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August 23, 2019

Beer Grains: The Complete Guide for Homebrewers

Malted Grains for Homebrewing

Grain: the lifeblood of beer. While barley is most common, the category of "grain" is as wide as it is intricate. This guide walks you through the types of grain you can use to make beer, and how to choose the right malted grains.

Click here to view the complete chart of beer grains.

Malt Overview | Base Malts | Caramel & Crystal Malts | Adjunct Grains | Kilned & Toasted Malts | Roasted Malts | Shop Malted Grains

What is malt?

Malt is grain that has been converted into sugar. That sugar is consumed by yeast to create alcohol; a process called fermentation. Grain becomes malt, which becomes beer. 

There are a wide variety of malts that brewers can use, all of which fall into two broad categories: malts which can be steeped (good for extract brewing), and malts which need to be mashed (all-grain brewing required).

Base Malts

Base malts make up the majority of the grist in all-grain beer, and the variety is, frankly, astounding. Named based on the formation of corns on the barley stalk (2-row vs. 6-row), the variety (e.g., Maris Otter, Golden Promise, etc), or the region in which it was grown or malted. Includes:

  • Barley malts: pale malt, Pilsner malt, Vienna malt, Munich malt, mild ale malt, and more
  • Non-barley base malts like wheat malt and rye malt (more on these in "Other Malts")
  • High-kilned malts: responsible for the dark, malty lagers of Europe and have also found a home in some ales because of their unique character. Munich and Vienna malts are the prime examples 
  • American base malt is generally mild and fairly neutral; British malts tend to be maltier, bready, and biscuit-like.

The European climate gives malts made from Continental barley a clean, "elegant" character. Pilsner malt has a soft, delicate maltiness that practically defines pale lagers. "High-kilned" (heated to a higher temperature at the end of the malting process) base are rof high-kilned malts, although mild ale malt belongs to this category too. The darker color lends these malts a more toasty, malty flavor than you get from lighter base malts.

Shop all base malts here.

Caramel & Crystal Malts

Crystal malts are steep-able and generally used to add sweetness and color to both extract and all-grain brews. They're usually named based on color. As a general rule, the lighter-colored crystal malts are more "sweet," while darker crystal malts add roastiness or nuttiness in addition to sweetness.

On the extreme light end sit dextrin(e) malts. They also add dextrins, which bring body and a thicker mouthfeel. But broadly speaking, anything labeled crystal, caramel, or cara-something are crystal malts (with the exception of Weyermann® Carafa®).

Shop all caramel & crystal malts here.

Adjunct Grains

Adjuncts are unmalted, starchy things (normally understood to be a cereal grain, but homebrewers have been known to use things like pumpkin and potatoes, too).

  • Flaked barley and flaked oats
  • Maize (corn)
  • Torrified wheat
  • Pumpkin/squash
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • ... and more - any starchy vegetable/grain can be an adjunct

Adjuncts don't have sugars available like crystal malts, so they can't be steeped for extract brewing. They also don't have enzymes like malted grains, so they need to be mashed with base malt to extract their sugars.

Shop all adjunct grains here.

Kilned & Toasted Malts

Includes malts such as biscuit, amber, special roast, and aromatic malts. Usually used in low quantities to contribute unique flavor (half a pound or less for a 5 gallon batch).

  • Biscuit malt contributes a light, "saltine cracker" flavor, while aromatic malt is deeper and maltier.
  • Brown and amber malt are similarly toasted, but brown is darker and more toasty/bready and amber has less of a pretzel-like flavor.
  • Victory malt is another light option that sits between biscuit and amber, with characteristics of both.
  • Special roast is fairly unique and will impart a slightly darker, reddish color and has a fairly strong tangy, berry, deep flavor. 

Shop all kilned malts here.

Roasted Malts

Roasted malts are any malts or grains that are roasted to a very high degree. Dark, deep, bready, delicious. Can be steeped for extract brewing or mashed for all-grain, and add a lot of complexity and color in very low quantities. The three most common varieties are:

  • Black malt (sometimes called black patent malt), chocolate malt, and roasted barley.
  • Weyermann® range of Carafa® malts
  • Kiln-coffee malt
  • Distaff cousins like de-bittered black malt and pale chocolate. Roasted malts can be steeped for extract brewing or mashed for all-grain, and add a lot of complexity and color in very low quantities.

