A Quick Look At The Different Types Of Specialty Malts Used To Make Beer

Specialty Malt For All Grain BrewingWe recently covered a number of popular base malts, which form the majority, or foundation, of a given all-grain beer recipe. Most homebrew recipes will incorporate a small to moderate amount of specialty malts to give the beer additional character, color, and flavor. Every specialty malt has its own unique characteristics that it adds to a beer, which may be used alone or combined with other specialty malts to create a certain malt profile.

So what are some of the most popular specialty malts used in beer? Here’s a rundown of the descriptions of the different types of specialty malts you might use for partial-mash or all-grain brewing.

 

Most specialty malts are made from barley grain, but these first two are made from wheat and rye.

  • Wheat malt – Wheat malt is an adjunct grain that provides bready wheat flavor, body, head stability, and diastatic power, with little impact on color. A little may be added to ales and lagers, or a larger portion may be the backbone of a German weizen. If using a substantial amount of wheat, rice hulls are recommended to prevent a stuck mash.
  • Rye malt – Rye malt can be used in many of the same ways as wheat malt, but provides a distinctly different flavor, often described as spicy. Think of the flavor difference between wheat bread and rye bread. Rye also contributes body, and sometimes a mouthfeel described as oily or slick. Most rye pale ales will only use about 10-20% rye malt, while a German roggenbier may use as much as 100%.

 

All of the descriptions below are for the different types of specialty malts used in beer that are made from barley grain:

  • Carapils® malt – Carapils®, or dextrin malt, is a very lightly colored malt used to increase body and head retention without affecting color. This is accomplished due to the higher level of unfermentable dextrins in this malt. Generally only 5% or less is used in a grain bill.Shop Barley Grains
  • Munich malt– Munich malt can be used as either a base malt or a specialty malt. It is commonly added in smaller amount (1-2 lbs.) to add a malty or bready depth of flavor to the grain bill, though beers may be made with up to 100% Munich malt. Munich malt contains enough diastatic power to self-convert.
  • Aromatic malt – Aromatic malt is a Belgian-style Munch malt contributing, rich, sweet, toasted, and malty flavors to a beer. Commonly used in brown ales and darker Belgian styles such as dubbels.
  • Victory® malt – Victory® malt is a trademarked specialty malt made by Briess. As a lightly roasted malt, it has a nutty, biscuit-flavor characteristic. A small amount (~5%) may add a slight biscuit flavor to a lighter ale or lager. Use more in a darker beer to bring out those same flavors. No diastatic power.
  • Special B – Special B is another darker Belgian-style malt. At 118˚L, it is only appropriate for use in darker beer styles. For example, a pound in a Belgian dubbel or barleywine will contribute strong flavors of raisin or toffee.
  • Caramel malt – Of all the different types of specialty malts, this category is the broadest. A wide range of caramel and crystal malts provide color, body, and flavor to a number of beer styles. They’re rated by color, from 10 to 120 degrees Lovibond. At the lower end of the spectrum, they may offer flavors of caramel, biscuit, or honey. Sweet malt flavors become more rich into the 60 to 80 range. Caramel 90 and 120 offer darker color and flavors of raisins, dates, and burnt sugar. All caramel malts will contribute some unfermentable dextrins to your beer, increasing body and head retention.
  • Carafa malt – This type of specialty malt is a very dark, de-bittered roasted malt. Use it when aiming for a beer with color, but no astringent, roasted bitterness. Commonly used in swarzbier, dunkel, and black IPA, but also works in less roasty stouts and porters. Very dark at 500˚L.Shop Barley Crusher
  • Chocolate malt – A dark roasted malt offering chocolate flavor. A pound is plenty in a five-gallon porter or stout, though as much as two pounds may be used. A very small amount can be used to adjust color in amber or red ales.
  • Black patent – A very dark, very bitter specialty malt. Too much may make your beer taste burnt. Generally, 1-4 oz. of black patent in a stout will contribute plenty of dark roasted flavor and color.

