Brewing Malts, Their Characteristics and Uses For The Homebrewer

Malts, A Homebrewer’s Reference:

Pictures of different types of malts in tall beer glasses. Lined up light to dark.
Make different beers with different malts

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The variety of malts available to the homebrewer is greater now than ever before. For homebrewers wanting to use authentic ingredients and brew to style, they are indispensable. 

Learning all about malted grain is part of the all grain brewing experience. This is intended as a reference for the serious all grain homebrewer interested in recipe formulation or the extract brewer that wants to learn about steeping grains.

A basic malt definition is germinated cereal grains that have been dried in a process known as malting. The grains are germinated by soaking in water.  

They are halted from germinating further by drying with hot air.  This leaves all the enzymes present in the cereal grains that would have been used to break down the starches into food for the new plants.

It is these enzymes that will break down the starch in the malted grains during the mash into fermentable sugars that the homebrewer will then ferment and make beer.

American Malts

Pale Malt (2 Row) 2°L

The base malt for brewing all grain beers. Being American grown, high in diastatic power, well modified and fairly neutral, two-row makes an excellent base malt. Best for both American Lager and Ale styles, two-row lends itself well to both malt and adjunct beers.

Wheat Malt (Malted Wheat) 2.3°L

Use to make wheat and weizen beers. Also, small amounts (3-6 %) aid in head retention to any beer without altering final flavor. Use 5 to 70 % in the mash, 40 to 60 % being the norm for wheat beers, combined with a high enzyme malt such as two-row. Imparts a malty flavor not obtainable from raw wheat.

Rye Malt 4°L

Used specifically for German Roggenbier style, as well as some American Pilsners. Lends a dry, spicy flavor, with a pale straw color. Use sparingly to add distinction to any style. Normally, up to 20% rye malt is used in a mash when making rye beer.

Vienna Malt (Lightly kilned) 2.4-4°L

Vienna malt is kiln dried at a higher temperature than pale malt yet still retains sufficient enzyme power for use as 60-100% of total mash grist. The enzyme content can support up to 40% adjuncts or specialty malts. For pilsner styles, use 10 to 30% in the mash. Vienna is a rich, aromatic malt that will lend a light amber to deep orange color, a warm, malty flavor, and some body to your Vienna or Marzen beers. May be steeped.

Munich Malt (Domestic) 10°L

A little darker than German Munich malt, use Domestic Munich to add a very robust, malty flavor when used at 5-15%. An excellent choice for Dark and amber lagers, blend Munich with German Pils or two-row at the rate of 10 to 60% of the total grist. Darker grades of Munich are available from continental maltsters. Essential ingredient in German Bock beers. May be steeped.

Carapils (Dextrin Malt) 1.5-2°L

Dextrins lend body, mouthfeel and palate fullness to beers, as well as foam stability. Carapils must be mashed with pale malt, due to its lack of enzymes. Use 5 to 20% for these properties without adding color or having to mash at higher temperatures. Some brewers dislike the almost cloying sweetness that high amounts (>10%) of Dextrin malt contributes.

Caramel/Crystal 10 (Caramel Malt) 10°L

5 to 20% will lend body and mouthfeel with a minimum of color, much like Carapils, but with a light honey-like sweetness. Also sold as CaraPils from the Dewolf-Cosyns maltster. Caramel 10 is probably a much better choice than the US Dextrin malt version for adding body to your homebrews.

Caramel/Crystal 40 (Caramel Malt) 40°L

As with all Crystal malts, the character of this malt is contributed by unfermentable crystallized sugars produced by a special process Called “stewing”. 5 to 20 % Pale Crystal will lend a balance of light caramel color, flavor, and body to Ales and Lagers. Caramel 40 is a mainstay malt in brewing of all types of ales. 

Caramel/Crystal 60 (Caramel Malt) 60°L

This Crystal malt is well suited to all beer recipes calling for crystal malt and is a good choice if you’re not sure which variety to use. 5 to 15% of 60°L Crystal malt will lend a well rounded caramel flavor, color and sweetness to your beers.

Caramel/Crystal 120 (Caramel Malt) 120°L

5 to 15% will lend a complex bittersweet caramel flavor and aroma to beers. Used in smaller quantities this malt will add color and slight sweetness to beers, while heavier concentrations are well suited to strong beers such as Barleywines and Old Ales.

Victory Malt (Aroma & flavor malt) 25°L

This roasted malt is similar to biscuit malt, but gives the beer a more nutty taste. Victory adds orange highlights to your beer. Use 5 to 15 % to add a fuller flavor and aroma to ales, porters and full flavored, dark lagers where a bigger malt character is desired without crystal malt sweetness. 