Some brewers get gun shy about roasted malts, but fear not. Roasted malts are delicious, provided you don't go completely overboard: 10% (or roughly one pound in an average-gravity 5 gallon batch) is about the most you would usually use. Stay below this amount and it's hard to go wrong. 

 Shop all roasted malts here.

Other Malts

Some malts do not come from barley: oats, rye, wheat, etc. These malts are essentially processed like, and can be treated as, their barley cousins. The difference is in how they're crushed.

Wheat malt can be crushed at the same setting as barley malt, but you will want to test before running a whole batch's worth of rye malt or oat malt through a mill. 

 

Brewing Grain Maltster Region Flavor Descriptors  Grain Type Lovibond Rating Diastatic Power
Bairds English Carastan Malt Bairds United Kingdom caramel, toffee flavors, slight character of toasted bread Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 35  
Bairds English Light Carastan Malt Bairds United Kingdom pleasant toffee flavor, subtle bread and caramel notes Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 15  
Bairds English Pale Ale Bairds United Kingdom rich, robust sweet malt flavor Base Malts 2.8 45
Best Malz German Munich Malt Best Malz Germany smooth, deep maltiness Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 6.3 70
Best Malz German Pilsen Malt Best Malz Germany bright, clean, full-bodied Base Malts 1.9 76
Best Malz German Red X® Malt Best Malz Germany fruits, passionfruit specifically Base Malts 12 62
Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt Briess United States clean, sweet, mild malty Base Malts 1.8 140
Briess Aromatic Malt Briess United States smooth, clean, rich intense malty Lightly Kilned and Toasted 20 20
Briess Ashburne Mild Malt Briess United States slighty sweet, subtle toasty Base Malts 5.3 65
Briess Black Malt Briess United States dry roasted, sharp to neutral Roasted Malts 500  
Briess Bonlander Munich Malt Briess United States slightly sweet, rich malty Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 10 40
Briess Carabrown Malt Briess United States lightly toasted, biscuity, nutty Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 55  
Briess Caracrystal Wheat Malt Briess United States subtle caramel, brady, dark toast Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 55  
Briess Caramel 10L Malt Briess United States Sweet, almost honey like Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 10  
Briess Caramel 120L Malt Briess United States Caramel, slight roasty/toastiness Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 120  
Briess Caramel 20L Malt Briess United States sweet, caramel Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 20  
Briess Caramel 40L Malt Briess United States caramel, sweet Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 40  
Briess Caramel 60L Malt Briess United States caramel, sweet Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 60  
Briess Caramel 80L Malt Briess United States caramel, burnt sugar, raisin Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 80  
Briess Caramel 90L Malt Briess United States caramel, burnt sugar, raisin Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 90  
Briess Caramel Vienne 20L Malt  Briess United States Soft toffee, caramel, malty Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 20  
Briess Carapils Malt Briess United States gives impression of fullness Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 1.5  
Briess Cherrywood Smoked Malt Briess United States Rich, sweet smokiness Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 5 140
Briess Chocolate Malt Briess United States Rich roasted, coffee, cocoa Roasted Malts 350  
Briess Extra Special Malt Briess United States Toasted marshmallow, toast, mild coffee, prunes, dry, woody Roasted Malts 130  
Briess Goldpils® Vienna Malt Briess United States Rich malty flavor, hint of biscuit Base Malts 3.5 80
Briess Light Roasted Barley Briess United States Coffee, intense bitter, dry Roasted Malts 300  
Briess Midnight Wheat Malt Briess United States starts slightly sweet, hints of roasted flavor, finishes exceptionally clean Roasted Malts 550  
Briess Organic 2-Row Malt Briess United States mild maltiness Base Malts 1.8 140
