A Beginner’s Guide to Beer Grains

Grains form the basis of beer but there are quite a few types out there from which you can choose. Which grain is right for your beer? Going it alone here can be a confusing process. The type of grain that you use will contribute an enormous amount to your finished beer, from the final color to the specific gravity. It’s important that you make the right decision on grains, so here is some helpful information to get you started. 

Understanding Basic Grain Types

Grain types, or malts, form the base of beer. Before you leap right into the immense variety of specialty malts out there, it’s actually best to start with the basics. There are several general types of grains available for brewing and each one lends itself to a different range of beer types.

Base Malts

Base malts are exactly what they sound like. These form the base of your beer and provide most of the sugar on which your yeast will thrive. Base malts tend to be pale and they do not add much in the way of flavor or aroma, though you will find a handful of these malts that do have an impact here.

Specialty Grains

In addition to your base malt, you will need to add some specialty grains to your brew. These grains will be responsible for the overall color and flavor of your beer. You will find these labeled as “chocolate malt”, “caramel malt” or “crystal malt”, as well as “black malt”. The more you use of these, the more robust and flavorful your finished beer will be. However, going overboard might cause some unanticipated consequences so it’s best if you start out small and work your way up to higher concentrations batch by batch.

Using Malts in Your Brewing

Because there are so many types of grains (malts) out there, it can be a confusing place for new brewers. The best option for newcomers is to find a couple of recipes that sound appealing and brew them exactly as described, using the malt specified. You can begin experimenting and changing things when you have a firm understanding of how those recipes work (and should taste).

By ensuring that you know how a recipe is supposed to turn out, you will be able to gauge your own results with different specialty grains in the brewing process. Just remember that experimentation is half the fun of brewing at home.

Posted on December 1, 2008 and filed under Brewing.