 

This is just a brief list of the more common different types of specialty malts along with a description of their basic characteristics. There are many other specialty grains available that can used in beer as well. What are some of your favorite specialty malts?
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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Quick Guide To Understanding Brewing Water Chemistry

Homebrewer With Brewing WaterIn home brewing, water chemistry can have a huge impact on beer flavor and quality. For one, it has to be clean and free of microbiological contamination. That’s a given to prevent spoilage. But in addition to that, the concentration of minerals in your brewing water can impact not only flavor, but also mash performance, acidity, hop bitterness, yeast health, body, mouthfeel, and other factors. For these reasons, many home brewers pay fierce attention to the chemistry profile of the water they use for brewing.

When looking at the brewing water chemistry, brewers pay attention to the following minerals:

  • Calcium – Lowers pH and helps with mash conversion.
  • Magnesium – Lowers pH and aids yeast health.
  • Sodium – Sodium can help give beer body, but too much might make a beer taste salty.
  • Carbonate/Bicarbonate – These can slow the mashing process and make hop flavors taste harsh.
  • Sulfate – Sulfate can introduce harsh, dry flavors.
  • Chloride – May contribute sweetness.

 

Water Chemistry for Mashing

One of the many ways water chemistry comes into play in home brewing is with the mashing process. This is particularly important for all-grain brewers, but also partial mash brewers. The enzymes in malt need certain conditions in order to covert starches into sugars. One of the primary factors is pH, or acidity. The enzymes work best when working within a specific pH range. Pure water has a pH of about 7, whereas ideal conditions for enzyme activity is about 5.4-5.5. Certain malted barleys can lower pH more than others. Depending on the source water, it may be necessary to add mineral salts to raise or lower the brewing water’s pH for a given beer recipe.

 

Water Chemistry for Brewing Certain Styles

Shop Homebrew BooksSome styles of beer were developed based on the local water profiles of the breweries that made them. To recreate a Munich Dunkel or English Bitter, it may be necessary to replicate the brewing water chemistry of those locations.

Brewing water chemistry analysis and profiles for specific locations is widely available from books such as Homebrewing for Dummies, Designing Great Beers, and others.

 

So How Can Brewers Change Their Water?

Before making changes to your brewing water, it’s very important to establish a starting point, otherwise you’re just shooting in the dark. Consider checking with your local homebrew club. Someone may have already figured out the mineral content of your local water source and offer some recommendations for how to adjust your water, if at all. You can also check with the local water department for a water quality report. Another option is to use only reverse osmosis or distilled water, in which case you’re essentially starting from pure H2O. This would be the purist way of handling your brewing water chemistry.

Shop Water TreatmentOnce you’ve established a baseline, you can add minerals to adjust your water profile. There may be a balancing act between maintaining an appropriate pH level and replicating the water of a particular region. Once the concentration of the minerals listed above are established, a brewer can use the following to make adjustments:

  • GypsumGypsum adds calcium sulfate, which lowers pH. 1 teaspoon per five gallons adds 140 ppm of sulfate and 60 ppm of calcium.
  • Calcium CarbonateCalcium carbonate raises pH. For every teaspoon added to 5 gallons of water, it adds about 60 ppm of carbonate and 36 ppm of calcium.
  • Magnesium Sulfate – As the name suggest, magnesium sulfate adds both magnesium and sulfate. 1 teaspoon in five gallons will increase sulfate by 100 ppm and magnesium by 25 ppm.
  • Table Salt – Table salt contributes sodium and chloride. 1 teaspoon adds 170 ppm of chloride and 110 ppm of sodium.

*Source on ppm data: Homebrewing for Dummies

With these four ingredients, you can manage mash pH and effectively match any global water profile you want.

Though the calculations can certainly be made by hand, there are some water chemistry calculators which can help you determine how much of each to add to reach a certain water profile. BeerSmith is a software program for brewers with water calculations built in. Brewers Friend has a water chemistry calculator. Bru’n Water offers a water chemistry spreadsheet that will help you make adjustments.

 

Shop Digital pH MeterConclusion

Before adjusting your brewing water chemistry, it’s important to know what you’re starting with. To start with a blank slate, use reverse osmosis or distilled water. Otherwise, contact your local water department a water analysis or profile or ask your local homebrew club for help. If those resources aren’t available to you, there are also water testing kits that can help you determine the mineral content of your water. Start paying attention to the mineral content of your water and pay attention to its effects on mash efficiency, yeast performance, and flavor. This is this essence of brewing water chemistry.

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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Dried Malt Extract vs Liquid: Which is Better?

