Learn­ing Lab: Base Malt

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents -

In this is­sue’s Learn­ing Lab col­umn, digs to the very foun­da­tion of beer to talk about base malts. Don’t skip this if you’re an ex­tract brewer, think­ing it’s not rel­e­vant. It’s still worth­while to have a sense of the trade-offs your ex­tract sup­plier made. As a bonus, this mini-batch ex­per­i­ment is a good in­tro­duc­tion to mash­ing.

WHEN WE SAY THAT base malts are the foun­da­tion of a beer, we mean that they will con­trib­ute the bulk of the sug­ars for the yeast. They usu­ally make up most of the grist, and they sup­ply enough en­zymes to con­vert their own starches as well as those of any ad­di­tional spe­cialty grains or ad­juncts.

At a high level, three fac­tors dif­fer­en­ti­ate these malts: mod­i­fi­ca­tion, di­astatic power, and color. Mod­i­fi­ca­tion refers to how ac­ces­si­ble the starches are within the ker­nel. To­day, most brew­ing malts are well-mod­i­fied, mean­ing that the malt­ster let the ker­nel sprout long enough to start break­ing down the bar­ri­ers to ac­cess­ing the starch. Ear­lier in brew­ing his­tory, malts were much less well-mod­i­fied, so mul­ti­step mash pro­cesses were de­vel­oped to as­sist things.

Di­astatic power de­fines how much al­pha and beta amy­lase the grain pro­vides, which de­ter­mines how ef­fec­tively it will con­vert its own starch along with that of any ad­juncts or spe­cialty grains. (Re­call that al­pha amy­lase chops long starch chains up and beta amy­lase nib­bles the ends into fer­mentable sug­ars.) A base malt with lower di­astatic power, such as

Vi­enna malt, will still be able to con­vert its own starches, but it might be chal­lenged by larger per­cent­ages of non-base malt.

As part of the malt­ing process, the grain is kilned af­ter sprout­ing and an ini­tial pe­riod of growth. The kiln­ing tem­per­a­ture and time af­fect the color, so dif­fer­ent base malts will show some vis­ual dis­tinc­tions.

Types of Base Malts

Bar­ley falls into two main fam­i­lies, 2-row and 6-row (the names de­scribe how the ker­nels are ar­rayed on the stalk). Large com­mer­cial brew­ers tend to fa­vor 6-row, which has smaller ker­nels but higher di­astatic power. Those two bar­ley fam­i­lies ex­pand into six dif­fer­ent base malts, each of them with their own char­ac­ter, but most of these are made with 2-row bar­ley.

2-Row Pale Malt Most of the bar­ley malt avail­able to home­brew­ers is 2-row, but in the case of pale malt, we’re talk­ing about the light­est kilned ver­sion. Two-row pale malt is very light, about 2° Lovi­bond (L). It has fairly high di­astatic power. This is a solid, un­der­stated base malt.

6-Row Pale Malt The 6-row ver­sion of pale malt is sim­i­larly light in color but has an even higher di­astatic power. This makes it a bet­ter match for beers that have a lot of ad­juncts, such as Amer­i­can light lagers. Some peo­ple re­port that 6-row pale malt has a sharper fla­vor com­pared to 2-row.

Pil­sner Malt Pil­sner malt is usu­ally less mod­i­fied than straight pale malt, and it’s typ­i­cally a lit­tle lighter in color. As the name sug­gests, it’s pri­mar­ily used in Pil­sners, but many Bel­gian beers also use it as a base. When not cov­ered up by spe­cialty malts, Pil­sner malt has a dis­tinc­tive soft sweet­ness that of­ten has a honey-like char­ac­ter.

Pale Ale Malt Pale ale malt’s name is easy to con­fuse with plain pale malt, but this 2-row bar­ley is kilned at a higher tem­per­a­ture, mak­ing it about twice as dark as pale malt. It con­trib­utes a more pro­nounced malti­ness, some­times with bis­cu­ity or toasty char­ac­ter and of­ten a light nut­ti­ness. It works well for all but the light­est beers (by color and/or fla­vor).

Vi­enna Malt Vi­enna malt is well-mod­i­fied, but its di­astatic power is lower. As a re­sult, it doesn’t sup­port a lot of ad­juncts on its own, but you can punch it up with some

reg­u­lar pale malt. Like pale ale malt, it’s more heav­ily kilned, yield­ing more color and rich malt char­ac­ter. I think it’s bet­ter at pro­vid­ing toasty char­ac­ter. While its sweet spot is Vi­enna lagers and Ok­to­ber­fests/märzens, it works well in al­most any am­ber beer.

Mu­nich Malt Mu­nich malt is more typ­i­cally used as a spe­cialty grain, but it does have enough di­astatic power to con­vert it­self. At about 6–9°L, it’s quite a bit darker than the other base malts. That color is in­dica­tive of the com­plex malti­ness it con­trib­utes. As a base malt, Mu­nich malt works best in a dunkel or Ok­to­ber­fest.

Time to Ex­per­i­ment

To com­pare these base malts, we’re go­ing to brew a set of 1-gal­lon (3.8 l) mini-batches us­ing a sim­ple recipe. We’re aim­ing for some­thing like a blonde ale but with­out wor­ry­ing too much about nail­ing the style. We’ll fol­low a single-step brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) process, so you won’t need much ex­tra equip­ment or ex­pe­ri­ence with all­grain brew­ing.

This ex­per­i­ment is fairly scal­able. If you want to make all six test batches, that’s great. At a min­i­mum, you should in­clude the 2-row pale, the pale ale malt, and the Pil­sner malt in your ex­per­i­ment.

