What is Malt in Beer? (Base Malts and Specialty Malts)

Learning more about beers requires you also to get to know the components that go into them, including malt.

Malt is one of the critical ingredients that undergo a specific process and goes into the beer. Understanding the flavor profiles and finding a beer you like would include getting to know malt. So, what is malt in beer?

All About Malt

All About Malt

Malt is the more popular term for malted grains. The reason you always hear this word in conversations about beers is that it is essential to the character of a beer.

The flavor, fragrance, texture when tasted, how long the foam stays on top, and color of the beer are all impacted by the grains used in the brew.

Base Malts

The yeast used in the production of alcohol relies on the starch and enzymes found mostly in base malts. Thus, they have labeled base malts.

The base malt in your beer may have a relatively lesser impact on your beer’s overall flavor compared to other ingredients. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t affect the beer. You need to understand Malt to help you make more informed decisions about the beer you’re brewing or ordering.

A beer’s base malt is essential in the fermentation, and they are a source of the sugars needed for fermentation as well as the free amino nitrogen ingested by the yeast in the process.

  • 2-row malt – This is one of the staple base malts for many drinks, including beer. Since it has a relatively mild flavor, it’s easily paired with other ingredients without being ‘too much.’
  • 6-row malt – 6-row is a more mellow malt produced from 6-row barley. Beers that are brewed with 6-row malt have a grainier flavor profile.

Specialty Malts

While not necessary for all beers, most brewers like to experiment and incorporate specialty malts. These types of malts are usually used in most homebrewing recipes.

Brewers like to integrate modest amounts of specialty malts to provide added unique characteristics like color and flavor. Combining base malts with specialty malts is a great way to customize your beer. These are helpful in creating a unique malt profile that can distinguish your beer from others.

Grains and Malting

Grains and Malting

Grains are among the most significant elements in beer production because they provide beer’s foundational components. Without grains, malt would not be existent and beers can become bland.

As you explore deeper in the procedures of beer-making, it’s crucial to remember that some grains, specifically barley and wheat, require the malting process. For others, malting is not a requirement.


Used popularly as a cereal grain, barley has more applications than any other. This cereal grain can withstand extreme temperature changes, whether heat, cold, or drought. It is easier to brew beer from grain that has germinated.

Germinating barley includes submerging the grains in water. The enhanced enzyme content improves digestibility. Barley malt is frequently blended with other grains to alter and enhance flavor. The use of barley malt in beer serves two purposes: it adds sweetness and gives the beverage more body.


Corn flakes add sweetness and taste to the beer. This sweetener is also referred to as corn sugar. Its rapid fermentation time for beer makes it a great ingredient, plus it’s an excellent sweetener, light, and easy.


There are areas where millet is widespread, and for beer, it produces millet beer. Millet contains a relatively high concentration of glucose, so it essentially accelerates fermentation.


Rice is not only a staple source of energy in many countries all over the world, it’s also one of the staple grains used in making beers. Lagers brewed in Japan frequently use rice as a component.

Like corn, this grain can be used to lighten both pigmentation and the body. On the other hand, the flavor of the beer is not altered nearly as much as when using corn or other grains. If a brewer wants a drier beer, they will probably use rice malt.


Rye also results in grain with a more intense and spicy flavor. Rye can impart a flavor ranging from barely detectable to easily identifiable. This grain also contributes a discernible crispness.


This grain is a popular choice for beer. These grains are rich in starch, which is then converted into sugar. Malted oats are good contributors to a beer’s smooth and creamy texture. This is achieved by reducing the sourness and intensity.


Wheat is among the cheapest grains that give the beer a lighter body. This variety of grain contributes a more airy and delicate texture. They are frequently paired with something with a hint of acidity and a refreshing note.

