultivation of Chevallier waned as newer, more yield-efficient varieties took over. However, a renewed interest in heritage grains has led to its revival, facilitated by its reintroduction to commercial production by the Crisp Malting Group.

Chevallier Malt is celebrated for its distinct aroma and flavor, which have been described as ‘a Maris Otter turned up to eleven.’ For those unfamiliar with the terminology, Maris Otter is another type of malt recognized for its rich and balanced malt character. Chevallier offers a warm cracker and biscuit aroma, alongside a full flavor profile that is further accentuated by a rich marmalade character and a long aftertaste. In new make spirit for whisky, Chevallier’s maltiness bursts through, adding complexity and depth.

The pronounced aroma and flavor profile of Chevallier make it ideal for malt-forward ales or for balancing high hop loads. In brewing terminology, ‘malt-forward’ refers to beers that emphasize the flavors originating from the malted barley, as opposed to those from hops or yeast. ‘Hop load,’ on the other hand, refers to the quantity and intensity of hops used in the brewing process, which could otherwise overwhelm the taste if not counterbalanced by a robust malt character.

Chevallier Malt’s robust characteristics make it suitable for a wide range of brewing applications. Whether it is being used in classic British ales, specialized craft beers, or in the production of whisky, the malt adds a layer of complexity and richness that is hard to replicate with modern malt varieties. Particularly in malt-forward ales, Chevallier can bring an unparalleled depth of flavor. Its ability to balance a high hop load also makes it an excellent choice for beers that aim for a harmonious blend of maltiness and hop bitterness.

The return of Chevallier Malt to commercial production is more than just a nod to brewing history; it represents the confluence of tradition and modernity in brewing practices. Its historical significance as the first true malting barley variety, combined with its robust flavor profile and modern quality control, make it an attractive option for contemporary brewers.

Common Brands, Variations: Proprietary Crips Chevalier, Substitutions: Briess Pale Ale, Paul’s Pale Ale, Muntons Pale Ale, Fawcett Maris Otter, Weyerman Pale ale, Bestmalz Pale Ale, Simpsons Pale Ale, Baird Pale Ale

MOISTURE3.5% max3.5% max 3.5% max 
EXTRACT 300 L°/kg80%80%
COLOR5.0-7.0 EBC5.5-7.5 EBC2.5 – 3.3 °L
TN/TP1.80%11.3% 11.3%
SNR/KI/ST RATIO45.050.050.0
DP/DPWK/LINTNER55 min IoB150 min WK60 min °L


Ashburne Mild Malt

Ashburne Mild Malt

Ashburne malt can be used as a base malt or high percentage specialty malt. Briess Malt introduced Ashburne malt originated early in the 1990s specifically formulated for Old Dominion Brewing Co., located in Ashburn, Virginia. The name of the malt was slightly modified, incorporating an additional “e” to become “Ashburne,” before it was eventually made available to the broader brewing community.

Unlike basic malts that serve as the primary source of fermentable sugars, Ashburne malt is generally used in smaller quantities to contribute color, flavor, and complexity to the beer. The malt is known for its moderate kilning temperature, which allows it to maintain a rich, amber hue, typically ranging between 15 to 20 on the Lovibond scale. Additionally, Ashburne malt is rich in fermentable sugars and has an extract yield usually close to that of basic pale malts, making it a highly efficient ingredient in brewing.

When it comes to flavor, Ashburne malt delivers a unique blend of toasted bread, nutty undertones, and a hint of toffee or caramel. These flavors are developed during the malting process through the Maillard reaction, a type of chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars. This reaction is responsible for the browning and flavor development in a variety of foods, including bread and roasted coffee.

The kilning stage is where Ashburne malt truly distinguishes itself. Kilning is essentially a drying process in which germinated barley is exposed to hot air to halt enzymatic activities and to develop flavor and color. The specific temperature and duration of the kilning process for Ashburne malt are tailored to create its characteristic amber hue and rich flavor profile. By controlling these variables, the maltsters ensure that Ashburne malt retains its unique qualities, making it distinct from other specialty malts like Munich or Vienna.

