Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog

~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog - ~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Evaluate your Beer series: Part 1 (Malts)

I am going start a small series that goes more in depth in the flavors and aromas you can expect to find in beer. I will start with the common flavors and aromas contributed by your malt. I hope you find this helpful.

Common Malt Flavors and Aromas

Biscuity: The flavor and aroma of biscuits. Often like fresh baked buttermilk biscuits.

Bready: This descriptor is fairly straightforward. Most of the time when people are talking about a bready flavor or aroma, it is the smell and flavors of your standard white bread.

Brown Sugar: A sweet and brown sugar-like flavor and aroma, sometimes gets mixed in with caramel flavors. But brown sugar tastes like a toned down molasses.

Caramel: Caramel can be complex, and the flavors can vary from light and delicate to heavy. The flavor and aroma itself can range from that of typical milk caramel, to that of more of an old world true caramel candy one would make at home. I suggest the best way to become familiar with the flavor and aroma of true caramel; you make a batch at home. (See Appendix III)  This will also help you differentiate between caramel and toffee flavors. Sometimes people tend to confuse the two.

Chocolate: Often the flavor and aroma of bittersweet, unsweetened, or dark chocolate. At times, you may even experience a milk chocolate flavor and aroma, but most of the time the chocolate flavors are on the dark chocolate side.

Cracker-like: Imagine a saltine cracker without the salt. The flavor is light and delicate, with just the slightest amount of toast.

Crusty: If you take out an uncut loaf of fresh baked French bread and you smell the crust that is the best way to describe that aroma.

Coffee: The coffee flavor and aroma will typically come solely from roasted grain, but some people do make beers with coffee in them. The coffee flavor and aroma can range from very light to almost espresso like.

Corn: Not to be confused with DMS, some grains can impart a sweet corn-like aroma, as do beers that use some form of corn as an adjunct. The best way to differentiate between DMS and grain derived corn aroma is that DMS will be more like a canned corn aroma, but corn characteristics that come from grain is closer to the aroma of fresh corn.

Grainy: The flavor and aroma of fresh grain. It is often very similar to the cereal grape nuts. If you have ever smelled or tasted your grains, which I’m sure you have at some point, that raw flavor and aroma can transfer over to your beer.

Honey: What else can I say? It’s the flavor and aroma of honey. Now, not just the sweetness of honey, but honey itself. This is one item that people really should pay attention to, and smell and taste honey. Put the sweetness of it out of your mind, and pay attention to the aroma and the flavor.

Huskey: A dry and slightly astringent flavor of grain husks.

Melanoidin: Melanoidin flavors and aromas are rich and complex, and actually very hard to describe because it is a flavor and aroma all its own. Munich and Vienna malts are great examples of malts that have a lot of melanoidin flavor and aroma, as well as Melanoidin malt. Melanoidins are formed by the browning action of the beer. If you want to think about what melanoidins flavor is, take some white bread and taste it, then put it in the toaster and toast it. The flavor difference you get is what melanoidin is. I will cover melanoidins a bit more in depth in part 4.

Molasses: The flavor and aroma of molasses. It can range from mild though blackstrap. Molasses is a flavor all on its own, if you are unfamiliar with it, you really should pick some up for training your palate.

Nutty: Often this is the smell and flavor of almonds, but this descriptor can take the form of any nut. Chocolate malt in small amounts can lend nuttiness to the beer as well as some medium range toasted malts.

Raisin: Believe it or not, you can get this flavor from malt. Special B is a good example of malt that can help bring you a raisin-like flavor to the beer.

Roast: The generic flavor and aroma of roasted grain. It will have a burnt and acrid flavor and aroma. In most cases, small doses of that flavor/aroma is OK in many dark styles, but when over done it can be very off putting.

Toast: See Melanoidin.

Toffee: Toffee will often have a brown sugar-like and buttery flavor. It is similar to caramel but a little softer.

Treacle: Treacle is syrup made during the sugar refinement process. You have 2 types of treacle, one lighter shade called golden syrup and one darker shade called black treacle. It is a slightly bitter and very distinctive type of syrup. This is also a flavor to become familiar with by buying some in the store. Some of your darker crystal/caramel malts can impart a treacle-like flavor into a beer.

Home Roasting Your Malts (with Pictures):Updated

(Note: I have a part 2 to this post thatis based on my first run at making Special B, I also have a part 3 which covers more on Melanoidens and other methods of roasting besides the oven (drum roasting, nut roasting, pan roasting, ect)

It’s here! Roasted: the Homebrewer’s Guide to Home Roasting Grain written by yours truly ( Click Here for the Amazon Kindle Version)! It’s available as an Ebook Download through Amazon for only $2.99. The book covers a lot of the information contained in my posts, but also has additional information on base malts, and reading a malt analysis sheet. It’s not the longest book, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of books that cover how to brew and brewing science. This book focuses solely on the art of home roasting grain for beer.

Roasting your own grains is an awesome way to add another personal touch to your homebrew.  I love roasting my own malts and even make my own crystal malt from time to time. It is so easy, and all you need is an oven and some time. Roasting your malts doesn’t take more than an hour at the most, except for crystal malt. Home roasting adds some awesome malt flavor to your beer. I have won awards with some of the beers that have home roasted malts in them. One of them is my highest scoring beer with a 43 out of 50. So great beer with home roasted malts is quite possible. Granted, you don’t have the consistency of professional malts, but you have added more home-made factor to your beer.  For more on this topic or how to do your own crystal/caramel malts I suggest buying Randy Mosher’s Book Radical Brewing, which is where I started to base my roasting methods off of. You can of course purchase my Ebook; Roasted: A Homebrewer’s Guide to Home Roasting Grain.

