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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Beer: The Basics - Speciality Grains

Of course all malt begins with grains, so let’s talk a little about them. There are 2 basic ways to use grain in your beer making process. First, you can use all grain to brew. This process will take you about 6-8 hours and involves quite a few more steps then brewing with liquid or dry malt. We are going to limit ourselves to taking about the second way of using grains and that is as a specialty grain.

Specialty grains add flavor and color to your extract beer. These grains are usually crushed and then steeped. You can use a grain crusher if you have one, or put the grains in a baggy and crush them with a rolling pin. The main idea is to break the husk so that the water can get to the inside of the kernel. There are quite a few different specialty grains, but let’s just talk the most common.

The basic grain that is used as a base for beers is called Pale Malt. Usually the color of this grain is almost white and when used gives beer its yellow color. When making beer from extracts, this grain is rarely used as a speciality grain.
Going up the color scale, you will find what is called Crystal or Caramel Malt. These grains will add an amber color to a light extract along with caramel flavor. It will give your beer more body, stability and head retention. 20L, 40 L and 60L are the more common listings for this grain. The 20L refers to the color spectrum on the Lovibond scale. The higher the number the darker the color and the more sweet the caramel flavoring. I generally use a 40L Caramel Malt but I have also used 120L for brewing a sweeter tasting beer.

Chocolate Malt has a Lovibond rating of around 300—350 and will look dark brown in color. Primarily used in Brown Ales, Porters , Dark Lagers and Stouts this will give your beer a dry, chocolatey flavor .

Black Patent Malt color is 500 deg L +/- 25. Flavor can be slight to smokey. Black malt can be used in both ales and lagers to add a touch of color in light beers or to add a dark rich color in porters and stouts. Black malt can impart color and, when used in large quantities, an almost acrid flavor characteristic of stouts and porters. To slightly increase color in light beers; try adding 1/2-1 oz per 5 gallon batch. In darker beers, try 5 oz's per 5 gallons of beer. For porters and stouts; 1-10% of the total grist may be black malt.

Dextrine or Carapils malt's color is 1.5. Adds body (mouth feel); head retention, foam stability without effecting the color of the finished beer. Can be used with or without other specialty grains. Use 5-20% of grist for light colored beers and 2-10% in dark beers to obtain the above desired effects.
So using speciality grains to your extract beers will give you more control over how you brew your beer and to what color and taste that you want to achieve.

3 comments:

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