Choosing a Malt

Choosing Your Malt

Why do we need malts in our brew? The simple answer is sugar.

Alcohol is made when yeast ferments sugar into alcohol, if your sugar were to come from grapes you would be making wine; if it came from apples, cider would be in the end result. Beer is made by fermenting the sugar that is extracted from a cereal crop (known as mashing). The most common cereal crop used is Barley.

We do not, of course, use “raw” barley seeds but malted barley – malting is the process of preparing the barley for mashing. There are numerous varieties of barley with new ones being developed all the time; these new ones may be being developed to suit particular climatic conditions or to enhance specific qualities in the final malt. Some of the more famous varieties are Maris Otter, Planet, Pilsner or Golden Promise.

Moving onto the actual malting process it has three stages:


The seed is soaked in water to start it growing.


The barley grows under controlled conditions and changes occur inside the seed.


The malt is dried out, colour and flavour are developed.


The purpose of germination is to start the production of sugar inside the seed (to begin with the sugar is in the form of starch molecules). The extent to which this process happens is known as the level of modification of the malt.

Lager malt is typically described as “under modified” whereas Ale malt is well modified. Ale malts are, therefore, softer and more friable than a lager malt.

Friability refers to a material's ability to be easily crumbled. In brewing, friability is a measure of the hardness of grains of malted barley. It is, in effect, the grain's resistance to being broken. A friable grain is one that crushes crisply and cleanly into several separate parts.

Germination usually takes place in a vessel through which air is circulated and the malt is regularly turned. Initially the malt is dried at around 50C until the moisture content is less than 10%, at which the temperature is raised to around 90C to allow colour and flavour to develop.

As can be seen the malster can flex the malting process at any point to create variations in the finished product.

Crystal malts are produced using a slightly different kilning process, initially more moisture is added and it is allowed to “steep” before being dried again. This produces a higher colour (rated as it’s EBC so Crystal 100 has a EBC of 100, whereas Crystal 400 is 400 EBC) and distinctive “toffee” flavours.

Carapils and Munich malts are kilned in a similar way, but use less modified malt followed by shorter kilning. As a result, they have a lower colour and more delicate flavour. They are typically used to add colour and flavour to lagers both having EBC’s less than 30.

Amber malt is produced by roasting almost fully dried malt in a drum to give biscuity flavour, higher colour and a drier finish than crystal.

Brown malt uses standard malt that has been given extra kilning, usually by wood burning fires.

Black malt and Chocolate malts are produced by further roasting finished malt in a drum. They are usually used in small quantities to add colour to a brew but not significantly impact flavour as amber or crystal malt would.

Wheat malt as the term suggests is wheat (not barley) that has been malted and helps particularly with head retention.

Torrified wheat and Torrified Flaked Barley. Torrified means grain that has been produced by heating un-malted grain to release the starch (hence sugar) so it is available when mashing.

Malt Storage Questions?

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