Dried Malt Extract vs Liquid 2There are a number of “this vs. that” debates in homebrewing: dry vs. liquid yeast, single vs. two-stage fermentation, extract vs. all-grain brewing. On both sides of the argument you will hear supporters of their chosen method insist that theirs is better. But often times the answer depends on the brewer, their equipment, their skill level, their time availability, and a number of other factors. It all boils down to personal preference.

The same can be said for dried malt extract vs liquid malt extract. Neither is necessarily better than the other. Both forms of malt extract have their merit, and both have their drawbacks. Let’s break down the difference between both types of malts to determine when you might prefer dried malt extract or liquid syrup in your homebrew.

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Get Sweet On Your Beers: Start Brewing Beer With Honey!

Man Brewing Beer With HoneyWe put it in tea, we mix it into our lip balm and of course it’s good for baking, but for many homebrewers, honey is also a pivotal ingredient for brewing.

From the “ealu” of Great Britain’s Anglo-Saxons to President Obama’s White House Honey Ale, brewing beer with honey has been an important part of the craft. What makes honey so great is its flexibility for brewers, whether they simply want to use it as a fermentable sugar in their boil, as a source of sweet flavor or even as a priming ingredient.

Honey is great as a medium to connect all the aspects of your homebrew, from the sweet taste of wort to herbal aromas of hops and even yeast esters.

So how can you start brewing beer with honey? Here are three different ways:

 

Brewing With Honey In The Boil

For many, the high fermentability of honey provides an easy way to add extra gravity to a beer, since the sugar found in honey is almost entirely fermentable. Unless you’re making mead or braggot, you’ll want to make sure honey isn’t more than about 30 percent of all your fermentable sugars in a brew, depending on the level of honey flavor you seek. For best results, the National Honey Board recommends that when brewing with honey, not using more than 2.5 pounds of honey per five gallons.

A key trick is to know when to add honey. If you want to use it in the boil, consider adding it as a late addition. Due to its high fermentability, using honey early on in the boil can dilute the body of a beer and cause a drier finish when drinking your homebrew. Many beer recipes will call for a honey addition at the very end of a boil (in the last five minutes) or at flameout, which is best for retaining the honey’s aromas and flavors.

 

Brewing With Honey In The Secondary

If you want to avoid using honey on brew day, adding it during secondary fermentation is a good option. It allows you to keep the characteristics of the honey you’ll want to show up in your beer. To eliminate any wild yeasts and bacteria that may be in the honey, it’s important to pasteurize your honey first:Shop Beer Recipe Kits

  1. Preheat an oven to 176°F.
  2. Pour honey into a sanitized, oven-proof saucepan.
  3. As the oven preheats, heat the honey on the stove top to 176°F., stirring occasionally.
  4. Once the honey is 176°F., cover it and put it in the oven for 2.5 hours.
  5. Place the saucepan in an ice bath to lower the honey’s temperature to match that of your beer and pour it into the secondary.

The reason we heat the honey to 176°F. is that this temperature is hot enough to kill off microorganisms, but not so hot that it drives off the honey’s valuable aromas and flavors.

 

Brewing Beer With Honey: As A Priming Sugar

While substituting honey for your normal priming sugar may not add a lot of unique flavor, priming with honey does have the potential to add a small layer of complexity to your beer. Just be sure you only adding the honey for priming, as combining it with any other priming sugar can have explosive results.

If priming beer with honey, the honey will need to be diluted with water before adding to your homebrew. Different honeys have different densities, so there’s no uniform amount of water that may be ideal. You may need a small digital scale to weigh out the honey. Most formulas suggest four to five cups of water should be sufficient to mix with the honey.Shop Accurate Scales

As a precaution, you can bring the water-honey mix to a boil to kill any potential bacteria, the same as you would when mixing any other priming sugar.

Now that you’re ready to start brewing beer with honey, what to make? If you’re feeling experimental, check out the available beer kits from E. C. Kraus and see which beers you may enjoy with a touch of honey!
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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

No-Bull Directions For Using One Step No Rinse Cleanser

One Step No Rinse CleanserThe directions on the container of One Step No Rinse Cleanser simply say to rinse your equipment with the solution. Is there a minimum amount of contact time one must allow for the solution to work prior to using the sanitized equipment? The results of an online search stated anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. I know the safe route would be to let it sit for at least 2 minutes, but I’d rather not stand there waiting if I don’t have to.

