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Malt Revealed

Homebrewers today enjoy a wider selection of malts than ever -- so wide, in fact, that it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

Dave Carpenter Feb 19, 2014 - 5 min read

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What’s the difference between black malt and roasted barley? Why can I steep some malts but not others?

If you don’t know Carastan from Caramunich, you’re not alone. But even basic fluency in the language of malt will help you tremendously in your homebrewing journey. When you understand the similarities and differences among the many brewing grains available to you, you’ll be equipped to formulate recipes and infer how they might taste.

Base Malts

Base malt makes up the bulk of the grist (grain bill) and needs to be mashed to convert the grain’s starches to fermentable sugars.

  • Pilsner malt forms the base of many European light lagers.
  • Six-row malt is used primarily in mass-produced American lagers.
  • Two-row pale malt is the foundation for most American craft ales.
  • Maris Otter and Golden Promise are full-flavored British malts that produce the signature flavors associated with English and Scottish ales.
  • Munich malts and Vienna malt are kilned to a darker color than other malts and lend bready depth to styles like Bock and Oktoberfest.
  • Wheat and rye malts are used in a variety of styles but can be tricky to work with in large quantities.

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