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 malt for you.
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 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.
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®).
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
- ... 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.
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 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.
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.
The Complete Grain Chart
|Type||Name||Origin||Flavors||Common Uses||Lovibond rating|
|Adjunct||Fawcett Oat Malt||UK||warm, grainy flavor||British ales, stouts, porters||4|
|Adjunct||Flaked Barley||US||grainy, creamy||Irish Stout|
|Adjunct||Flaked Maize||US||neutral, moderate sweetness||American Lager, bitters|
|Adjunct||Flaked Oats||US||creamy, full-bodied||Oatmeal Stout|
|Adjunct||Flaked Rye||US||dry, crisp, slightly spicy||Roggenbier, RyePA|
|Adjunct||Flaked Wheat||US||increases head retention and body||Wheat beers|
|Adjunct||Torrified Wheat||USA||smooth, bready||Hefeweizen, other wheat beers|
|Base||Belgian Pale Ale||Belgium||balanced, plain but makes a solid base||Used in Belgian ales and trappist beers||3|
|Base||Belgian Pilsner||Belgium||clean, light flavor||Belgian Lagers and Trappist Beers||1.6|
|Base||English Maris Otter||UK||nutty, deep maltiness||All English styles||3.5-4.5|
|Base||German Dark Munich||Germany||strong malt flavor, deep color||Dunkel, Schwartzbier||15.5|
|Base||German Munich||Germany||smooth, deep maltiness||Alt, bock, dunkel, amber ale||8.3|
|Base||German Pilsner||Germany||bright, clean, full-bodied||Pilsner, Helles, all lagers, most Belgian and German styles||1.6|
|Base||German Vienna||Germany||slightly toasty, a bit darker and maltier than pilsner malt||Oktoberfest, Vienna lager||3.8|
|Base||Global Malt Kolsch||Germany||light, sweet, biscuit||Kolsch||4.5|
|Base||Mild Ale Malt||US||creates a more dextrinous wort than most other base malts||Mild, English ales, Scottish ales||5.3|
|Base||Organic 2-row||US||mild maltiness||Organic ales||1.8|
|Base||Organic Munich||US||rich maltiness||Bock, red or amber ales, brown ales||10|
|Base||Rahr 2-row||US||clean, smooth||All styles of Ale, especially American pale ale and IPA||1.7|
|Base||Rahr 6-row||US||neutral, slightly grainy||All styles of Ale, especially beers including adjuncts||1.7|
|Base||Rahr Pale Ale||US||slightly toasty and full||English and American Ales||3 - 4|
|Base||Rahr Premium Pilsner||US||light, smooth||American Pilsner||1.5-2|
|Base||Rahr White Wheat Malt||US||Full, slightly sweet||American Hefeweizen, Porter||3|
|Base||British Golden Promise||UK||mellow, sweet, clean||Scottish Ales||1.7-2|
|Base||Weyermann® Bohemian Pils||Czech Republic||full-bodied, complex maltiness||Bohemian Pilsners||1.7-2.1|
|Base||Weyermann® Dark Wheat||Germany||sweet, wheaty||Dunkelweizen, weizenbock||7.5|
|Base||Weyermann® Pale Wheat||germany||wheaty||Hefeweizen, other wheat beers||1.5|
|Crystal||Belgian Caramel Pils||Belgium||light caramel||Belgian Pale Ales||6|
|Crystal||Belgian Caramunich||Belgium||sweet, slightly toasty||Belgian Dubbels and dark ales||47|
|Crystal||Belgian Caravienne||Belgium||light, sweet||Belgian Pale Ales, some Trappist beers||20|
|Crystal||Belgian Special B||Belgium||Sweet, caramel, dark fruit||Very unique crystal malt. Commonly used in Dubbel.||147|
|Crystal||Briess Carapils||US||gives impression of fullness||To enhance head retention||1.5|
|Crystal||Caramel 10||US||Sweet, almost honey like||Most British and American styles||10|
|Crystal||Caramel 120||US||Caramel, slight roasty/toastiness||Stout, Porter, Red or Amber Ales||120|
|Crystal||Caramel 20||US||sweet, caramel||Most British and American styles||20|
|Crystal||Caramel 40||US||caramel, sweet||Most British and American styles||40|
|Crystal||Caramel 60||US||caramel, sweet||Most British and American styles||60|
|Crystal||Caramel 80||US||caramel, burnt sugar, raisin||Stout, Porter, Red or Amber Ales||80|
|Crystal||Caramel 90||US||caramel, burnt sugar, raisin||Stout, Porter, Red or Amber Ales||90|