Why it Works
The roasted grains you get from your homebrew shop, mostly start out exactly like the two or six you pale malt you are buying. The difference is how they are treating the grain afterwards. They have specific process that they follow each time and have exact temperatures and testing equipment to ensure a consistent and stable product. But in the end all they are doing with the malted grain is playing with the browning reaction called Malliard Reactions. Mainly this is an altering of the flavor and aroma of the grain by browning the starches and proteins inside the grain to a specific degree. The changes in color, again the browning of the starches and proteins  change the chemical properties of the grain my changing the melanoidins in the malt. It is reported that this melanoidin change also helps preserve the beer by slowing the oxidation process of the beer.

Before We Begin
There have been some questions on whether it is necessary to let your grains rest for 2 weeks prior to using them. I highly suggest doing so, but if you find you can’t wait, just make sure you are using the lighter roasts. The rest time allows for unwanted aromas that are produced during the browning of the starches in the grain to dissipate. From what I can find, this is mostly for the darker roasts, possibly deep amber and above. I have found that as a general rule, the professional maltsters allow their roasted/toasted grains to rest for 4-6 weeks. I personally have used some grains after a week without any noticeable off flavors or aromas, but then again none of those were the richer roasts.

The Process

  • For Gold Malt (est. 20 L) that is malty, caramelly and rich but not toasty roast your base malt for 25 minutes at 300 degrees F.
  • For Amber Malt (est. 35 L) that is Nutty, Malty, and lightly toasty roast your base malt for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  • For Copper Malt (est. 100 L)that has a strong toasted flavor with some nutlike notes roast your base malt for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F.
  • For Brown Malt (est. 175 L) that has a strong roasted flavor, roast your base malt for 50 minutes at 400 degrees F.
  • For Chocolate Malt (est 200+ L depending on time and heat): You need more heat and control than what you can get in the oven. For Chocolate malt use a clean stainless steel  or cast iron fry pan on low heat, slowly bringing medium-high heat. You need to stir or shake the pan constantly and not let any kernels sit still or you will end up with scorching instead of dry roasting.
  • For Crystal/Caramel Malt soak 1-2 lbs of pale 2 row in just enough water to cover plus about an inch (make sure you use distilled, filtered tap, or spring water). Let soak for a few hours, but no less than 2 hours and no more than 24, I soak for 3-4 hours. Then Put grains into a pan and keep grains about 2″ deep then place into a preheated 180 degree oven (make sure you have a probe thermometer in the oven and not to let the temps inside the stewing grain to go above 160. If they do reduce your ovens temperature) for 1 1/2 hours. Then spread out grain into 2 separate pans and make sure the grains are no more than 1″ deep. Then increase temperature in over to 250 and let bake for 2 hours or until dry. Then if desired remove from oven for light crystal, or use the roasting guide above to create your own darker versions of crystal malt.
  • You can also do what I call Sudo-Caramel malts. To do these you just wet the grain a bit to change the flavor and aroma profile and add a bit of sweetness to the grain. You will not get as much sweetness as if you do a full caramel malt process above, but you will make a great grain for both all grain and steeping grain for extract. Generally what you are going to do is soak the grain for under an hour, I find a half hour works well to impart a bit of wetness to the grain. You can use the same temperatures above to produce similar grains but add a touch of sweetness.


In the end, everything is all up to you. Use these above processes as a guideline, but not as law. Have fun, try different temps and times. Play around with wet or dry roasts as well as caramel malt processes and develop your own specialty malts. There my friends, is a truly unique beer that will be difficult to reproduce. Just don’t fear roasting, your really can’t screw it up if you pay attention to temps and times. The Photos. (you will notice I line my pans with tin foil to avoid getting any oil or grease from previous uses of the pans. You could use dedicated jelly roll pans if you want. But you do not want any oil or fat getting onto your grains)

This is our control picture. This is straight from the sack, 2-row Brewers malt. This is what it looks like before roasting.

This is Deep Amber Malt as described above halfway through the roasting process. I like to stir it halfway through to get a more even toast.

This is finished Deep Amber Malt as described above. This is probably my favorite roast to make.

This is Amber Malt as described above. Slightly lighter than the deep amber.

Here is a side by side of some pale golden malt as I have described above and some unroasted pale 2 row. It is hard to tell the differnece until you do a side by side, then it is obvious.

Golden Malt as I have described in the process at the top of the page.

Crystal Malt in Process.

I like to soak this way for three hours. Then I just pull up the collendar, and pour out the water, then let the malt drip dry for a while. It helps reduce the exess water. Generally, I do a pound to pound and half max.

This grain is not roasted, but it is wet grain. I place it in a small mound then cook it as I have described above. Essentially, you are mashing in the husk.

This is the finished crystal malt. The drying time is the longest part, but once dry and you start the roast, it’s all up to you how to make your crystal/caramel malt. The one in the picture was roasted at 325 degrees for 30 minutes after drying.