In the realm of brewing, Ashburne malt finds its use primarily as a specialty malt, albeit one that is highly versatile. It can be used in various beer styles, ranging from amber ales and stouts to lagers and even IPAs. Typically, it constitutes between 5% to 15% of the total grain bill. The grain bill refers to the total amount and types of grains used in brewing.

One of the most appealing aspects of using Ashburne malt is its ability to add complexity and depth to the flavor and aroma of the beer without overwhelming its overall profile. For instance, in amber ales, Ashburne malt can complement the malty sweetness and enhance the beer’s body. In stouts, its toasty notes can provide a balancing element to the robust flavors of chocolate and coffee commonly found in such beers.

Common Brands, Variations: Weyerman Vienna, Crisp Vienna, Muntons Mild Ale, Paul’s Mild Malt, Bestmalz Vienna, Gladfield Vienna, Fawcett Mild Ale, Simpsons Vienna 

MOISTURE3.5% max3.5% max 3.5% max 
EXTRACT 304 L°/kg81%81%
COLOR5.3 EBC10.44 EBC2.5 – 4.47
TN/TP  11.7% 11.7%
DP/DPWK/LINTNER60 min IoB210 min WK65 min °L

Caramel or Crystal Malts

Various crystal malts

The intricacies of brewing beer often extend into the nuanced choice of ingredients, especially malts. Among malts, two types commonly discussed, and often confused for one another, are crystal malt and caramel malt. These terms are frequently used interchangeably, which has led to widespread ambiguity in understanding their roles, distinctions, and optimal usage in brewing processes. Typically its known as Crystal in the UK, while in the  its called Caramel.

While the terminology might imply interchangeability, subtle differences do exist in how these malts are produced and how they impact the overall profile of the beer. As these malts offer a range of colors and flavors, their proper selection and application can indeed be instrumental for brewers who aim for precision and distinctiveness in their craft.

Crystal or Caramel Malt varieties undergoes unique processes to impart characteristic flavors, colors, and textures to the beer. While the terms “Crystal” and “Caramel” are often used interchangeably, they serve as signposts for a category of malts that bring forth sweetness, body, and an alluring color palette ranging from light ambers to deep browns.

The journey of crystal malt begins with the barley kernel. However, unlike its base malt counterparts, crystal malt embarks on a unique course of treatment, including two critical steps: stewing and kilning. Stewing is akin to a sauna for grains, where they are exposed to moist heat. This activates the enzymes in the grain, which then convert the starches into simpler sugars. Following the stewing process, the malt proceeds to kilning, a heat treatment that solidifies or “crystallizes” these sugars. The sugars undergo Maillard reactions during this step, developing an array of flavors that span the gamut from sweet caramel to toast-like bitterness. It is crucial to note that once these sugars are crystallized, the malt loses its “diastatic power,” meaning it no longer possesses the enzymes to convert starches into sugars. Hence, while it cannot initiate the process of fermentation, it can enrich the beer’s body and flavor profile.

The procedural nuances of making crystal malt demand precision. The initial phase involves a brief drying to eliminate surface moisture. This is followed by sealing the kiln and raising its temperature to the saccharification range, typically between 140-162 degrees Fahrenheit. Saccharification is a technical term for the enzymatic process where complex starches break down into simpler, fermentable sugars. Upon the completion of this step, the malt is subjected to a curing phase, during which it is exposed to dry heat ranging from 248 to 356 degrees Fahrenheit. The exact temperature setting is dictated by the desired color of the malt. Darker malts require higher temperatures, resulting in a broader spectrum of flavors but also higher levels of unfermentable sugars, known as dextrins. These dextrins are complex sugars that contribute to the mouthfeel of the beer, offering a perception of fullness or body without adding sweetness. This adds another layer to the nuanced choreography of brewing, allowing the brewmaster to balance the variables of flavor, color, and body to achieve the desired end product.

