If you’re looking to get into adding some serious flavor to your beer, the chances are that you’re very quickly going to start experimenting with specialty malts to uncover the true potential and unbelievable variety offered by brewing from home.
Combining specialty malts to your base malt profile is going to bring the noise to the beer you end up creating, building on the foundation provided by the base malts (hence the name ‘base’) and injecting another level of flavor to the final product.
Because of this, specialty malts are awesome.
The general rule of thumb here is that makes up less than 50 percent of your beer recipe on the malt-front is going to be considered a specialty malt.
The time and/or temperature the malt is subjected to during the kilning or roasting stage will determine the kind of malt you end up with and will alter the color, flavor and overall complexity of the beer you get at the end.
There are a lot of specialty malts out there with many malthouses keeping their own distinct process a trade secret, however there are some pretty common ones you’re likely to come across in your home brewing journey and getting some of these into the mix will take your beer to another level.
Over time, you’ll decide (hopefully through a lot of experimentation) on what each specialty malt brings to your beer and you’ll be able to formulate a list of what works, what doesn’t, and new directions you want to test out in your next best batch.
Essential Specialty Malts
The following specialty malts are just a handful of the options available out there but are a great place to get started on your journey to developing a complex (and delicious) flavor profile to bring your home brewed beer to the next level.
As you might expect from the name, this malt brings a tart and sharp flavor which can help add a layer to the underlying maltiness of your beer.
This malt is usually created by introducing sour wort onto a base malt which brings about the growth of lactic acid bacteria.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Sauer
A classic malt for use in English Ales, Amber Malt delivers a bready but sharp flavor and is achieved by roasting the malt at a lower temperature.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Aromatic, Toasted
There are a lot of similarities between Biscuit Malt and Amber including the flavor profile, but the major distinguishing point is that this malt is roasted at higher temperatures and typically comes in at a golden orange color.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Briess Victory, Dark Amber
How is malt made black? The answer is by roasting it at such a high temperature that it literally burns and has to be doused with water during the process to stop it actually setting alight.
The result is an awesome combination of flavors ranging from dry and bitter, to you guessed it, burnt.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Black
This malt is achieved be roasting at a lower temperature range but for a longer period of time.
You can expect a combination of nutty and coffee flavor tones and a color to match – mid chocolate brown in shade.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Porter
A sweet malt is the best way to describe Caramel, which it gets its name from the undeniable flavor it provides thanks to the presence of crystallized sugar contained within.
Colors and flavors range within this spectrum and make this a versatile and sweet malt to experiment with.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Cara, Crystal
Dextrin Malt is very similar to some of the base malts with the important distinction that it contains little in the way of enzyme activity.
You’re going to get a pale yellow beer from including Dextrin Malt and it will tend to enhance both the foam and body of the end product.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Carapils
If you take a base malt and add a smoked flavor to it, you end up with a smoked malt.
As you can probably imagine, this is powerful in terms of the flavor it brings to your beer and so should be used sparingly.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Rauch