Name: Paul
State: Missouri
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Hello Paul,

The One Step No Rinse Cleanser is actually an oxygenating cleanser. This means that it uses a burst of oxygen from the solution to do the sanitizing. This high oxygen level actually destroys any unwanted microbes.

The great thing about any oxygenating cleanser is that it gives the biggest burst of oxygen while the solution is evaporating off the surface of what is being sanitized. In other words, the contact time with the solution is not what really matters. What matters is that the solution be allowed to evaporate without interruption after being taken out of the solution. The amount of time in the One Step solution is not critical. This is way the directions seem so vague.

The only situation when the length of time would matter is if you are treating a piece of equipment that has a lot of tight spots, or has a surface that is complex and Shop Basic A Cleansernot smooth. A couple examples of this would be a nylon brush or a straining screen. In both cases you would want to give “some” time for the solution to work its way in between and onto the surface of each nylon bristle or into the corner of each square of the screen. This could require a few seconds due to the surface tension of the solution.

The flip-side of this is when sanitizing a surface that is smooth, like glass, no time is required in the solution at all. Just dip or apply with a rag and allow to evaporate. Again, the evaporation from the surface is what’s key, not the time in the solution.

If you want to get the most out of the One Step No Rinse Cleanser you would allow your equipment to dry completely before using. However, I understand that following such directions would not be practical in a lot of situations, since it would make things way too time consuming. So as a matter of practicality, I would follow these directions: dip or or wipe with a rag the equipment with the solution of One Step No Rinse Cleanser, then allow to dry for 5 minutes.

One final not I’d like to make is that the One Step No Rinse Cleanser is not a Shop Sanitizerssoap or detergent in any way. It is not designed for or intended to release grime from your wine making equipment. This is something that needs to be done with a dish soap or similar, beforehand. The One Step No Rinse Cleanser is strictly for sanitizing your wine making equipment. It is designed to kill any molds, bacteria, etc.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Using Torrified Wheat For Head Retention

Homebrew With Torrified WheatI’ve been home brewing for just over a year and I’ve heard that adding torrified wheat as an adjunct can improve the head retention in beer and lace work within the glass. However, not once in my circle of friends has any experience of quantity and outcome. I generally brew all grain pale ales using Maris Otter as the base. Is there a recommended amount of torrified wheat to use that will add a creamy head without causing any degradation in clarity?

Name: Kevin Holmes
State: Essex, United Kingdom
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Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your homebrewing question about using torrified wheat for head retention in brewing!

In the context of homebrewing, a good torrified wheat definition would be a type of brewing grain that has been heated in order to break down its cell walls. The idea is that this gives water and enzymes in the brewing mash fast, easy access to the wheat’s proteins and starches, resulting in a quick conversion and a higher yield of fermentable sugars. It’s worth noting however that torrified wheat does not have any diastatic power of its own.

You are correct in your understanding that using torrified wheat in your homebrews can improve head retention in a beer. The torrified wheat percentage needed in a grist is approximately 5-10%. This amount can make a big improvement in head formation Shop Barley Grainsand retention. Briess recommends using up to 40% torrified wheat in a beer recipe, with the upper limit being for a weizen, Belgian witbier, or other wheat beer. If mashing with a significant proportion of wheat, rice hulls are recommended in order to avoid a stuck mash.

Please note that these same benefits can come from brewing with malted wheat, instead of torrified wheat. Both the red wheat and white wheat varieties are great alternatives for producing head retention. But unlike torrified wheat, malted wheat also has a significant amount of diastatic power (160-180 DP), worth considering if using a high proportion of wheat in a grain bill. Again, as little as 5-10% can improve head formation and retention. Personally, I have had good results using as little as half a pound of wheat malt in a 5 gallon pale ale recipe. The improvement in head retention was certainly noticeable.

If you’re looking for ways to improve head performance, other than using torrified Shop Barley Crusherwheat or malted wheat, you may also want to look into using Carapils malt (sometimes called dextrin malt). If for some reason you want to avoid using wheat, this is the way to go. Briess recommends using 1-5% of Carapils in your grain bill for improved body and head retention, without significantly impacting your beer’s color or flavor.