The impact of crystal malt on beer is multifaceted. It adds sweetness, yes, but it also contributes to the beer’s body and color. The Maillard reactions that occur during kilning result in the formation of melanoidins, compounds responsible for the rich amber to brown hues of the beer. Moreover, these reactions generate a complex array of flavor compounds that contribute notes of caramel, toffee, and, at times, dark fruits or even chocolate, depending on the kilning temperature. This makes crystal malt an invaluable asset in crafting diverse styles of beer, from light Pale Ales to robust Stouts.


Extra Light Caramel/Crystal Malt (aka Caramalt)

Steeping the malt

Steeping Malt

Extra Light Crystal malt, colloquially known as Caramalt, is particularly intriguing. Despite its common usage, the specialized role it plays in brewing is not always fully understood. In Extra Light Crystal malt, the raw material often used is two-row barley. The choice of barley is paramount because its protein and enzyme content, as well as its husk attributes, significantly impact the malting process and the resultant malt properties.

The uniqueness of Extra Light Crystal malt starts in its manufacturing process. Because Extra Light Crystal malt is kilned at lower temperatures for shorter periods, it maintains a light color.

On a chemical level, Extra Light Crystal malt is rich in fermentable sugars like maltose, but its distinctive characteristic is its high dextrin content. Dextrins are complex sugars that yeast cannot fully break down during fermentation. While they do not contribute to the sweetness of the beer, they play an important role in enhancing its body and mouthfeel.

Given its high dextrin content, Extra Light Crystal malt is often employed to create beers with a fuller body without significantly darkening the beer’s color. Its low color rating usually ranges from 8 to 20 on the Lovibond scale. This means it can contribute body and mouthfeel without impacting the hue of the beer dramatically. Thus, it is particularly useful in crafting lighter beers like pilsners, lagers, or pale ales, where a dark color is not desired.

Moreover, the presence of these complex sugars provides stability to the beer’s foam. A stable foam is often seen as an indicator of quality, both visually and in terms of mouthfeel. Additionally, the light caramel and malty flavors introduced by Extra Light Crystal malt can complement the hop bitterness, creating a more balanced flavor profile.

It is important to note that the usage of Extra Light Crystal malt requires careful consideration. An excessive amount can result in cloying sweetness or a beer with an overly thick mouthfeel, which could be off-putting. Therefore, the proportion of Extra Light Crystal malt in the grain bill—the list of grains to be used in a particular brew—usually ranges from 1% to 5%.

Extra Light Crystal malt is not suitable for serving as a base malt. Base malts are usually rich in enzymes, and they form the majority of the grain bill, typically 75% to 100%. Since Extra Light Crystal malt lacks these enzymes, it cannot perform the function of converting starches to sugars during the mashing process.

Common Brands, Variations: Thomas Fawcett Caramalt, Bairds Light Caramalt, Weyermann CaraHell

MOISTURE7% max7% max7% max
EXTRACT 275 L°/kg77.0% min77.0% min
COLOR10 – 30 °EBC15 – 35 °EBC 13 – 17 °SRM
TN/TP<1.75% max  

Pale/Light Caramel Malts (10-30 L)

Steeping the malt

Steeping Malt

In the range of malt variaties, pale light caramel crystal malts occupy a unique position, imparting a subtle sweetness and a delicate hue to the finished beer. Pale light malts are specialized malts created through a controlled malting process. These malts begin as typical barley grains, which undergo soaking, germination, and kilning. Kilning is essentially the drying process, and it is at this stage that crystal malts are distinguished from their regular malt counterparts. After the initial kilning, they are subjected to an additional roasting process at a lower temperature, which caramelizes the internal sugars. This produces malt with a crystalline structure, thereby earning the name “crystal malt.”

This crystalline formation has several implications for the beer brewing process. First, it renders the malt less enzymatically active, meaning it doesn’t break down as easily during mashing. This is beneficial for maintaining the malt’s inherent qualities, which directly influence the beer’s attributes. Second, it results in the characteristic sweetness and light coloration attributed to pale light malts. These malts typically produce flavors akin to light honey and add a straw-like hue to the beer when used alone. However, their impact can vary when combined with other malt varieties or adjuncts.