Our recipe is dead sim­ple. Try to get in the ball­park with the hops, but it’s more crit­i­cal that each batch is the same and that the hops aren’t over­whelm­ing.

Vol­ume (af­ter boil): 1 gal­lon (3.8 liters) OG: 1.052 FG: 1.012 Recipe 2 lb (907 g) crushed base malt 0.25 oz (7 g) Cas­cade pel­let [7.0% AA] at whirlpool 1/2 packet of Safale US-05 yeast

Direc­tions Place the crushed malt into a ny­lon grain bag and set aside.

Heat 3 qt (2.8 l) of wa­ter to 158°F (70°C). When the wa­ter reaches tem­per­a­ture, move the pot off the burner. Dip the bag of malt into the pot and swirl it around. Your goal is to make sure that all of the grain is thor­oughly wet.

Check the tem­per­a­ture of the liq­uid. We’re aim­ing for 152°F (67°C). You may need to heat the liq­uid a lit­tle or add a splash or two of cool wa­ter. In ei­ther case, stir the bag in the pot to nor­mal­ize the tem­per­a­ture.

Once you’re at the tar­get tem­per­a­ture, cover the pot and let the grain bag sit. In win­ter, you may want to wrap it in a blan­ket for in­su­la­tion. We want to mash for about 60 min­utes, but you can check the tem­per­a­ture half­way through. If it has dropped more than a cou­ple of degrees, you should put it back on the burner to kick the tem­per­a­ture back up.

At the end of the hour, heat up an­other 2 qt (1.9 l) of wa­ter to 170°F (77°C). Lift the grain bag out over the pot (if you have a strainer that can sit on the edge of the pot, that would be great). Pour the hot wa­ter over the grain and into the pot to rinse a lit­tle more of the malt sug­ars out.

Top up the pot with an­other quart (946 ml) of wa­ter. Boil the wort for 1 hour, then take the pot off the burner.

Stir the hops into the wort for a whirlpool ad­di­tion. Cover and let sit for 20 min­utes. Then chill the wort to 70°F (21°C), trans­fer into a gal­lon (3.8 l) jug, top­ping up with wa­ter if nec­es­sary. Pitch the yeast and put on the air­lock.

Fer­ment each mini-batch at about 70°F (20°C) un­til FG is reached. Once fer­men­ta­tion is com­plete, bot­tle the batch with about 0.4 oz (12 g) to­tal dis­solved prim­ing su­gar.

Eval­u­at­ing the Dif­fer­ences

Af­ter the beers have each had 2 or 3 weeks to car­bon­ate, it’s time to eval­u­ate the dif­fer­ences. In this case, pay at­ten­tion to aroma and fla­vor first, then get a sense of the mouth­feel. Fi­nally, com­pare the col­ors across the spec­trum of base malts.

If you’ve been fol­low­ing this se­ries, you should be fa­mil­iar with our tast­ing pro­to­col; just re­mem­ber to write down your im­pres­sions. Pour the beer and fo­cus on the aroma. What do you no­tice on your ini­tial sniff? Does that change as you spend more time sink­ing deeper into the aroma? While you’ll cer­tainly no­tice the hops and maybe some of the fer­men­ta­tion char­ac­ter, take spe­cial note of the malt. You may pick up on hints of bread, bread crust, toast, nuts, or honey.

Now, take the first sip and hold it in your mouth for a mo­ment be­fore swal­low­ing. Give it some time to set­tle be­fore you take an­other taste. Look for malt fla­vors that com­ple­ment the aroma. How sweet does it seem? Take a deeper draught and swal­low quickly. Does the malt bring any­thing to the fin­ish, such as a lin­ger­ing sweet­ness? How does the beer feel in you mouth? Is it thin-bod­ied and wa­tery? Or does it have a richer mouth­feel?

Once you’ve tasted each of the sam­ples, con­trast them with one an­other. Does the 6-row pale malt have a sharper char­ac­ter than the 2-row pale? Can you pick up the char­ac­ter­is­tic sweet­ness in the Pil­sner malt batch? Do you get more of a toasty note from the pale ale malt? This is also a good time to look at the ar­ray of glasses. How does the color vary? Does the line-up match ex­pec­ta­tions: Pil­sner malt, pale malt, pale ale malt, then the Vi­enna and the Mu­nich?

Think about how all of these dif­fer­ences would fit the beers you want to brew, whether by style or even just fla­vor pro­file.

Di­astatic power de­fines how much al­pha and beta amy­lase the grain pro­vides, which de­ter­mines how ef­fec­tively it will con­vert its own starch along with that of any ad­juncts or spe­cialty grains. (Re­call that al­pha amy­lase chops long starch chains up and beta amy­lase nib­bles the ends into fer­mentable sug­ars.) A base malt with lower di­astatic power, such as Vi­enna malt, will still be able to con­vert its own starches, but it might be chal­lenged by larger per­cent­ages of non-base malt.

Next Steps

Once you’ve got a good sense of the base malts, you might want to go for ex­tra credit and run the same ex­per­i­ment on a single base malt from dif­fer­ent malt­sters. It could be in­ter­est­ing to see how much dif­fer­ence there is be­tween Breiss, Rahr, and Wey­er­mann, for in­stance. It’s par­tic­u­larly good to com­pare pale ale malts. Each com­pany has its own process and sched­ules, and these can vary more with pale ale malt.

Fi­nally, if you’re an ex­tract brewer, con­sider try­ing this mini-mash ap­proach to brew a more in­ter­est­ing beer recipe. If it goes well, you might want to at­tempt a full all-grain batch.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.