Kevin, thanks again for your great question about using torrified wheat in brewing for head retention. Anyone else have suggestions for controlling head retention in their beers?
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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Brewing With Chili Peppers For Fun And Torture

Beer With Chili PeppersBeer drinkers are an eclectic bunch. Some are hop-heads and some prefer malt bombs, but mixed in with the plethora of sects is a smaller group – those who like it hot.

You may have noticed commercial breweries experimenting more by brewing with chili with peppers, recently. Stone has the painfully hot Crime and Punishment and Twisted Pine has the infamous Ghost Face Killah. But there’s no need to go to the extreme with your homebrew!

If you’re looking for unique heat or some layered vegetable flavor, there are lots of ways to go about adding chili peppers to your beer – and lots of peppers to use – when brewing with chili peppers.

 

What Kind of Homebrew?

Before you find the kind of pepper you want to use, it’s important to determine the style of homebrew you’d like to make. The homebrew you use as your base beer will help you pick what kind of chili peppers to use and how much heat you want to feature.

For example, you could brew something light, like a lager, which could help really showcase aspects of a pepper, all the way up to a stout, which can balance the spice and heat with its own sweet maltiness and roasted characteristics. Here’s a chipotle porter recipe as an another example.

The first time I tried brewing with chili peppers I used a blonde ale base because I wanted the pepper to be front and center. It was perfect for my love of hot food, but a little too much heat came through for other drinkers. Find a style that you enjoy and that will allow you to feature the right amount of heat.

 

Which Peppers to Use?

Once you’ve got a beer style picked out, consider these three popular chili peppers to reach your desired level of intensity:

  • Anaheim: This pepper may be ideal for those who don’t want a ton of spicy heat, as it falls relatively low on the Scoville heat scale. As a mild pepper, it mixes a little bit of sweetness with low-level heat. Anaheim peppers will be good for lighter-bodied brews with a touch of heat.Shop Steam Freak Kits
  • Jalapeño: Chances are you’re familiar with this pepper, which is often found in spicy food dishes. Jalapeños offer stronger heat than Anaheim peppers and fall about midway on the Scoville scale. Chipotle peppers – smoked jalapeños – also make an excellent option when brewing with chili peppers. The smoke adds another layer to the pepper heat and flavor. Consider jalapeños to be good for just about any beer style, depending on your tolerance for heat.
  • Habañero: Among the hotter peppers easily found at grocery stores, habañero peppers aren’t for everyone, thanks to a heat level many times that of a jalapeño. If you love spicy heat, adding this chili pepper to heartier beers like porters or stouts that can withstand the heat.

 

When to Add Chili Peppers to a Brew

Like other unique ingredients (such as herbs and fruit), you’ve got options for when to add peppers in your homebrew. You can leave them whole if you want to minimize heat or slice them in half to expose seeds and the vegetable’s membrane, which contain capsaicin, the compound that makes a pepper hot.

Other timing options when brewing with chili peppers:

  • Late-boil: This will add heat, but little aroma to your beer. Add peppers at the very end of the boil and let them sit in the wort for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Primary fermentation: If you want a bit more balance, adding peppers during primary fermentation will offer some heat, pepper flavor, and aroma. Just make sure to sanitize or gently blanch peppers them before putting them in your carboy or bucket.
  • Secondary fermentation: To get the most flavor, aroma, and heat from your peppers, try adding them after primary fermentation. This offers the option of starting with a pepper or two, and then you can taste the beer to find out if you want to add more during the secondary process.
  • In the bottle: For pepper enthusiasts only! Adding a pepper straight into a beer bottle will leave no doubt as to what you’re drinking!Shop Home Brew Starter Kit

 

How Adding Chili Peppers Impact Your Homebrew

When brewing with chili peppers you’ll definitely get a pepper flavor in your beer, but it’s important to know that how you use peppers may also affect the head retention of a beer.

If you’re using seeds and other exposed parts of the chili pepper, oils from the vegetable may seep into your beer, greatly reducing head retention. In my experience with a jalapeño blonde ale, carbonation wasn’t a problem, but little to no foam remained in my glass a few minutes after it was poured.