In comparison to darker crystal malts, pale light malts are less intense in both flavor and color. Darker crystal malts can introduce notes of caramel, toffee, or even dark fruits like raisins, while also adding a rich amber or brown color to the beer. Pale light malts, being more restrained, are ideal for lighter beer styles where subtle sweetness and color are desired. Styles like pilsners, blond ales, and some wheat beers benefit from their inclusion, as they introduce complexity without overpowering the beer’s primary flavors.

Pale light malts contribute fermentable and non-fermentable sugars. The fermentable sugars are consumed by yeast to produce alcohol, while the non-fermentable sugars remain, adding sweetness and body to the finished beer. Therefore, the proportion of pale light malts in the malt bill—the list of malts used in a beer recipe—must be carefully considered. Excessive use can result in overly sweet, unbalanced beers, whereas a modest inclusion can uplift a beer, enhancing its character.

Moreover, these malts contribute to the beer’s body, an attribute that describes the thickness and mouthfeel of the liquid. A beer with good body feels fuller on the palate, offering a richer tasting experience. Pale light malts have proteins and dextrins—types of carbohydrates—that help achieve this fuller mouthfeel, further underscoring their multifaceted role in brewing.

Common Brands, Variations: Thomas Fawcett Pale Crystal Malt, Bairds Pale Crystal Malt, Weyermann CaraMunich I, Weyermann CaraRed, Gladfield Light Crystal Malt

MOISTURE7% max7% max7% max
EXTRACT 275 L°/kg77.0% min77.0% min
COLOR10 – 30 °EBC15 – 35 °EBC 13 – 17 °SRM
TN/TP<1.75% max  

Wheat Malt

Wheat Malts

Wheat malt, often considered the cornerstone of a plethora of brews like German Weizens and Belgian Witbiers, possesses a unique profile that sets it apart from its more ubiquitous cousin, barley malt. While both wheat and barley malts contribute fermentable sugars necessary for alcohol production in beer, the absence of husk in wheat malt and its traditional usage in tandem with barley malt lend it particular attributes and functionalities in brewing that warrant closer examination.

The absence of husk in wheat malt also has biochemical implications. Husks can contribute to the tannin content in beer. Tannins are polyphenolic compounds that can lend astringent, sometimes undesirable, characteristics to the finished product. Therefore, wheat malt’s lack of husk minimizes this tannin contribution, influencing the texture and mouthfeel of the beer.

Another noteworthy characteristic of wheat malt is its elevated protein content compared to barley malt. Proteins interact with polyphenols to form haze—a cloudiness that can be aesthetically displeasing in certain beer styles. However, in specific beer genres like the German wheat beers or Belgian witbiers, a certain degree of haze is not only acceptable but is often desired as it signals authenticity and provides a fuller mouthfeel.

It is conventional in brewing to employ wheat malt in conjunction with barley malt, especially in styles where clarity and brightness are secondary considerations. A quintessential example is German wheat beer, which can legally contain 50% or more wheat malt with the balance usually being Pils malt, a type of barley malt. Pils malt is a pale, highly-modified malt that contributes lighter color and cleaner, crisper flavors compared to other barley malts. In German wheat beers, Pils malt serves as the counterpoint to the wheat malt, providing the enzymatic power for efficient sugar conversion and also contributing the husk material necessary for lautering.

Wheat malt is a unique, huskless grain that is traditionally used alongside barley malt in several styles of beer. Its characteristics influence several aspects of the brewing process, from lautering difficulties due to lack of husk to an elevated protein content that can impart haze. Its usage is quintessential in specific styles like German wheat beers, where it pairs harmoniously with Pils malt. This union not only adheres to traditional brewing norms but also addresses the technical challenges posed by wheat malt’s distinct attributes. Understanding the complexities of wheat malt helps brewers make informed decisions, thereby elevating the art and science of brewing to new heights.