Briess Organic C-120L Malt Briess United States caramel, burnt sugar, raisin Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 120  
Briess Organic C-20L Malt Briess United States sweet, caramel Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 20  
Briess Organic C-60L Malt Briess United States caramel, sweet Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 60  
Briess Organic Carapils Malt Briess United States gives impression of fullness Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 1.5  
Briess Organic Chocolate Malt Briess United States roasted coffee, cocoa Roasted Malts 350  
Briess Organic Munich Malt Briess United States rich maltiness Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 10 30
Briess Organic Roast Barley Malt Briess United States Coffee, intense bitter, dry Roasted Malts 300  
Briess Pale Ale Malt Briess United States hints of biscuit and nutlike flavors Base Malts 3.5 85
Briess Pilsen Malt Briess United States clean, sweet, delicatly malty Base Malts 2.7 140
Briess Rye Malt Briess United States spicy rye Base Malts 3.7 105
Briess Special Roast Malt Briess United States toasty, biscuity, sour, tangy Lightly Kilned and Toasted 40  
Briess Victory Malt Briess United States bread-like, nutty, toasty Lightly Kilned and Toasted 28  
Canada Malting Pale Ale Malt Canada Malting Canada toasty, biscuity Base Malts 2.7  
Canada Malting Wheat Malt Canada Malting Canada soft wheat flavor Base Malts 2.2  
Cargill Salzgitter German Pilsner Malt Crisp Germany clean, full-bodied base Base Malts 1.6 110
Crisp English Amber Malt Crisp United Kingdom biscuit, coffee Lightly Kilned and Toasted 29  
Crisp English Brown Malt Crisp United Kingdom dark roasted flavor, slight bitterness Roasted Malts 65  
Crisp English Crystal 77L Malt Crisp United Kingdom caramel sweetness, mouthfeel, roasty notes Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 77  
Crisp English Pale Malt Crisp United Kingdom balanced sweet, malty flavor Base Malts 3 50
Crisp English Roasted Barley Malt Crisp United Kingdom bitter, roasty Roasted Malts 192  
Crisp English Torrified Wheat Crisp United Kingdom smooth, bready Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 2  
Dingemans Belgian Aromatic Malt Dingemans Belgium Rich maltiness Lightly Kilned and Toasted 38.1  
Dingemans Belgian Biscuit Malt Dingemans Belgium biscuity, 'saltine cracker' flavor Lightly Kilned and Toasted 23.4  
Dingemans Belgian Cara 8 Pils Malt Dingemans Belgium light caramel Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 6 70
Dingemans Belgian Cara 20 (Caravienne) Malt Dingemans Belgium light, sweet Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 19  
Dingemans Belgian Debittered Black Malt Dingemans Belgium mild dark malt flavor, harsh in high quantities Roasted Malts 406.6  
Dingemans Belgian Pale Ale Malt Dingemans Belgium balanced, plain but makes a solid base Base Malts 3  
Dingemans Belgian Pilsner Malt Dingemans Belgium clean, light flavor Base Malts 1.7  
Dingemans Belgian Cara 45 Malt Dingemans Belgium rich, caramel-sweet aroma, full flavor Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 35.3  
Dingemans Belgian Munich Malt Dingemans Belgium sweet, slightly toasty Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 8.8  
Dingemans Belgian Special B® Malt Dingemans Belgium Sweet, caramel, dark fruit Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 116.8  
Fawcett English Cara Malt Fawcett United Kingdom light sweetness Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 12.2  
Fawcett English Crystal Rye Malt Fawcett United Kingdom Dry liquorice toffee flavour Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 75  
Fawcett English Dark Crystal Malt Fawcett United Kingdom sweet, grainy, malty, slightly roasty Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 85  
Fawcett English Medium Crystal Malt Fawcett United Kingdom deep caramel, grainy Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 45  
Fawcett English Oat Malt Fawcett United Kingdom Enhance body, flavour of dark beers, sweet kernels Base Malts 1.9  
Fawcett English Optic Malt Fawcett United Kingdom sweet, flavourful worts Base Malts 2.7  
Fawcett English Pale Chocolate Malt Fawcett United Kingdom mild chocolate/coffee Roasted Malts 188.1  
Fawcett English Pearl Malt Fawcett United Kingdom sweet, flavourful worts Base Malts 2.7  
