Malt Types

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Colour Malts

This group is a little darker in colour and with lesser-to-no enzyme action, occasionally known as kilned or high-dried malt. These malts are made in the same kiln that’s also used for drying, however, once the moisture level gets to a certain point, the temperature is increased and the malt gains further colour. The level of moisture at this phase governs where the malt lands the spectrum from sharp and toasty to smooth and caramelly. In addition to this, time and temperature determine the extent of the colour and the flavours related with the kilning.

There is no simple threshold which divides base from colour malts. For example, Munich malt has enough enzymes to transform its own starch to sugar, and so can be used as base malt in darker beers, but in paler beers may be used mostly for colour and complexity that it adds to the beer.

NOTE: If you struggle to understand the stats of the examples below, we recommend checking out our guide to Understanding a Malt Analysis

Munich Malt

Colour = 6–12.5 (Lovibond) 12–25 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = Sufficient for self-conversion

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0070 (1.80°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0133 (3.40°P)

Max % = 100

Origin and Notes: Traditionally, a city’s malt indicated the flavour and appearance of its beers. Munich was well-known for a rich, reddish-brown lager developed from a dark malt, however, the modern version of Munich was created in the mid-nineteenth century.

Note: There are plenty of dark versions of Munich that go as high as 20°L /40°EBC in colour, these are principally pale versions of melanoidin malts, with a transitional character: slightly more toasty, but not the full-on, overbaked cookie flavour melanoidin malts possess.

Production: High-protein malt is initially dried to 20% moisture, and then kilned at 212 to 221°F/100 to 105°C for five hours for colour and flavour development.

Flavour and Aroma: A distinct caramelliness with a cookie-like toasty bite, which lends balance to the heavy, sweetish beers conventionally brewed from it.

Uses:

  • Vital in dunkel lagers
  • Commonly used in Märzen and altbier
  • Frequently used as base for darker Belgian ales
  • Can yield caramel underpinnings to porters and stouts
  • Flavour enhancer on golden and amber beers (1 to 25%)

Amber Malt

Colour = 20–30 (Lovibond) 40–60 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = Poor/none

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0066 (1.70°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.039 (3.55°P)

Max % = 30

Origin and Notes: Amber malt has been made in England centuries, boasting a lineage that extends back to the days of unhopped ale 500 years ago and maybe even longer.

Production: Essentially a toasted pale ale malt, most likely of great antiquity. Hough, Briggs, and Stevens (1971) say, “Amber malts are prepared by kilndrying well-modified malt to 3 to 4% moisture and then ‘ambering’ in the kiln or a drum by heating rapidly to 200°F/93.3°C, in 15 to 20 minutes and then gradually to 280 to 300°F/138 to 149°C. The higher temperature is maintained until the correct colour, 35 to 100 EBC units is obtained.” A notable fact is that this malt is kilned in a dry state, which provides it with a different aromatic profile from moist-kilned malts of similar colour such as melanoidin. It is also one of the simplest malts to produce at home, the starting point is just dry pale malt.

Flavour and Aroma: Amber malt possesses a sharp toasty, brown character, which lacks caramelly notes.

Uses:

  • Signature malt in brown ale
  • Provides depth and complexity to dry stouts, due to the fact that it doesn’t add sweetness which would be inappropriate for most versions of the style
  • Dry, toasty accent (1 to 5%) in pale ales, barley wines

Melanoidin Malt

Colour = 15–33 (Lovibond) 30–66 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = Minimal/none

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0070 (1.80°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0133 (3.40°P)

Max % = 30

Origin and Notes: A variety of flavourful amber-coloured malts most connected with Belgian and German brewing styles, a range of terms surround this malt. Look out for confusing nomenclature—check colour and descriptions to ensure they match the features you’re looking for. We recommend tasting before buying.

Production: After malting, high-moisture malt is artificially starved of air, this halts respiration but permits proteolytic and amylolytic enzymes. Thus forming a range of sugars and nitrogenous products to nourish the Maillard activity that occurs during kilning. Dried in a similar way to Munich malt, and then cured at 239°F/115°C.

Flavour and Aroma: A considerable yet soft cookie-like or cake-like maltiness, different qualities to similarly coloured amber/biscuit, which is kilned dry and possesses much more toasty characteristics. They also can provide some caramel aroma but lack the raisiny chewiness and unfermentable dextrin that caramel malt adds.

Uses:

  • Involved in dark Belgian ales, in which they provide richness and depth to amber or brown beers such as Belgian pale ales, Dubbel, or strong dark ale
  • Complexity enhancers, ideal for providing a little balance in many kinds of mid- to dark-coloured beers from Oktoberfest to Scottish ales to bock to stout

Honey Malt

Colour = 20–30 (Lovibond) 40–60 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = Some to none, depends on the manufacturer.

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0070 (1.80°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0133 (3.40°P)

Max % = 15–25, depends on the manufacturer.

Origin and Notes: A crystal/melanoidin mix, primarily from German sources, although Hind, in 1948, depicts a British malt called diamber which matches its profile closely.

Production: A proprietary process is required to produce it, but Hough, Briggs, and Stevens (1971) describe a 122°F/50°C oxygen-starved rest of twenty-four hours at the end of malting, followed by a kilning at 212°F/100°C. Because this stewing and moist-kilning process is less intense than crystal, it holds sufficient enzymes to convert itself.

Flavour and Aroma: In spite of the name, it tastes only slightly like honey, but it is cleaner and lighter than crystal of comparable colour, with a more friable, less sugary texture, with some of Munich malt’s caramelliness.

Uses:

  • Used as an alternative to the heavier flavours and sweetness which crystal malts possess, particularly in extract and steeped-grain brewing
  • As a signature malt in French and Belgian mid-coloured beers, such as bière de garde, Dubbel, and a range of specialty brews.
  • Provides a reinforcing maltiness in dark beers including schwarzbier, Baltic porter, or sweeter stouts like Imperial, London, or oatmeal stout

Brown Malt

Colour = 50–65 (Lovibond) 100–130 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = None

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0066 (1.70°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0125 (3.20°P)

Max % = 80

Origin and Notes: Initially, porters were based completely on brown malt brought in from Hertfordshire, but as brewing scientists equipped with hydrometers (Richardson, 1777) discovered how much less extract was yielded from brown malt, things began to change, this information was the incentive for the invention of black patent malt, which was far more efficient.

Production: As recently as the mid-twentieth century, brown malt was puffed and roasted by roasting swiftly over a roaring fire, conventionally of oak or even hornbeam logs. Hough, Briggs, and Stevens (1971) give a kilning profile of two and a half hours at 350°F/177°C and mention the “characteristic flavour derived from wood smoke.” This “material” they noted in 1971, “is now only used rarely.” These days, it gets a more conventional kilning, but brown malt still possesses a very unique flavour profile.

Flavour and Aroma: Extremely toasty, with chocolate overtones, it can have a campfire character, despite contemporary versions not being smoked.

Uses:

  • A useful tool in all kinds of dark beers including mild ales, stouts, and porter, particularly when a bright, coffee-like touch is desired.
  • Historic porters, where it can form the basis of the grist (with enough pale malt included for conversion)
  • Complexity addition in red ales, Scotch “ales,” and old ales, or Belgian strong dark ales when just small amount can provide a bright, roasty flavour.

 

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