Rye Malt

Rye Malt

Rye malt is made from rye grains that have undergone a process called malting. Malting is the act of soaking, germinating, and drying grains. For rye malt, the grain is soaked in water to initiate germination, where the seed begins to sprout. During germination, enzymes are activated that convert the starches in the rye grain into fermentable sugars. After a specific period, germination is halted through drying, resulting in rye malt. This malt then becomes a critical ingredient in the brewing process, which, like barley and wheat malts, contributes fermentable sugars that yeast can convert into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Despite the common processes shared with barley and wheat malts, rye malt is distinctly unique in flavor. It imparts a specific spiciness to the beer, akin to the robust flavors one might associate with rye bread. This spiciness is generally the key reason brewers choose to include rye malt in their recipes, particularly when crafting styles that benefit from complex, spicy undertones like Rye IPAs or Roggenbier, a German style of rye beer.

The characteristic spiciness of rye malt serves to enhance other flavors in the beer. The addition of rye malt tends to make hop flavors more pronounced, thus complementing beers that are hop-forward. In contrast, in darker, malt-focused beers, rye can deepen the layers of complexity, adding a robust edge to the sweetness of caramel and chocolate malts. Interestingly, this property is not too dissimilar to wheat malt, which also serves to amplify existing flavors, albeit without imparting a signature spiciness.

In the scientific context, the phenolic compounds in rye malt are worth mentioning. Phenolic compounds are a class of chemical compounds that contribute to the aroma and flavor of beer. The phenolic profile of rye malt differs from that of barley and wheat, accounting for the unique spiciness that rye imparts. While the exact chemical mechanisms are not fully understood, researchers have posited that the presence of specific phenolic compounds, like ferulic acid, contributes to rye’s unique flavor characteristics.

Moreover, rye malt can influence the mouthfeel of the finished beer. Rye contains a high amount of beta-glucans, a type of sugar that can add body and mouthfeel to the beer. This quality makes rye malt particularly useful in lower-alcohol beers, where a thin body might otherwise be a detriment to the overall drinking experience. Wheat malt similarly contributes to mouthfeel but lacks the spiciness associated with rye.

Roasted Malts

Steeping the malt

Steeping Malt

Steeping is a vital initial stage in malt production, a key ingredient for brewing beer. The process starts with raw barley seeds, which have been dried to around 12% moisture to be safely stored. These seeds are first cleaned to remove any unwanted particles like small rocks, broken pieces, and other contaminants. The cleaned barley is then placed in a water tank and soaked for several hours. This soaking period is what we call “steeping.”

The main goal of steeping is to kickstart the barley seeds’ natural growing processes. In simpler terms, it “wakes up” the seed. To do so, the seed’s moisture content needs to reach about 30–35%. This gets the seed ready to grow, or as scientists would say, activates the enzymes and starts germination. It’s a bit like the seed taking its first breath and starting its life journey, a process that involves turning sugar into energy, carbon dioxide, and water. To ensure this chemical transformation takes place smoothly, the steeping process alternates with periods where the barley is left to rest in the open air. These “air rests” serve to provide the seeds with fresh oxygen and help remove any excess carbon dioxide and heat. If we didn’t do this, the seeds would essentially “drown” because they wouldn’t get the oxygen they need.

Steeping also serves another practical purpose: it cleans the barley. The soaking water helps to remove any leftover bacteria and dust from the seeds. By the end of the steeping phase, the moisture content of the barley will have risen to around 44–48%, making it ready for the next steps in the malting process.

In terms of specifics, steeping isn’t a one-size-fits-all operation. The length of time the barley is soaked in water, and the duration of air rests, can vary depending on the kind of malt you’re aiming to produce and the characteristics of the barley itself. Generally, the process involves two or three rounds of steeping, each lasting around four hours. The water temperature is usually maintained between 55–64 degrees Fahrenheit. Similarly, air rests typically last around 20 hours. By the end of the entire steeping process, you’ll notice that most of the seeds develop a small white spot at the base. This spot, known as the achit, signifies that the seed’s root is ready to break through its outer layer, indicating the successful completion of the steeping stage.