|Crystal||Gambrinus Honey Malt||Canada||intense malt sweetness, honey||A good malt for leaving significant sweetness in the final beer||20-30|
|Crystal||Organic Caramel 120||US||caramel, burnt sugar, raisin||Organic ales||120|
|Crystal||Organic Caramel 20||US||sweet, caramel||Organic ales||20|
|Crystal||Organic Caramel 60||US||caramel, sweet||Organic ales||60|
|Crystal||Organic CaraPils||US||gives impression of fullness||Organic ales||1.5|
|Crystal||English CaraMalt||UK||light sweetness||All British and Scottish styles||30-37|
|Crystal||English Dark Crystal||UK||sweet, grainy, malty, slightly roasty||All British and Scottish styles||70-80|
|Crystal||English Extra Dark Crystal||UK||burnt sugar, dark fruit||Dark British and Scottish Ales||160|
|Crystal||Simpsons Golden Naked Oats||UK||light caramel, creamy finish||Oatmeal Stout||10|
|Crystal||English Medium Crystal||UK||deep caramel, grainy||All British styles||50-60|
|Crystal||Weyermann® CaraAmber®||Germany||Full flavor||Alt, stout, bock, porter||27|
|Crystal||Weyermann® CaraAroma®||Germany||full flavor, improved aroma||Alt, stout, bock, porter||130|
|Crystal||Weyermann® Carafoam®||Germany||delicate maltiness, improved body||pilsner, pale lager||1.8|
|Crystal||Weyermann® Carahell®||Germany||full, round malt flavor||Oktoberfest, Maibock, Hefeweizen||11|
|Crystal||Weyermann® Caramunich® I||Germany||sweet malty aroma and flavor||Oktoberfest, Altbier, and Bock||34|
|Crystal||Weyermann® Caramunich® II||Germany||toasty, sweet malt||Oktoberfest, Altbier, and Bock||46|
|Crystal||Weyermann® Caramunich® III||Germany||toasty, intense maltiness||Oktoberfest, Altbier, and Bock||57|
|Crystal||Weyermann® CaraRed®||Germany||full body||Scottish ales, bock, altbier||20|
|Crystal||Weyermann® Carawheat®||Germany||wheaty, caramel||Dunkelweizen, Hefeweizen||45.5|
|Roasted||Belgian Debittered Black||Belgium||mild dark malt flavor, harsh in high quantities||used to add color without roastiness (schwarzbier)||500 - 600|
|Roasted||Fawcett Pale Chocolate||UK||mild chocolate/coffee||Mild Ale, stout, porter||180-250|
|Roasted||Organic Chocolate||US||roasted coffee, cocoa||British bitters, porter, stout, brown ale||350|
|Roasted||English Black Malt||UK||roasty, black||Stout, Porter, Scottish Ales||500-600|
|Roasted||English Chocolate||UK||bittersweet chocolate, roasty||Porter, Stout, Brown Ale||375-450|
|Roasted||English Roasted Barley||UK||bitter, roasty||Dry Irish Stout||500-600|
|Roasted||Weyermann® Chocolate Rye Malt||Germany||roasty, spicy||Dunkelweizen, Roggenbier||188-300|
|Roasted||Weyermann® Dehusked Carafa® I||germany||smooth, slight roastyness||bock, doppelbock, alt, schwarzbier||300-375|
|Roasted||Weyermann® Dehusked Carafa® II||germany||smooth, slight roastyness||bock, doppelbock, alt, schwarzbier||430|
|Roasted||Weyermann® Dehusked Carafa® III||germany||smooth, slight roastyness||bock, doppelbock, alt, schwarzbier||490-560|
|Specialty||Belgian Aromatic Malt||Belgium||Rich maltiness||Wide uses in British and Belgian styles||20|
|Specialty||Belgian Biscuit Malt||Belgium||biscuity, 'saltine cracker' flavor||British and Belgian Pale Ales||25|
|Specialty||Briess Cherry-wood Smoked Malt||US||Rich, sweet smokiness||Rauchbier, smoked porter||5|
|Specialty||Briess Special Roast||US||toasty, biscuity, sour, tangy||Brown ale, porter, dark ales||50|
|Specialty||Briess Victory||US||bread-like, nutty, toasty||Brown ale||28|
|Specialty||Crisp Amber||UK||biscuit, coffee||brown ale, red ale||27|
|Specialty||Crisp Brown||UK||dark roasted flavor, slight bitterness||brown ale||60-70|
|Specialty||Franco-Belges Coffee Kiln||Belgium||coffee||Stout, porter, brown ale, Scottish ale||50-180|
|Specialty||British Peated Malt||UK||intense peat smoke character||Scottish ales||2.5|
|Specialty||Weyermann® Acidulated||Germany||sour||Berliner Weiss, Kentucky Common||1.8|
|Specialty||Weyermann® Melanoidin||germany||intense maltiness||Dark lagers, red ales, Scottish ales, bock, dopplebock||23-31|
|Specialty||Weyermann® Smoked Malt||germany||smooth smokeyness||Rauchbier, smoked porter||1.7-2.8|