Introduction to Brewing Malts – The Basics

We have seen a lot of people coming in with recipes that show a misunderstanding when it comes to grains. They will have something that is very potent and they will use it a lot. And something that is not so potent they will be using a very small amount of.

For more useful information on malt and its significance to the brewing process be sure to check our Beer School: What is Malt in brewing beer?

This article is basic introduction into all your malts. We will break it down to very specific types.

Malting Process

The easiest way to break down types of malts is by how they are malted. That will give you the broadest knowledge. If you don’t know the exact type of malt hopefully you can figure out where it fits into your recipe.

Malting is a straightforward concept, but a very complex process at the same time. It has three parts.

  • Germination – Where the seed is actually germinating
  • Drying – Which is stopping germination
  • Kilning process – It gives you the whole variety of colors and flavors, from your pale base malts to super roasted dark malts.
Different types and colors of malt grains
Credit: https://www.graintogain.com/difference-between-barley-malt-and-grain/

There is a lot of variability in all those 3 steps. The kilning process is connected to how malts are being categorized.

You can kiln your malts at low temperatures for a short amount of time. But also all the way to high temperatures for a long amount of time. That will give you a lot of different flavors.

Type of grain

The actual type of grain that you are working with and the heritage of that grain will also affect the flavor. Even though grains are grown in all sorts of places and some grains are grown specifically for brewing. Those grains are the best blank canvas for maltsters to use.

Malt flavors are broken down to 3 basic categories.

  • Sweet
  • Toasted
  • Roasted

There are sub flavors within that such as acidity and mouthfeel.

Handful of grains and some couple of wheat plants
Credit: https://www.maltcompany.com/kilning.html

There are specific grains that will give you certain flavors that they try to aim such as honey malt. The longer and hotter you kiln the malt the higher in color is going to be. The darker color the grain is going to be the less of it you are going to be using in a recipe.

Diastatic power is the ability of that malt to convert starches into sugars. It becomes important when you are using malts that don’t have any power. But you still need some of them in your mash.

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