Wheat Malt

Steeping the malt

Steeping Malt

Steeping is a vital initial stage in malt production, a key ingredient for brewing beer. The process starts with raw barley seeds, which have been dried to around 12% moisture to be safely stored. These seeds are first cleaned to remove any unwanted particles like small rocks, broken pieces, and other contaminants. The cleaned barley is then placed in a water tank and soaked for several hours. This soaking period is what we call “steeping.”

The main goal of steeping is to kickstart the barley seeds’ natural growing processes. In simpler terms, it “wakes up” the seed. To do so, the seed’s moisture content needs to reach about 30–35%. This gets the seed ready to grow, or as scientists would say, activates the enzymes and starts germination. It’s a bit like the seed taking its first breath and starting its life journey, a process that involves turning sugar into energy, carbon dioxide, and water. To ensure this chemical transformation takes place smoothly, the steeping process alternates with periods where the barley is left to rest in the open air. These “air rests” serve to provide the seeds with fresh oxygen and help remove any excess carbon dioxide and heat. If we didn’t do this, the seeds would essentially “drown” because they wouldn’t get the oxygen they need.

Steeping also serves another practical purpose: it cleans the barley. The soaking water helps to remove any leftover bacteria and dust from the seeds. By the end of the steeping phase, the moisture content of the barley will have risen to around 44–48%, making it ready for the next steps in the malting process.

In terms of specifics, steeping isn’t a one-size-fits-all operation. The length of time the barley is soaked in water, and the duration of air rests, can vary depending on the kind of malt you’re aiming to produce and the characteristics of the barley itself. Generally, the process involves two or three rounds of steeping, each lasting around four hours. The water temperature is usually maintained between 55–64 degrees Fahrenheit. Similarly, air rests typically last around 20 hours. By the end of the entire steeping process, you’ll notice that most of the seeds develop a small white spot at the base. This spot, known as the achit, signifies that the seed’s root is ready to break through its outer layer, indicating the successful completion of the steeping stage.

Special Malts

Weyermann's Germination box

Weyermann's Germination Box

In the process of making malt for beer, one key step is letting the soaked grains sprout. This step is known as germination. To understand why germination is so crucial, it’s essential to know that a grain seed has all the elements to grow a new plant. Before the seedling can perform photosynthesis to make its own sugar, it has to tap into its stored starch.

To convert this stored starch into energy-giving sugar, the seed produces special proteins called enzymes, specifically amylases. These enzymes break down the complex starches into simpler sugars that the seed can use for growth. Another important aspect during this step is breaking down the seed’s outer cell walls so that these enzymes can more easily access the starch. All these changes that happen in the grain during germination are grouped under the term “modification.”

Getting this modification just right is crucial for making good malt and, by extension, good beer. Too much modification means the seed uses up the sugar, leaving less for the beer-making process. Traditional ways of germinating involve spreading the soaked grains on a floor and manually turning them over with rakes. But modern methods use machines and special containers like Saladin boxes to automate this turning, allowing for a deeper pile of grains.

During the germination, it’s vital to ensure that the grains are exposed to oxygen while allowing the carbon dioxide and heat to escape. The grains are usually kept at a temperature between 64–72°F and are germinated for around four days. Water content in the grain, usually aimed to be around 40%, is essential to kickstart the process. The water activates the seed’s hormones, which travel to specific layers within the grain to regulate the production of the needed enzymes.

The sprouting grain produces a shoot known as the acrospire. The length to which this shoot grows is a simple way to gauge the progress of germination. For lighter malts used in pilsners and pale beers, the acrospire is usually allowed to grow to about two-thirds or three-quarters of the grain’s length. For darker malts, it can grow longer.

Interestingly, the plant hormones controlling this process belong to a family known as gibberellins. Some producers expedite the germination by spraying the grain with a synthetic form of these hormones, called gibberellic acid (GA). However, most malt producers avoid using GA, and its use is even considered a violation of the German beer purity law, known as the Reinheitsgebot.