Flaked Barley Adjunct United States grainy, creamy Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 1.8  
Flaked Maize Adjunct United States neutral, moderate sweetness Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 1.5  
Flaked Oats Adjunct United States creamy, full-bodied Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 1.6  
Flaked Rice Adjunct United States leave beers drier Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 1.3  
Flaked Rye Adjunct United States dry, crisp, slightly spicy Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 3.9  
Flaked Wheat Adjunct United States increases head retention and body Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 1.7  
Franco-Belges Belgian Kiln Coffee Malt Franco-Belges Belgium coffee Roasted Malts 62.4  
Franco-Belges Belgian Pilsen Malt Franco-Belges Belgium clean, light flavor Base Malts 1.7  
Franco-Belges Belgian Vienna Malt Franco-Belges Belgium light caramel aroma and flavor Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 3.1  
Gambrinus Canadian ESB Pale Malt Gambrinus Canada Slightly sweeter, richer malt flavor than standard 2-row Base Malts 3.5  
Gambrinus Canadian Honey Malt Gambrinus Canada intense malt sweetness, honey Lightly Kilned and Toasted 25  
MaltEurop American 2-Row Pale Malt MaltEurop United States Sweet malty aromas and very subtle nutty flavors Base Malts 2 140
Malting Company of Ireland Stout Malt Malting Company of Ireland Ireland mild flavored malt, adds a smoothness and depth  Base Malts 1.8 73
Mecca Grade Lamonta (American Pale) Malt Mecca Grade United States sweet, slightly biscuity Base Malts 2.8 150
Mecca Grade Metolius (Munich-style) Malt Mecca Grade United States warming malt and toasted, graham cracker Base Malts 8.7 65
Mecca Grade Opal 22 (Graham, Cocoa) Malt Mecca Grade United States lightly-toasted, graham and chocolate flavor Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 15.3 75
Mecca Grade Opal 44 (Caramelized, Toffee) Malt Mecca Grade United States sweet, moderately-toasted, with hints of chocolate and raisin Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 30 45
Mecca Grade Pelton (Pilsner-style) Malt Mecca Grade United States slightly grassy Base Malts 1.9 180
Mecca Grade Rimrock (Vienna-Style Spring Rye) Malt Mecca Grade United States warm bread flavor with notes of graham and honey Base Malts 4.8 140
Mecca Grade Shaniko (White Winter Wheat) Malt Mecca Grade United States super-rich and creamy cloud of flavor, cookie dough Base Malts 3.1 150
Mecca Grade Vanora (Vienna-style) Malt Mecca Grade United States aromatically-rich, contributing slight walnut flavors Base Malts 5.9 110
Rahr 2-Row Malt Rahr United States clean, smooth Base Malts 2.1 138
Rahr 6-Row Malt Rahr United States neutral, slightly grainy Base Malts 2.4 163
Rahr Pale Ale Malt Rahr United States slightly toasty and full Base Malts 4 109
Rahr Premium Pilsner Malt Rahr United States light, smooth Base Malts 2 131
Rahr Red Wheat Malt Rahr United States slight tartness to its flavor not present in white wheat Base Malts 1.8 163
Rahr Unmalted Wheat Rahr United States strong grain flavor Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 1.5  
Rahr White Wheat Malt Rahr United States Full, slightly sweet Base Malts 2.5 171
Rice Hulls Adjunct United States N/A Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 0  
Simpsons English Golden Promise Malt Simpsons United Kingdom mellow, sweet, clean Base Malts 2.2 75
Simpsons English Peated Malt Simpsons United Kingdom intense peat smoke character Base Malts 1.5  
Simpsons English Crystal Light Malt Simpsons United Kingdom clean, mild sweetness and caramel and toffee flavours Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 42  
Simpsons English DRC™ Malt Simpsons United Kingdom complex caramel and dried fruit notes Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 113.1  
Simpsons English Black Malt Simpsons United Kingdom roasty, black Roasted Malts 562.7  
Simpsons English Chocolate Malt Simpsons United Kingdom bittersweet chocolate, roasty Roasted Malts 434.1  
Simpsons English Coffee Malt Simpsons United Kingdom rich coffee aroma, warmth and depth of flavor Roasted Malts 200  
Simpsons English Extra Dark Crystal Malt Simpsons United Kingdom burnt sugar, dark fruit Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 187.9  
