Kilned Malts in Beer Brewing

by Brad Smith on September 11, 2022 · 0 comments

This week I take a look at the kilned malt group, and explain when and why you would want to use kilned malts in your beer brewing recipes.

The Kilned Malt Group

As I explained in my earlier article on malting and malt groups, kilned malts are made using the same basic malting process as base barley malts, and then toasted at varying time and temperature to get the various colors. The group includes: Munich malts, amber malt, biscuit malt, aromatic malt, melanoidin malt, honey malt and brown malt. In general these malts must be mashed to convert them so they are not used in extract brewing.

You can also create your own kilned malts by purchasing pale or pilsner malt and then toasting it in your oven at low temperature. Depending on the time and temperature used you can create a malt very close to any of the kilned malts, as this is the same basic method malsters use to kiln their malt after the basic malting and drying process is complete.

The Flavors and Aromas of Kilned Malts

Because many brewers started brewing with extracts they are more familiar with the Caramel/Crystal malt group than the kilned malt group, as Caramel/Crystal malts can be steeped for extract brewing, while the kilned group malts require mashing. So kilned malts are generally less familiar to beginner and intermediate brewers.

Kilned malts at the low color end like Munich and Light Munich have a malty, slightly caramel finish with a cookie bite to them. As we move up to amber malt, the flavor becomes more biscuit-like with some toast and even light brown chocolate flavors. However the middle kilned malts largely lack the caramel and fruity notes you would get from a caramel/crystal malt. Honey malt tastes nothing like honey, but still has some of the caramel character and flavor of Munich malt.

Medium colored kilned malts like melanoidin start to take on more of a cookie/cake maltiness with less of a toasty flavor. They may have a hint of caramel flavor but again have none of the fruity/raisin flavor you would see from a mid-caramel/crystal malt.

As we move to the darkest kilned malt, which is brown malt we are getting close to the harsh zone, so brown malt should be used more sparingly. Brown malt which was used to make many historical Porters has a deep, toasty mocha flavor with chocolate overtones. It can take on some campfire and burnt toast character if overused.

When to Use Kilned Malts Instead of Caramel/Crystal Malts

Many brewers have trouble deciding when to use Caramel/Crystal malts and when to use Kilned malts of a similar color. Caramel/Crystal malts are made using a different process where the malt is essentially mashed within the grain while it is still wet (after sprouting/growing the seed). This results in conversion of sugars inside the grain husk and then the Caramel/Crystal is dried and kilned at various times and temperatures to create different color malts.

This results in more sweetness from the malt itself and also produces a lot of the fruity flavors we associate with English beers such as raisins, figs, plums, and prunes. The largest difference with kilned malts is that kilned malts lack the fruity flavors.

So, for example if you are making a traditional English ale, brown ale, porter or stout, then a healthy dose of crystal malt is appropriate as the fruity flavors are part of the style. However if you are making a continental lager, certain Belgian beers, German wheat beer, etc…then Crystal malt is not the correct choice. Raisins, prunes, figs, and plums are not appropriate for these styles so you would instead choose a kilned malt.

Many German lagers use a large percentage of Munich malt. This provides a solid malty base, a beautiful color and a hint of caramel without the fruity overtones. If you are making a darker beer like a Bock, again I would lean towards using dark munich, or one of the medium kilned malts over a caramel malt.

This is not to say the style rule is hard and fast. For example I often use brown malt in my English Porters but I will typically use at least one dark Crystal malt as well to bring in some of the roast plum character from those styles. This is part of my strategy to achieve depth of flavor using malts from different malt groups.

I hope this article has helped you to understand kilned malt flavors and their use in beer brewing. Thank you for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube for more great tips on homebrewing.

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