Think you can stand the heat? A good place to start for first-timers is with selecting a homebrew recipe kit. Find a brew you like and think will support the pepper heat and give it a shot. It’s an easy way to test pepper flavors and discover the kick they can add to your homebrew!
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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

Brewing Beer With Corn (Maize) – History and Technique

Corn Maize In BeerCorn, also known as maize, is most frequently used in brewing as an adjunct grain to lighten beer body, color, and flavor. Though the macro brewers bastardized its use to some extent, today’s craft brewers may find that using corn in beer has its place. Some styles (cream ale, for one) have found a home among brewers who hope to demonstrate that it is possible to make artistic, flavorful beer with maize.

Corn actually played a significant role in brewing long before the modern craft beer revolution. Foreseeing the need for a potable beverage, the earliest European settlers carried malt with them to the New World. But when that ran out, they often turned to brewing beer with corn. Malting maize turned out to be quite a challenge, but the determined settlers found a way to make it work — two ways in fact, as shared in the book Brewed in America.

The easiest method was to bake copious amounts of corn bread. When it came time to make beer, the brewers would just toss the loaves right in the mash tun to make wort! This avoided the process of malting the maize, which turned out to be more difficult than malting barley or wheat.

For those determined to malt the local maize, they found that the best way to do this was to dig a large hole in the ground, wait for the corn to sprout, dig it all up again, wash it, then kiln it. Clearly these settlers were desperate for beer!

Even before the colonists arrived in the New World, chicha was brewed in South America among the Peruvian Incas. Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione attempted a chicha, and while the end result doesn’t sound very authentic, it’s definitely entertaining to read about.Shop Steam Freak Kits

Of the craft brewers making beer with corn, one in particular stands out. Charlottesville, VA’s Starr Hill Brewing Company researched what Thomas Jefferson might have brewed at Monticello and developed a beer recipe for their limited release Monticello Reserve Ale. Flaked corn is used for a touch of sweet corn flavor, but it’s not at all overwhelming. The beer won a Silver Medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.

 

Methods for Brewing Beer with Corn

Because corn has a higher gelatinization temperature than barley, it must be cooked prior to mashing. Malting corn is a difficult process and as a result, most brewers will use one of the three forms below:

  • Flaked MaizeFlaked maize can account for as much as 20-40% of the total grain bill, depending on the style. The corn is pressed through hot rollers, so the flakes can be added directly to the mash without prior cooking.Shop Barley Crusher
  • Corn Grits – Corn grits must be cooked in a separate vessel before being added to the mash. Otherwise, use them in the same way as flaked corn.
  • Corn Sugar – Most commonly used as priming sugar, corn sugar can also be added to the kettle to increase alcohol content without significantly affecting body, color, or flavor. I wouldn’t advise using more than a pound in a five-gallon batch, two at the most, otherwise your beer may become thin and cidery.

 

Interested in brewing beer with corn or maize? Consider the Brewer’s Best Cream Ale Recipe Kit.
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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Using Finings In Beer For That Professional Look!

Beer With Finings Used In ItProfessional brewers often filter their beers to make them clearer, but homebrewers can also achieve clarity without a filter. Enter: beer finings.

Using finings in beer will give it a brilliantly clear appearance. While clarity may not affect a drinker’s perception of aroma or flavor, appearance makes a key first impression when evaluating your homebrew.

Home brew beer finings work by electromagnetically attaching themselves to some of the materials which cause haze: protein, yeast, tannins. Sounds pretty science-y, I know, but you don’t need a Ph. D. to make clear beer! Here’s some basic instructions on using homebrew fining agents.

When considering different beer finings, there are two types: kettle finings and finings added to the fermenter. Both types may be used in combination within the same brew, but you may find that one or the other is adequate for your needs. Using three different finings in your beer is probably not necessary.

 

Type of Beer Fining Agents

  • Irish Moss – One of the most common beer finings for homebrewers, Irish moss is a type of seaweed that contains something called carrageenan. It works by aiding in protein coagulation, helping protein settle out during the cold break (i.e. when wort is chilled). When using Irish moss as a fining in beer, the more quickly you can chill your wort, the more effectively the protein will settle out of suspension.
  • Isinglass – Isinglass has been used in the brewing industry for hundreds of years. It’s a collagen derived from the swim bladders of fish. Being positively charged, it attaches to negatively charged yeast and other particulates and helps them to settle out more quickly. Use isinglass at least 24 hours prior to bottling your homebrew.Shop Bottling Bucket
  • Gelatin – Similar to Isinglass, gelatin is a beer fining derived from animal collagen. It works by attaching to negatively charged yeast and protein, thereby increasing the size of the particle and helping it to settle out.