Special Roast (Aroma & flavor malt) 50°L

A complex malt, it will lend its characteristic bold sourdough, biscuity, toasty flavor to nut brown ales (5-10%), porters (5-10%) and other dark beer styles (2-5%). It has a distinctive orange-reddish color.

Chocolate Malt (roasted black malt) 350°L

Chocolate malt will add a dark color and pleasant roast flavor. Small quantities lend a nutty flavor and deep, ruby red color while higher amounts lend a black color and smooth, rich, roasted coffee or cocoa-like flavor. Use 3 to 12%. Chocolate is an essential ingredient in porters, along with caramel malts. Used in smaller quantities in brown ales, old ales and some barleywines.

Roasted Barley (unmalted) 3oo-400°L

Is made from unmalted grain, therefore it has a much drier, more grain-like flavor that is used to impart a sweet, grainy coffee-like flavor and red to deep brown color to your beer. This specialty grain adds a lot of color, use it in moderation. Often used in combination with chocolate malt, black patent, or black barley. Try 3-7% in porters or stouts for a coffee-like flavor; 2-5% in Brown Ales for a flavor and color boost.

Black Barley (unmalted) 450L-600°L

Black barley is an extreme version of roasted barley. It provides the characteristic dry, coffee-like flavor and dark color to stouts some porters. Try 3-7% in porters or 5-15% in stouts. Many times it is difficult to know if you are getting roasted barley or black barley, as these days, the names are used interchangeably. 

Black Patent (highly roasted black malt) 500-600°L

The darkest of all malts, use sparingly to add deep color and sharp roast-charcoal flavor. Use no more than 1 to 3%. Best used in trace amounts only, for color. Almost any contribution that black patent gives to beer can be obtained from using another malt with less harsh flavor impacts.

German Grain Malts

German Pale Malt (2 Row, Pilsner Malt) 1.8 L

A quality German two row malt. Produces a smooth, grainy flavor. Use in your German lagers and Alt beers.

Weizen – (Wheat Malt) 1.5-7.5°L

Use German wheat malt up to 80% for wheat beers such as weiss, weizen and Berliner weisse. Blended in proportions of 20 to 70% with pale malts, weizen malt is the perfect companion for German wheat yeast strains for a full flavored, classic wheat beer.

Wiener – (Vienna Malt) 3°L

German Vienna is high in diastatic power, meaning you can use it as 100% of the total grist for a fuller, deeper malt flavor and aroma or with up to 40% adjuncts. It adds light amber color and some body to your beer.

Munchener (Munich Malt) 6°L

A true Munich variety that has undergone higher kilning than the pale malt. German Munich still retains sufficient enzymes for 100% of the grist, or it can be used at the rate of 20 to 75 % of the total malt content in Lagers for its full, malty flavor and aromatic qualities. It adds a light golden color and a lightly caramelized flavor not found when using Vienna malt. It has minimal diastatic power for added adjuncts.

Crystal – (Med. Caramel) 9-30°L

Called Cara Hell, Cara Red, and Cara Amber by Weyermann Malting. Use 3 to 20% of German Caramel malt to add color, sweetness and body to European lagers, Viennas and Marzen / Oktoberfest lagers.

Carafa Special (Dehusked) 413-450°L

A German dark de-husked malt which is produced from de-husked barley to help reduce the harshness sometimes present in other highly roasted grains. It still retains the color, aroma, and body in authentic German dark lagers such as dunkels and schwarzbiers. Can also be used as a substitute to chocolate malt in stouts and porters, or experimented with in other styles where a more mellow roasted grain flavor is desired.

German Acidulated Malt

Is produced by developing the lactic acid bacteria that occurs naturally on all grain. Use it to adjust the pH level in a mash and when making a authentic Berliner Weisse style. Use 1 to 10% in the mash.

German Melanoidin Malt 23° L

Melanoidin malt is similar to German Munich malt, except more aromatic and darker in color. It produces a more reddish color than the gold color produced by Munich malt. It will improve body and many brewers use it to duplicate the fullness developed in decoction mashing. For this purpose, about 2% us normally used, but may be used at up to 20% of the mash.

A picture of a guy doing traditional floor malting.


English Pale Malt (British, 2 Row) 2.5°L

Fully modified British malt, easily converted by a single temperature mash. Preferred by many brewers for full flavored ales. Pale Ale malt has undergone higher kilning than Klages and is lower in diastatic power so keep adjuncts to 15 % or less.

English Crystal (Caramel Malt) 37°L

Also known as CaraStan, use 5 to 20% of our English Crystal to add color and a full, toffee-sweet flavor to bitters, pale ales and porters.