Germination is not just a simple sprouting process; it’s a carefully regulated series of biochemical events. Getting it right is crucial for making malt that will ultimately become part of the beer’s flavor, aroma, and body.

3. Kilning

Drying Kiln

Drying Kiln

Kilning is the process where we halt the germination of malt by drying it. The way you dry the malt can greatly affect its flavor, making this an essential step in malt production. Before it is dried, malt is referred to as ‘green malt.’

To dry malt, hot air is pushed through a pile of it in a machine known as a kiln. The specifics of this procedure can differ depending on what type of malt the maltster is aiming to create. For what’s known as ‘base malt,’ the drying process has three main phases.

In the first phase, known as ‘free-drying,’ the kiln blows air heated to around 50°C (122°F) to remove water from the surface of the grains quickly. As the air moves through the grain, it cools down and becomes more humid, eventually emerging from the kiln filled with moisture. This stage continues until the inner temperature of the grains also reaches around 50°C. At that point, the air starts to get hotter because it has already evaporated most of the easily removable water.

The second phase is called ‘diffusion drying.’ Here, the focus is on removing the moisture that is still inside the grain kernels. The moisture content of the grain drops to about 10-15%. During this stage, the airflow is reduced, and the air’s temperature is raised to between 65 and 75°C. It’s essential to be cautious at this phase because malt enzymes can break down due to the moist conditions and the elevated temperatures. The air leaving the kiln at this point is pretty dry and can be used to dry another batch of malt.

In the third and final phase, known as ‘curing,’ the temperature is bumped up again, this time to between 80 and 110°C. This temperature depends on whether you want the malt to be pale or dark. By the end of this stage, the moisture content is down to about 4%.

Throughout all these stages, the kilning process is carefully controlled to keep important enzymes like amylase active. These enzymes are crucial for the brewer during the next step, known as the ‘mashing process.’ The whole drying process takes about two days to complete.

Once the malt is dried, the stalks, which have become brittle from the heat, are mechanically removed. The malt then undergoes a cooling phase, after which it is cleaned by passing it through a sieve. It is then stored for at least three weeks before it’s ready for brewing. This storage period is not just a waiting game; it actually helps to even out the moisture levels in the malt and stabilizes its flavor, ensuring that it performs better in subsequent brewing steps.

4 . Deculming



After the processes of kilning or roasting have been completed, it is imperative to cool the malt to a temperature ideally no higher than 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). Failure to achieve this cooling milestone has several negative implications. First, residual heat in the stored malt will perpetuate color alterations and enzymatic breakdown, thereby altering the malt’s intended properties. Second, in the case of special malts or roasted barley that originate from roasting drums, immediate placement in a cooling chamber with strong ventilation is standard practice. This not only mitigates further unintended color changes but also minimizes the potential risk of combustion.

In the post-kilning stage of malt production, it is essential to undergo a deculming process to remove rootlets, dust, and broken corns from the malt. This procedure is not merely a preparatory step but is imperative for optimizing the quality of the final malt product. The rootlets and dust are not only hygroscopic—meaning they easily absorb moisture from the atmosphere—but are also rich in soluble nitrogenous substances, bitter compounds, sulfur dioxide, and/or nitrosamines. Their presence can detrimentally affect the overall flavor and quality of the brewed beer. Thus, they are systematically eliminated through methods of agitation, sieving, and aspiration.

The timing of deculming is pivotal. Ideally, it should occur immediately after the malt has been removed from the kiln to facilitate cooling and to prevent the rootlets from acquiring moisture from the air. Once rootlets absorb moisture, they become less brittle, making them harder to break and separate. In this phase, the aspirating airstream collects the separated rootlets and dust for removal.