 

Since Irish moss is negatively charged and the collagen finings are positively charged, you may find that using them both produces good results. When using finings in beer, be sure to follow the instructions on the package and mix the fining agent appropriately. There’s no need to use more than is recommended by the manufacturer.

 

Other Tools for Clarification

If using finings in beer is something you are hesitant to do, you can still clear your beer with other methods:

  • Time – Given enough time, any particulate that’s more dense than beer will settle out eventually. Consider lengthening your secondary fermentation period to improve clarity. Time can often clear a beer just a well as any beer fining.
  • Temperature – Cold temperature helps protein and tannin particulate settle out. As little as a day of refrigeration can make a big difference in clarity.Shop Irish Moss
  • Filtration – If you’re in a rush, you can certainly save time by filtering your homebrew beer. These systems are not inexpensive, and you may need a draft system to push the beer through the filter.

 

Remember that some beers are supposed to be cloudy, in particular, hefeweizens and witbiers. You may wish to omit using finings in such beers. But for your pale ales, porters, and lagers, a bit of home brew beer finings may be just what you need for a crystal clear brew!
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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

The Difference Between Malt Extract vs All Grain Brewing

Pouring Malt ExtractOne of the eternal debates in the world of homebrewing is around the merits of malt extract vs all grain brewing. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the questions. Homebrewers who love to make beer the way the professionals do it prefer all grain brewing. Homebrewers with limited time, space, and equipment may find it easier to brew with malt extract. Though you will hear some people say that all grain brewing makes better beer, it is certainly possible to make great beer with malt extract, and conversely bad beer with all grain. Taste is not a concern here.

Whether you brew using extract or grain, it will ultimately be a decision based on your needs and constraints. Here are some of the primary differences between malt extract vs all grain brewing to consider when deciding which method to use in your home brewery:

 

Malt Extract Benefits

  • Faster: With extract brewing, there’s no need to wait 60 minutes for the mash. Just mix the extract with water and you’re ready to start the boil. If you play your cards right, you can be done with a brew in as little as two hours, including cleanup.
  • Easier: Again, with extract brewing, we skip the mash. That means no measuring pH and no measuring temperature.
  • Less equipment required: When brewing with malt extract, there’s no need for a separate mash tun. This can easily save the homebrewer a hundred dollars or more.
  • Less kettle capacity required: When brewing malt extract vs all grain, it’s typical to brew with a smaller kettle. Again, the smaller kettle makes extract brewing more economical for the budget brewer.

 

Malt Extract Drawbacks

  • Higher ingredient cost: You will likely pay more for the malt and hops when brewing with extract. Malt extract tends to cost more than the amount of grain needed to achieve the same gravity. Additionally, extract brewers often use a higher gravity boil. Due to the higher gravity of the boil, hop utilization decreases and it takes more hops to extract an equal amount of bitterness.Shop Liquid Malt Extract
  • More difficult to brew lightly colored beers: Between two beers brewed to the same original gravity, one extract, one all-grain: the extract brew will most likely be darker. This can make it tricky to get beers like wits, Kölsches, and hefeweizens to come out on the lighter end of the color spectrum.

 

All Grain Brewing Benefits

  • Ingredients cost less: As previously mentioned, you will probably spend less money brewing all grain vs malt extract when brewing the same beer.
  • It’s how the pros do it: If you have aspirations to be a professional brewer, you should learn how to brew all-grain. The mechanics of mashing is very important component of brewing great beer.

 

All Grain Brewing Drawbacks

  • Takes longer: A mash of 60 minutes or longer – plus the sparge – adds a significant amount of time to the brew day. If you’re tight on time, you may want to stick with malt extract.
  • More mess: The mash leaves behind a significant amount of wet grain. You have to account for the extra time required to dispose of the grains and clean the mash tun.Shop Barley Crusher
  • Requires more equipment: As mentioned earlier, all-grain brewing requires some additional equipment. The most economical way to get into all-grain brewing is Brew in a Bag.

 

There you have it: the pros and cons of malt extract vs all grain brewing. Whether you choose extract or all grain will depend on your cash flow, level of experience, and time availability. Regardless of the method you choose, be confident that you can brew great beers with great taste either way!
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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.