Malted barley is essential to making beer; in this article, we’ll give you the best malted barley for homebrewing.
When we talk about malted barley or “malt” in the beer brewing process, we refer to the base grains used in the beer. Barley and other grains (depending on the beer style) give beer its flavor, color, and the sugars necessary for fermentation.
Malted barley is a germinated barley that is dried to stop germination. Then, before brewing, we crush or mill the grains to make the sugars in the grain more available.
Malted barley comes in a few different shapes, and each makes a difference in the qualities of the beer made from them.
- Six-Row: The barley plant has six heads that produce grains. This barley is crowded on the plant, so grains are smaller. Six-row malt creates a milder flavor.
- Two-Row: Each barley plant only has two heads that produce grain. Two-row malt is larger and more uniform in size. Two-row malts are more commonly used in brewing today and tend to produce the most developed flavors.
- Winter Two-Row and Six-Row: As the name suggests, these barley varieties germinate in the winter. These grains are great for higher ABV beers, but they are lower in protein.
So, now that you know some basics about malted barley, here is our list of the best malted barley for homebrewing:
Best Malted Barley For Homebrewing
There are several different variants of malted barley best suited to homebrewing. They can be categorized into the following groups:
These malts are also called “white malts.” They are useful for all-grain brewing and can easily convert their own starches. These malts are also used as a base (hence the name) for beers that use darker roasted malts.
- Pilsner Malt – This malt is perfect for light beers such as pilsners or light lagers. The flavor profile from these malts is bready and light.
- Pale Malt – There are tons of varieties of pale malts. You’ll want to select the right pale malt for your desired beer style. Pale malts will result in a beer with a darker color than the pilsner malt. The flavors from this malt are sweeter but still bready.
- Pale Ale Malt – This one is different from the pale malt. This malt is made specifically for English Style pale ales.
These grains are toasted after drying, using high temperatures and different roasting techniques depending on the malt style.
- Vienna Malt – This lightly roasted malt is perfect for traditional German-style beers or beers that you want to have a light amber to orange color. In addition, this malt has a sweet flavor profile.
- Munich Malt – Generally the same malt as the Vienna style; however, it has a longer roasting time. Munich malts come in “light” and “dark” variations, and both have slightly different flavor profiles. Munich malts can also be used as a hardier base malt.
- Biscuit Malt – Creates a beautiful, dark amber brew. Flavor profiles are that of biscuits and bread. Similar to the Vienna malt, but more robust.
- Amber Malt – Similar again to the Biscuit or Vienna malts. Amber malts are drum roasted typically, which gives beers a slight bitterness. Look for hints of nuts, toffee, and bread in the flavor profile.
- Caramel/Crystal Malt – This malt style is stewed after malting, allowing the sugars to crystalize or caramelize. Caramelized sugars lend a sweeter, more caramel flavor to beers. Caramel malts are staples in high gravity ales and lagers.
- Chocolate Malt – Like the caramel malt, the flavors you can expect with this malt style are similar to bittersweet chocolate and roasted nuts. Chocolate malts are used heavily in brown ales, stouts, and some porters.
- Black Patent Malt – This is the darkest roast malt you can get. It also has the strongest flavor profile. Use this malt sparingly with other malt styles as a way to add color. Too much of this malt will foul the flavor of your beer.
These malt styles are used to add unique flavor profiles to beers and are usually processed in a manner that is different than with other malt styles. These malts have such intense flavor profiles that you only need to use a little to get a great flavor for your beer. Combine specialty malts with your favorite base or roasted malts for best results.
- Smoked Malt – Barley is dried either partially or completely after malting over a wood fire. This gives your beer a smoky flavor, and the nuances of the flavor change with the type of wood used.
- Peated Malt – A smoked malt, where the malt is dried over peat instead of using wood. Peat gives a unique flavor like what you would taste with a peated Scotch.
- Acidulated Malt – You may also see these called Sauermalz (or sour malt). This barley is sprayed with sour wort during germination and before drying. The flavors from this malt are sharp and intensely sour. They will also drop the pH of your wort, so you’ll need to pick your yeast carefully when using this malt.
Final Word On Best Malted Barley
This is just the start of the malt options that you can find for brewing beer. Most homebrewers will discover that this list of basic malts is perfect for just about any beer style you’ll make at home.