Before the malt is shipped out from the storage facility, additional measures may be taken to ensure its quality. A secondary screening and aspiration can be employed to eliminate any remaining broken corns, separated husks, and other contaminants. While less common, some malt may be subjected to destoning or polishing, the latter being essentially a cosmetic procedure that removes lingering dust and mold spores by passage between vegetable-fiber brushes.

Deculming can be achieved through various methods. Although it is technically possible to remove the most dense, under-modified malt corns through a shaking table, in smaller, artisanal brewing setups, this method is seldom used in practice due to its time-consuming nature. Mechanical deculmers are frequently employed in large-scale brewing operations, where they function to efficiently separate the barley grains from their stalks. Overall, these post-kilning processes are meticulously conducted to ensure that the malt meets the rigorous standards necessary for producing high-quality beer.

Additional Processes

Roasting Malt

Roasting Malt

Brewing beer is both an art and a science, featuring multiple steps that each bring something special to the end product. Within these steps, the treatment of barley malt stands out as a pivotal moment. Whether the malt is smoked, roasted, or toasted, each process plays a critical role in defining what the beer will ultimately become. The choices made here can lead to a variety of results, from a light, crisp ale to a dark, robust stout.

In essence, the transformation of barley malt is not just a minor, forgettable step in beer production. Rather, it’s a defining stage that influences the very character of the beer, affecting its flavor, aroma, and how it feels in your mouth. So the next time you enjoy a glass of beer, consider the craft and science behind it, especially the crucial role played by the treatment of barley malt.

Roasting or Toasting

The terminology “roasting” and “toasting” often seem interchangeable, but they denote distinct heat treatment methods. Roasting involves high temperatures and a longer period, resulting in a darker color and a more intense flavor profile. Think of it as analogous to the dark roast in coffee, which is strong and robust. Toasting, on the other hand, employs lower temperatures for a shorter time, leading to a subtler flavor and lighter color. This could be likened to a light roast in coffee, which is more aromatic and milder.

Roasting typically involves temperatures ranging from 350°F to 450°F and can last for 15 to 45 minutes. The high heat catalyzes the Maillard reaction, a chemical interaction between amino acids and reducing sugars. This reaction is responsible for the brown hue and the complex flavors that often have undertones of caramel, chocolate, or even burnt nuances. Dark beers like stouts and porters frequently incorporate roasted malts.

Toasting is generally conducted at temperatures around 250°F to 350°F, lasting anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes. The lower temperature doesn’t induce the Maillard reaction to the same extent as roasting, which means that the flavors and colors are lighter. Toasted malts are commonly used in ales, ambers, and brown beers.

The complexities of roasting and toasting extend beyond just temperature and time. The moisture content in the malt, the size of the grain, and even the mineral composition of the water used can affect the end result. Advances in technology have also led to more consistent and controllable heating techniques, such as convection roasting, which circulates hot air for an even roast, and drum roasting, where the grains are tumbled in a rotating drum, akin to how coffee beans are often roasted.

What is fascinating is how these variations can result in a remarkably broad spectrum of beer types. From the light, floral notes of a pale ale to the smoky, full-bodied richness of a stout, it is the carefully calibrated roasting and toasting process that provides the foundational flavors.

In the malting process, grains that have undergone germination are subjected to further drying and curing on a perforated wooden surface. This floor is heated by smoke emanating from an oasting fireplace, conveyed through specialized channels. The typical temperature maintained for this procedure is approximately 55°C (131°F). Such malt is commonly referred to as Smoked Malt and is a principal ingredient in the crafting of smoked ales or lagers. However, it should be noted that the primary application of smoked malt is in the production of whisky, particularly in the genre of Scotch whisky.

Numerous traditional Scottish distilleries, some of which still engage in in-house malting, depend on malt that has been dried and cured in ovens fueled by peat. Peat imparts a characteristic smoky flavor but also renders the malt exceptionally acrid. Consequently, its application in brewing beer is notably limited. When peated malt is incorporated into the brewing process, it is not used as a base malt. Rather, it is sparingly added to the grist, the mixture of grains used in brewing, in such minimal quantities as to impart only a subtle flavor profile to the resultant brew.