Simpsons English Maris Otter Malt Simpsons United Kingdom nutty, deep maltiness Base Malts 2.4 75
Simpsons English Golden Naked Oats Malt Simpsons United Kingdom light caramel, creamy finish Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 5.4  
Warminster English Floor Malted Maris Otter Malt Warminster United Kingdom full, rich character Base Malts 3  
Weyermann Barke® German Munich Malt Weyermann Germany richly malt-aromatic, notes of honey and biscuit Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 7.8  
Weyermann Barke® German Pilsner Malt Weyermann Germany intense malt aromas Base Malts 1.8  
Weyermann Barke® German Vienna Malt Weyermann Germany intensely malt-sweet, gentle notes of honey and nuts Base Malts 3.3  
Weyermann® German Abbey Malt Weyermann Germany pronounced maltiness, honey notes Lightly Kilned and Toasted 45  
Weyermann® German Acidulated Malt Weyermann Germany sour Base Malts 3.2  
Weyermann® German Bohemian Pilsner Malt Weyermann Czech Republic traditional, Bohemian-style malt flavors Base Malts 2.2  
Weyermann® German CaraAmber Malt Weyermann Germany Full flavor Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 27  
Weyermann® German Carafa I Malt Weyermann Germany deeper aroma for dark beers Roasted Malts 350  
Weyermann® German Carafa II Malt Weyermann Germany deeper aroma for dark beers Roasted Malts 425  
Weyermann® German Carafa III Malt Weyermann Germany deeper aroma for dark beers Roasted Malts 550  
Weyermann® German Carafoam Malt Weyermann Germany delicate maltiness, improved body Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 4.5  
Weyermann® German Carahell Malt Weyermann Germany full, round malt flavor Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 10  
Weyermann® German Caramunich I Malt Weyermann Germany sweet malty aroma and flavor Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 36  
Weyermann® German Caramunich II Malt Weyermann Germany toasty, sweet malt Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 45  
Weyermann® German Caramunich III Malt Weyermann Germany toasty, intense maltiness Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 59.5  
Weyermann® German CaraRed Malt Weyermann Germany full body Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 20  
Weyermann® German CaraWheat Malt Weyermann Germany wheaty, caramel Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 50  
Weyermann® German Chocolate Rye Malt Weyermann Germany roasty, spicy Roasted Malts 250  
Weyermann® German Chocolate Wheat Malt Weyermann Germany mild roast aroma Roasted Malts 400  
Weyermann® German Dark Munich Malt Weyermann Germany strong malt flavor, deep color Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 9  
Weyermann® German Dark Wheat Malt Weyermann Germany sweet, wheaty Base Malts 17  
Weyermann® German Dehusked Carafa I Malt Weyermann Germany smooth, slight roastyness Roasted Malts 350  
Weyermann® German Dehusked Carafa II Malt Weyermann Germany smooth, slight roastyness Roasted Malts 425  
Weyermann® German Dehusked Carafa III Malt Weyermann Germany smooth, slight roastyness Roasted Malts 525  
Weyermann® German Floor Malted Bohemian Dark Malt Weyermann Czech Republic malt sweetness Base Malts 18  
Weyermann® German Floor Malted Bohemian Pale Wheat Weyermann Czech Republic creamt mouthfeel, mild sweetness Base Malts 2.2  
Weyermann® German Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner Weyermann Czech Republic traditional, Bohemian-style malt flavors Base Malts 2.1  
Weyermann® German Vienna Malt Weyermann Germany full bodied, smooth Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 3.3  
Weyermann® German Melanoidin Malt Weyermann Germany intense maltiness Lightly Kilned and Toasted 70  
Weyermann® German Oak-Smoked Pale Wheat Malt Weyermann Germany finest oak smoke aroma and taste, notes of vanilla and honey Base Malts 5  
Weyermann® German Pale Ale Malt Weyermann Germany traditionally clean, smooth Base Malts 3.2  
Weyermann® German Pale Wheat Malt Weyermann Germany wheaty Base Malts 2.2  
Weyermann® German Rye Malt Weyermann Germany typical rya aroma, notes of bread Base Malts 3.3  
Weyermann® German Smoked Malt Weyermann Germany smooth smokeyness Base Malts 3.2  
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