What flavors will I get from different types of malt? What other factors do I need to consider when formulating a recipe?
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Answer: One of the most amazing things about beer is the wide variety of malts that comes from the one grain called barley. Dozens of different types are available, which can be quite bewildering to a novice brewer. Here is a run-down on the main types. Some malt types are suitable for extract brewing, allowing a wide range of styles to be created with relative ease. Other malts require mashing for best use.
Crystal malt is the type most often used to liven up an extract brew. Crystal malt adds body, flavor and color to your beer, and can be added to just about any recipe. Crystal malts with a higher Lovibond rating have darker color and a richer caramel taste. I tend to use a range of colors to get a full spectrum of flavor, especially in Amber ales. Most of the starch in crystal malt has already been converted into soluble and caramelized sugars, so the flavors can be extracted with a simple water steep. This is the reason that crystal malts are especially effective with extract batches of beer. Crystal malt also adds quite a bit of protein. Excess amounts can lead to chill haze.
This malt has been kilned at a fairly high temperature, producing a rich flavor and considerable darkness. The flavor and color are easily extracted by steeping, leading to the basis of some easy-to-make porter recipes. Chocolate malt does not contribute much fermentable sugar.
Black Patent and Roast Barley
These two grains are kilned at very high temperatures and contribute a strong roasty taste. The taste becomes acrid if you use too much. Both work well in extract batches, especially stouts.
2-Row Pale Malt
This is the grain that typically makes up the largest fraction of an all-grain recipe. Pale malt contains starch, and is also high in diastatic enzyme. Mashing is required to allow the two components to react to produce soluble fermentable sugars. Pale malt is light in color and contributes a crisp malt flavor. Extract recipes don't use pale malt, but it is a requirement for the intermediate technique of partial mashing
This is the base for most of the light German styles. This malt has the lightest color and flavor. Pilsner malt usually needs a protein rest during mashing. Some varieties have low enzyme levels which require careful mashing.
Munich and Vienna Malt
These European malts are kilned at a slightly higher temperature than pale malt. Hence, they have a darker, richer flavor, ideal for malty beers such as Bock and Oktoberfest. Both require mashing. They contain diastatic enzymes, but lower levels than pale malt.
Cara-Pils and Dextrin Malt
These varieties are light in color, but have a very complex starch content. When mashed, diastatic enzymes solubilize the dextrins into the mash. However, the dextrins are unfermentable, leading to a sweet, high final gravity beer, such as cream stout.
Well, OK, not all malts are made from barley. Malted wheat is a key ingredient in weizen beers, and contributes a glutiny mouthfeel. The color is very light and is high in fermentable starch. It has diastatic enzyme and must be mashed, just like pale malt.
Flaked Oats, Rice and Corn
These are unmalted grains called adjuncts. Oats contribute a rich mouthfeel. Corn is lightly flavored, while rice is almost flavor neutral. These latter two lead to very light low-body beers. Corn and rice are very high in convertible starches, but they have no enzymes of their own. Hence in order to use them they must be mashed with malt that is high in diastatic enzyme.
6-Row Malted Barley
This malt is similar to 2-row, but it has higher enzyme levels. This makes it ideal for use with the adjunct grains. The protein content is higher too. This helps compensate for the lower levels found in rice or corn.
With so many types of grain available, it takes quite a while to learn what
they all do. Fortunately, the experimental process of trying them can be quite