Specialty Malt – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Brewing Ingredients Glossary

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I. What is Specialty Malt?

Specialty malt is a type of malted grain that is used in brewing beer to add color, flavor, and aroma to the final product. It is produced by malting barley or other grains and then roasting or kilning them to achieve specific characteristics. Specialty malt is different from base malt in that it undergoes additional processing to develop unique flavors and colors.

II. How is Specialty Malt Different from Base Malt?

Base malt, also known as brewing malt or pale malt, is the primary ingredient in beer production and provides the fermentable sugars needed for the brewing process. Specialty malt, on the other hand, is used in smaller quantities and is added to the base malt to enhance the beer’s flavor, color, and aroma. Specialty malt undergoes additional processing such as roasting, kilning, or caramelization to develop its unique characteristics.

III. What are the Different Types of Specialty Malt?

There are several different types of specialty malt used in brewing, each with its own unique characteristics. Some common types of specialty malt include:

1. Crystal Malt: Crystal malt is made by kilning malted barley at high temperatures to caramelize the sugars and develop a sweet, toffee-like flavor. It is available in various colors, ranging from light to dark, and adds sweetness and body to beer.

2. Chocolate Malt: Chocolate malt is roasted at high temperatures to develop a dark color and rich, roasted flavor reminiscent of coffee or dark chocolate. It is commonly used in stouts and porters to add depth and complexity.

3. Roasted Barley: Roasted barley is kilned at high temperatures to achieve a deep black color and intense roasted flavor. It is often used in stouts and porters to add bitterness and a dry, astringent finish.

4. Munich Malt: Munich malt is kilned at higher temperatures than pale malt to develop a rich, malty flavor with hints of bread crust and toast. It is commonly used in lagers, bocks, and Oktoberfest beers.

5. Wheat Malt: Wheat malt is made from malted wheat grains and adds a light, bready flavor and smooth mouthfeel to beer. It is commonly used in wheat beers, witbiers, and hefeweizens.

IV. How is Specialty Malt Used in Brewing?

Specialty malt is typically used in small quantities, ranging from a few ounces to a few pounds, depending on the desired flavor profile of the beer. It is added to the mash along with the base malt and other ingredients and undergoes the same mashing and lautering process to extract fermentable sugars. The specialty malt contributes color, flavor, and aroma to the wort, which is then boiled, hopped, and fermented to produce beer.

V. What Flavors and Characteristics Does Specialty Malt Contribute to Beer?

The flavors and characteristics that specialty malt contributes to beer depend on the type of malt used. Crystal malt adds sweetness and body, chocolate malt adds roasted flavors, roasted barley adds bitterness and astringency, Munich malt adds malty flavors, and wheat malt adds a bready character. Specialty malt can also contribute to the beer’s color, ranging from pale gold to deep black, and aroma, with notes of caramel, toffee, coffee, or bread.

VI. How Should Specialty Malt be Stored and Handled?

Specialty malt should be stored in a cool, dry place away from light and moisture to prevent it from becoming stale or developing off-flavors. It is best to keep specialty malt in a sealed container or bag to protect it from pests and humidity. When handling specialty malt, it is important to measure and crush it just before use to preserve its freshness and flavor. Specialty malt should be used within a few months of purchase for optimal results in brewing.