Chocolate Malt – 330-450°L

British chocolate malt is a classic for British porters and brown or mild ales and even stouts. It’s a little darker than domestic chocolate malt yet it has a slightly smoother character in the roast flavor and aroma profiles. Use a few ounces for a brown color and mild flavor or up to a pound for a very strong chocolate flavor and almost black color.

Brown Malt – 60-70°L

Brown malt is made from green malt. It imparts a dark roasted flavor and bitterness to a beer. Use in older styles of English ales. Try using 2 oz. – 1 lb. in brown ale, porter and stout recipes.

Amber Malt – 27°L

Amber malt is made from ale malt. It provides a warm, pleasant, biscuit-like flavor with coffee undertones. A common addition to Scottish ales, it also is a popular steeper for both pale and brown ales. Try 1/2 lb in a nut brown or red ale.


Belgian Pilsner (European 2-Row) 2°L

This is an excellent base malt for many styles, including full flavored Lagers, Belgian ales and European wheat beers. It will mash up to 30% adjuncts and work with either an infusion or decoction mash.

Aromatic (Mildly Kilned) 17-21°L

Aromatic malt is a hybrid Munich malt. It is a malt that is kilned to 239°F (115°C) then held there until it reaches the desired color, about 20°L. When used at rates of up to 10%, Aromatic malt will lend a distinct, almost exaggerated malt aroma and flavor to the finished Ales and Lagers. Aromatic malt has a rich color. It has enough enzymatic power to convert itself and although mashing is preferable, steeping this specialty will impart some of it’s characteristics to the beer.

Belgian Special-B 150°L

Special-B is the darkest of the Belgian crystal malts. It provides an intense roasted caramel character and ruby-red color to beers. Use small amounts (usually about 1/4 lb per 5 gallons) to add depth and complexity to dark ales and lagers or more for an intense malt flavor and aroma. It imparts raisin-like flavors in Belgian Abbey and Trappist ales and plum-like flavors in dubbels. Can be used sparingly in brown ales, porters and doppelbocks to add character and complexity. 

Biscuit Malt – (Pale Roast) 24-25°L

Biscuit malt is a lightly toasted Belgian pale malt. Used at the rate of 3 to 15 %, it will provide a warm bread or biscuit character, or toasted flavor and aroma to lagers and ales. It will lend a garnet-brown color. Biscuit malt has essentially no enzymes left and must therefore rely on other malts’ enzymes for conversion.

CaraVienne – (Light Caramel) 22°L

Caravienne imparts a rich, caramel-sweet aroma to the wort and promotes a fuller flavored beer at rates of 5 to 20 % of the total grist. It can be used in up to 15% of the grain bill without leaving the beer with too much caramel sweetness. Good to use in conjunction with Munich malts and pilsner malt for a Marzen base. It is used by Belgian breweries in producing Abbey or Trappist style ales .

CaraMunich – (Medium Caramel) 45-60°L

This is a caramelized German Munich malt. Use CaraMunich for a deep reddish saturated color, 5 to 15% will also lend a fuller rounder flavor, contributes to foam stability, adds unfermentable caramelized sugars, provides body in all beers, and contributes a rich malty aroma. Used for Oktoberfest, bockbier, dark beers, porter, stout, Schankbier, red ale, brown ale, malt-liquor, amber ales.


Rauchmalt 2°L

Malt is kilned or dried over a beechwood fire. Some US brewers use malt smoked over Adler. Depending on the amount of smoking, the malt can be used in 100% of the mash, as some Bamberg brewers or used as a flavoring malt in the 10-30% range. Imparts a distinct smoked character to the beer. Rauchbiers should be based on a Marzen recipes and adjusted using rauchmalt, which shifts the color from amber to dark-amber/light porter. May be steeped.

Honey Malt 20-30°L

Honey Malt is Gambrinus Malting’s name for the unique European malt known as “bruhmalt” because of it’s unique honey-like aroma and flavor. Adds an intense malty sweetness with a hint of red color with no astringent roast flavors. It is often described as a warm “toasted” flavor with the aromas of honey.

Peated Malt 2.5°L Phenol level 12-24:

This malt is lightly peated, meaning that while the malt is in the kiln, peat moss outside the kiln is being gently smoked over slow burning coals allowing its vapors to gently drift above the malt. It is sometimes used to enhance flavor in Scottish ales or when making any beer of the “other smoked beer” category. 

Raw Wheat:

Used in wit beers at 45% of grist and in lambics at 30%. Contributes a permanent starch-haze to the beer. 

Adapted from the article All About Grains 101 by Jim Busch.

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