Types of Beer and Their Malt

Types of Beer and Their Malt

Beer Type Malt Type Characteristics
American IPA Crystal malt ● Deeper color

● Fuller body

● Nice aroma

● Floral

● Fruity


Ale Crystal malt ● Full body

● Darker color

● Bitter

● Fruity

● Spicy

Brown Ale Crystal malt ● Deeper color

● Medium body

● Tones of caramel

● Tones of chocolate

Bock Munic malt ● Dark amber

● Toasty

● Low to moderate carbonation

● Smooth mouthfeel

Cream Ale Pale barley malt ● Light color

● Heavily carbonated

● Light/mild

● Fruity

Kolsch Barley malt ● Golden

● Clean

● Crisp

● Less bitter

● Fruity

Lager Pilsner malt ● Well-balanced

● Mellow

● Lighter color

● Clear

● Sweet

Pale Lager Pilsner malt ● Clean

● Dry

● Subtle flavors

Pilsner Pale malt ● Pale gold

● Tangy

● Earthy

● Crisp

Stout Pale malt ● Opaque

● Brown

● Grainy

● Roasted flavors

Crystal malt

Crystal malts are one of the malt variants produced from barley grain. The process for their production is the same as pale malts. These malts undergo stewing, which involves heating them in an environment where humidity is closed in.

Munic mal

Brewers commonly utilize this type of malt as a specialty malt incorporating unique characteristics into the drink. Munich malt contributes to strong qualities such as a nice golden color, a full body, and a smooth feel.

Pale barley malt

This type of malt is prepared from two-row barley. To replicate the qualities of European pilsners, this malt has a subtle aroma and flavor and is just barely roasted.

Barley malt

This versatile grain is used in various things, and you guessed it right, it’s also a popular source of beer malt. Barley malt has an assortment of flavors ranging from toast to raisins.

Pilsner malt

Pale malt is usually the type of malt used in lagers. They are made from premium 2-row spring barley. It imparts a light yellow hue with sweet hints of honey.

Pale malt

As the name suggests, pale malt is really a pale base malt. It’s one of the most basic malts to try, especially if you are new to brewing. In return, it allows specialty malts without overshadowing them.

The Malting Process

The Malting Process

1. Steeping

The first step in malting is steeping. The steeping process is where water absorption begins. This is also the start of the germination process.

The main goal of the steeping process is to raise the grain’s moisture content by twice as much. This procedure starts with a series of submersions followed by air rests spread out over the course of two to three days.

In the course of this procedure, the grain starts germination and production of carbon dioxide. A beer’s sensory results from its froth, texture, and shelf life are all influenced by the quality of the carbon dioxide used in the brewing process. For these reasons, carbon dioxide is one of the essential things in beer making.

When the essential elements have been uniformly broken down, then the process is done.

2. Germination

After steeping, the process of germination comes next. In the malting process, germination is the stage of control—the chitted barley from steeping proceeds to the germination section.

There, the section is sustained at a controlled temperature, and a steady stream of humidified air is circulated across the room, which in turn kick-starts the germination.

3. Kilning or drying

Kilning is where temperatures are raised again to cease germination and dry the grains. This step includes pumping a significant quantity of heated air through the grain bed.

Kilning is a crucial process because it’s possible to make malts of variable hues by adjusting the temperature and airflow. These alterations also allow for the creation of various flavor profiles, sometimes specific to a type of beer or brand.

4. Roasting

While this is not an essential process in malting, brewers often prefer to undergo this process. This is done after germination. This process involves moving the green malt to another compartment, usually a roasting drum.

Two separate roasting drums are used for the process, with a specific roasting period of between two and thirty minutes up to three hours. The process may increase temperatures by up to 460 C.


Brewing requires various things like ingredients and processes, and this includes malt and malting.

The basic knowledge and a deeper understanding of the malt’s capacity to change and alter a drink will help you in various ways. So, before brewing your own or ordering a specific beer taste to fit your preference, ask, ‘what is malt in beer?’ first.

What is Malt in Beer

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