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What are Malts?

WRITTEN ON 19 November, 2021

* Malt is the dried version of any germinated cereal grain like barley, wheat, oat and rye.

The most preferred malt in most beer styles is barley due to its high enzyme content, which helps to convert starch into sugar. Sugar extracted from malted barley is essential for the beer fermentation process. Malt also plays a role in the beers’ flavour, colour and aroma.

All malts used in the brewing process are classified as:

1. Base malts

Base malts make up the largest percentage of grain malts (from 60% to 100%) for brewing beer. During the kilning stage (drying of germinated grains), they undergo a short heating process to ensure that the enzyme content in the grains is well preserved. Their main purpose is to provide enzymes and fermentable sugars to make beer.

2. Speciality malts

Specialty malts constitute the remaining proportion of grain malts (up to 40%), and are mainly used to impart distinct flavour, aroma and colour in beers. Unlike base malts, there are fewer enzymes in speciality malts as they are heated for a long time during the kilning stage. Speciality malts are used in moderation to achieve desired beer characteristics.

Types Of Base Malts

1. Pale Malts

They are the most commonly used base malts. They have high diastatic power (a measure of the malts’ enzymatic activity) which makes them a versatile base malt for making most beer styles.

2. Pilsner Malts

These malts were originally used to brew German and Czech pilsners. They impart light, sweet, malty and crisp flavours in beers. Because of their excellent brewing properties, they are widely used as base malts in ales and lagers.

3. Vienna Malts

Vienna malts are slightly kilned which give them a darker appearance. Known for its subtle malty sweetness and toasty flavour, it is used as a base malt in Vienna Lager, Festbier, Maibock and India Pale Ale.

4. Munich Malts

It imparts rich malty, bready flavours and orange hues in appearance. Munich malts work well as a base malt in various beer styles like German dark lagers, Marzens, Dunkels, Bocks and Ales.

Types Of Specialty Malts

1. Caramel or Crystal Malts

Obtained from the roasting process, it is used to impart a wide range of colour and flavour. These malts are also high in complex sugars, thus providing the signature mouth-feel to respective beer styles.

2. Dark and Roasted Malts

Roasted at high temperatures for a longer duration, these malts are used to provide rich colour (from golden to black) and flavour in beer including coffee, burnt sugar, toffee, biscuit, and chocolate, to name a few.