Malt Types

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit0

Caramel & Crystal Malts

Caramel, or crystal malts as they are sometime referred to as, both belong to the same family of malt. The method of treating these malts is very different. On the last day of malting, the maltster increases the temperature to 113 to 122°F/45 to 50°C, this starts the enzymatic destruction of proteins and carbohydrates; an exclusive stewing process which essentially mashes the grain inside the husk, transforming the starches to sugars and providing it with its distinctive glassy texture. The maltster “stews” this soggy malt to saccharification temperature, around 150°F/66°C. When the majority of the starch has been transformed into sugars, the malt is dried then kilned to various levels of colour. There are plenty of simple sugars present, as a pose to starch and so the caramelisation process is rather different from regular malts. Crystal malt has a wide range of caramel, burnt sugar, and raisiny or dried fruit flavours present and each maltster’s caramel/crystal malts differ.

The same stewing process also forms a lot of short, unfermentable starch chains known as dextrins. They provide body and mouthfeel to a beer. Due to their distinctive chemistry, dextrins do not degrade further during mashing; resulting in their body enhancing traits ending up in the finished beer. The palest caramel/crystal malts are designed with this in mind, to provide body and richness to otherwise thin beers; extract brewers especially value crystal malts because malt extract is usually deficient in this aspect.

Though caramel/crystal malts have delicious flavours, they can be domineering if used incorrectly, producing thick, sickly sweet beers. Lots of brewers get in the habit of using these caramel malts a little too much, as they can be a suitable solution to the thin dullness extract beers sometimes have. For me, a light touch is best when it comes to crystals, except if you have a very specific reason for wanting them to take over, as in red ales. A further malt group, known as honey malt or brumalt, is a transitional malt between caramel and ordinary kilned malts. It has holds of the rich flavours of caramel minus the burnt sugars and heavy dextrins.

The procedures and resources used to make caramel malts by different maltsters results in a vast range of profoundly different flavours and aromas, even among caramels of the same colour. It is imperative to taste any malt you are thinking about using to ensure it has a flavour which will be beneficial to your recipe.

While we have split them into groups, there is in fact a pretty much constant spectrum available from different maltsters, so our description may be slightly limited—yet reason for tasting everything before you use it.

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

Cara-Pils

Colour = 1.8–2.5 (Lovibond) 3.5–5 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = None

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0067 (1.72°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0127 (3.25°P)

Max % = 15

Origin and Notes: Rose in popularity as an additive to high-adjunct lagers, it helps counteract the missing malt by the addition of dextrins, body, and foam.

Production: Caramel malt process, but a light kilning just to lower the moisture content, producing a very pale colour.

Flavour and Aroma: Neutral; used primarily for body and foam.

Uses:

  • Provides body and head benefits to paler beers
  • Vital for high-adjunct beers (it’s most common commercial use)
  • Valuable in honey beers where it adds body and head

Pale Caramel/Crystal

Colour = 10–30 (Lovibond) 20–60 (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 % = 15

Origin and Notes: Pale amber-coloured caramel-type malts.

Production: Caramel malt process, kilned to 302 to 356°F/150 to 180°C for between one and two hours.

Flavour and Aroma: Strong caramelly aromas, usually with soft dried-fruit aromas —apricots, raisins, figs. Be careful the caramel flavours can be rather assertive.

Uses:

  • Body and flavour enhancer for pale-to-amber beers, particularly pale ales and IPAs
  • Not very useful in lagers, except in extremely small amounts simply to add complexity

Medium Caramel/Crystal

Colour = 40–80 (Lovibond) 80–200 (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 % = 15

Origin and Notes: These malts usually possess very reddish colours.

Production: Caramel malt process, but kilned at 356 to 410°F/180 to 210°C for one to two hours. Addition wheat (Cara Wheat) and rye versions (Cara Rye) are also available.

Flavour and Aroma: Strong toasted caramelly and burnt sugar aromas persist at the higher colour range, or toasted-marshmallow aromas, usually accompanied with strong dried-fruit aromas—caramelized raisins, figs, prunes. Use carefully, the burnt-sugar flavours in the darker ones can be very assertive and often rather bitter.

Uses:

  • Body and flavour enhancer for darker beers such as amber and stronger brown ales, porters, and stouts
  • Provides a toasted raisiny, fruity aromas in Belgian Dubbels and strong dark ales
  • Not very useful in lagers, except in extremely small amounts simply to add complexity

Extra Dark Caramel/Crystal

Colour = 100–140 (Lovibond) 200–280 (EBC)

Enzyme Activity = None

OG per lb in 5 gl = 1.0057 (1.47°P)

OG per kg in 20 L = 1.0108 (2.77°P)

Max % = 15

Origin and Notes: An extra-dark version of caramel malt, first pioneered by DeWolf-Cosyns as Special B, this malt is now produced under that name by a number of producers.

Production: Caramel malt process, but kilned above 400°F/204°C for at least two hours.

Flavour and Aroma: Unique, intense flavours of roasted sugar, toasted raisins, or Turkish coffee. Use cautiously, as this malt is very assertive and often somewhat bitter too.

Uses:

  • Body and flavour enhancer for very dark beers such as porters and stouts
  • Provides unique toasted-sugar aromas in any dark ale or barley wine (1 to 5%)

20 Degree Caramel Malt 40 Degree Caramel Malt 60 Degree Caramel Malt 80 Degree Caramel Malt

These specialty malts come in a wide range of colours. Keep in mind that each manufacturer’s range has a unique taste, so taste often and get to know them.

Related Posts

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit0