These malts are often the fun part of a recipe as they bring the flavour. If base malt is the canvas, then specialty malt is the paint. Anything that won’t make up the majority (more than 50 percent) of your beer recipe can be referred to as a specialty malt. Many of these malts spend a longer time in the kiln, at higher temperatures, or get roasted to add depth, complexity, and flavour to the resulting beer.
Specialty grains are used to adjust the beer’s flavour profile and looks even further. Whereas the base malts are used mainly for their fermentable sugars, specialty malts include less in the way of sugars but have a greater influence on the color of the beer. They can add subtle flavours to the beer, or if you want to take it far enough, they can provide a serious change in flavour.
Experimenting with Specialty Grains
One of the good things about specialty grains is that they are fairly easy to experiment with. A brewer can get a good idea of the flavour and colour by steeping them in some warm water, or even chewing on the grains as a whole. Before purchasing your specialty grains ask for some samples to try so that you get an idea of what flavours can be imparted into your beer.
Types of Specialty Grains
Below is a list of some of the more popular specialty grains you will come across when brewing. The list of available grains keeps getting bigger and we challenge you to try them out in your next home brew creation. The table below give you the malt type, its flavour profile and suggest usage amount in your grain bill.
Flavour and Usage
Traditionally made by spraying sour wort on base malt to encourage lactic acid bacteria growth. This adds a sharp, tart flavour that can accentuate the underlying maltiness.
Every 1% of acidulated malt (by weight) of the total grain bill reduces the mash-pH by 0.1 point.
Flavours: Sharp, tart and accentuates maltiness
Malt roasted at a low temperature to provide a sharp bready flavour. Used traditionally in English ales.
Flavours: Sharp bready flavour
Like amber malt, but roasted at higher temperatures. The colour is typically a golden orange 20 to 40°L.
Flavours: Biscuit, nutty, bread crust
Dark amber, Munich 30°L Briess Victory
Malt roasted at a very high (combustion) temperature, which leads to dry, burnt, and bitter flavours. The malt is at risk of catching on fire and is quenched with water during the roasting process.
Flavours: Dry, burnt, bitter
Black, black patent
Often roasted at low temperatures for an extended period of time until colour reaches around a milk chocolate brown of 100°L.
Flavours: Coffee and nutty.
Caramel refers to the dominant flavour of these malts. Often called crystal in reference to the crystallized sugar inside. Sweet and in a wide range of colours and flavours.
Flavours: Sweet, caramel
Comes in a variety of colours and flavours. Malt is roasted and the flavours created most often are similar to coffee and dark chocolate.
Flavours: Coffee, dark chocolate
Pale chocolate, dark chocolate, Weyermann Carafa
A low-colour kilned malt, similar to a base malt, but with no enzymatic power and glassy inside. Dextrin gets its name from the type of sugar inside. It contributes a very pale yellow colour to beer and is often lighter than 2-row and 6-row base malt. Enhances foam and body.
Flavours: Enhances foam and body.
Carapils, Briess Carapils
No malt is called hybrid. This just describes the dual use of caramelizing in a roaster and then further roasting at higher temperatures. Almost always described by a unique product name.
Flavours: Caramel, complex
Briess Carabrown, Special B, extra special, Simpsons Double Roasted Caramel (DRC), etc.
Not technically malt, it is an important specialty ingredient. Barley is added “green” (unmalted) to the roaster, which lends itself a milder burnt flavour profile than black malt.
Flavours: Milder burnt flavour than black malt
Black roasted barley, roast barley, black barley
Typically a base malt that has had smoke flavour added to it (making it a specialty malt). This malt has an intense smokiness and is typically used in restrained quantities.
Specialty Rye, Wheat, Oat, and Other Grain Malts
Any malted grain can be used to make the specialty products described above. Barley is the most popular grain used for brewing, but numerous wheat, rye, and oat specialty products exist as well.
Chocolate wheat, caramel rye, Simpsons Golden Naked Oats, Briess Caracrystal Wheat
We only use premium malts in all of our small batch home brew recipes. Malt brands we include are Voyager, Coopers, Joe White, Weyermann, Barrett Burston & Gladfield.
Home brew recipe creation is an art that any new brewer can master. Once you understand the various ingredients that go into your beer you can create unlimited recipes and styles. Brewing beer is all about the balance of flavours and when you combine yeast, barley, hops and water in creative ways amazing things can happen. This is why they call it craft beer. Get one of our home brew starter kits and mini keg kits and start your journey with us. Just because you are brewing small doesn’t mean you cant dream big. Tag us @smallbatchbrew so we can tell the world about another up and coming Master Brewer.