Malt Facts

Malt is a key ingredient used for making beer and whisky. The process of making malt involves steeping the grain to kick-start the germination process and activation of enzymes producing what is know as ‘green malt’. The grain is then air-dried before being kilned to the desired specification. The malt can then be roasted or smoked to impart different flavours.

Types of Malt:

  • Base
  • Speciality
    • High-Dried (Kilned)
    • Caramel
    • Roasted
    • Distilling
    • Peated
  • Adjunct
    • Rice
    • Maize
    • Wheat
    • Rye
    • Oats
    • Sorghum

Base malts make up the core of a mash bill. These malts have sufficient diastastic power to convert their starch into sugars in the mash ready for the yeast to ferment. Examples include Pale and Pilsner malts as well as cultivar specific malts such as Maris Otter or Golden Promise from UK.

High-dried malts, sometimes known kilned, are kilned to a higher temperature to impart additional flavor and color. Some high-dried malts have sufficient diastatic power to convert their starch to sugar. Examples include Biscuit, Honey, Munich, or Vienna malts.

Caramel malts, sometimes known as Crystal, have been kilned or roasted to a high enough temperature to caramelize the sugars to add additional body, color, and/or flavor. Caramel malts are often called caramel malt followed by a Lovibond value such as Caramel 20L or can be applied to other malts such as Caramel Munich. Crystal malt is actually only roasted and creates a glassy malt.

Roasted malts have the additional step of being roasted to an even higher temperature to add color and flavors not achieved with other malts such as chocolate and coffee. Examples include Roasted, Chocolate and Black malts.

Distilling malts have been kilned to a lower temperature to preserve enzymes and allow a higher diastatic power needed for higher alcohol yield in whisky.

Peated malts are primarily used in whisky to impart smokey flavors but is also used in some beers. This is achieved by allowing peat smoke to drift over malt while being kilned.

Adjunct are unmalted additions. Common adjuncts include rice hulls, or flaked maize, wheat, oats, rye and even barley to add traits such as silkiness, head retention, body or lighten the color. However sorghum, millet and honey can also be used with honey being the primary ingredient for mead.