Mash ingredients

Mash ingredients

Mash ingredients or grain bill are those materials used in brewing from which a wort can be obtained for fermenting into alcohol. The act of creating and extracting fermentable and non-fermentable sugars and flavor components from grain by steeping it in hot water, and then allowing it to rest at specific temperature ranges in order to activate enzymes that will convert the starches to sugars is called mashing. The sugars, having been run off from the mash ingredients, will later be converted to alcohol and other fermentation products by yeast in the brewing process.

The primary type of mash ingredient is grain that has been malted. Modern-day recipes generally consist of a large percentage of a light malt and, optionally, smaller percentages of more flavorful or highly-colored types of malt. The former is called "base malt"; the latter, "specialty malts".

The grain bill of a beer may vary widely in the number of ingredients. For example, Abbeydale Brewery's "Absolution", a pale ale, uses only one mash ingredient: pale malt; meanwhile, Salopian Brewing Company's "Entire Butt", a black porter, declares the following fourteen ingredients in its grain bill: pale malt, lager malt, wheat malt, pale and dark crystal malts, pale and dark chocolate malts, caramalt, torrefied wheat, amber malt, brown malt, and malted oats.


Each particular ingredient has its own flavor which contributes to the final character of the beverage. In addition, different ingredients carry other characteristics, not directly relating to the flavor, which may dictate some of the choices made in brewing: nitrogen content, diastatic power, color, modification, and conversion.

The color of a grain or product is evaluated by the American Society of Brewing Chemists Standard Reference Method (denoted both SRM and ASBC, although the two methods are equivalent); the older Lovibond series 52 standard, (°L), which corresponds closely to SRM; or by the European Brewery Convention (EBC) standard. The British Institute of Brewing (IOB) standard was formally retired in 1991, but is still occasionally seen in the United Kingdom.

Diastatic power for a grain is measured in degrees Lintner (°Lintner or °L, although the latter can conflict with the symbol °L for Lovibond color); or in Europe by Windisch-Kolbach units (°WK).


The oldest and most predominant ingredient in brewing is barley, which has been used in beer-making for thousands of years. Modern brewing predominantly uses malted barley for its enzymatic power, but ancient Babylonian recipes indicate that, without the ability to malt grain in a controlled fashion, baked bread was simply soaked in water. European brewers generally make use only of two-row barley; while brewers in North America mainly use six-row barley.

Malted barley dried at a sufficiently low temperature contains enzymes such as amylase which convert starch into sugar. Therefore, sugars can be extracted from the barley's own starches simply by soaking the grain in water at a controlled temperature; this is mashing.

Pale malt

Pale malt is the basis of pale ale and bitter and the precursor in production of most other British beer malts. Dried at temperatures sufficiently low to preserve all the brewing enzymes in the grain, it is light in color and, today, the cheapest barley malt available due to mass production. It can be used as a "base malt", that is, as the malt constituting the majority of the grist, in many styles of beer. Typically, English pale malts are kilned at 95-105 °C. Color ASBC 2-3/EBC 5-7. Diastatic power (DP) 45 °Lintner.

Mild malt

Mild malt is often used as the base malt for mild ale, and is similar in color to pale malt. Mild malt is kilned at slightly higher temperatures than pale malt in order to provide a less neutral, rounder flavor generally described as "nutty". ASBC 3/EBC 6.

tout malt

Stout malt is sometimes seen as a base malt for stout beer; light in color, it is prepared so as to maximize diastatic power in order to better-convert the large quantities of dark malts and unmalted grain used in stouts. In practice, however, most stout recipes make use of pale malt for its much greater availability. ASBC 2-3/EBC 4-6, DP 60-70 °Lintner.

Amber malt

Amber malt is a more toasted form of pale malt, kilned at temperatures of 150-160 °C, and is used in brown porter; older formulations of brown porter use amber malt as a base malt. Amber malt has a bitter flavor which mellows on ageing, and can be quite intensely flavored; in addition to its use in porter, it also appears in a diverse range of British beer recipes. ASBC 50-70/EBC 100-140; amber malt has no diastatic power.

Brown malt

Brown malt is a darker form of pale malt, and is used typically in brown ale as well as in porter and stout. Like amber malt, it can be prepared from pale malt at home by baking a thin layer of pale malt in an oven until the desired color is achieved. 50-70 °L, no enzymes.

Chocolate malt

Chocolate malt is similar to pale and amber malts but kilned at even higher temperatures. Producing complex undertones of vanilla and caramel (but not chocolate), it is used in porters and sweet stouts as well as dark mild ales. It contains no enzymes. ASBC 450-500/EBC 1100-1300.

Black malt

Black malt, also called patent malt or black patent malt, is barley malt that has been kilned to the point of carbonizing, around 200 °C. The term "patent malt" comes from its invention in England in 1817, late enough that the inventor of the process for its manufacture, Daniel Wheeler, was awarded a patent. Black malt provides the color and some of the flavor in black porter, contributing an acrid, ashy undertone to the taste. In small quantities, black malt can also be used to darken beer to a desired color, sometimes as a substitute for caramel. Due to its high kilning temperature, it contains no enzymes. ASBC 500-600/EBC >1300.

Crystal malt

Crystal malts are prepared separately from pale malts. They are high-nitrogen malts which are wetted and roasted in a rotating drum before kilning. They produce strongly sweet toffee-like flavors and are sufficiently converted that they can be steeped without mashing to extract their flavor. Crystal malts are available in a range of colors, with darker-colored crystal malts, that is, those kilned at higher temperatures, producing stronger, more caramel-like overtones. Some of the sugars in crystal malts caramelize during kilning and become unfermentable; hence, addition of crystal malt will increase the final sweetness of a beer. They contain no enzymes. ASBC 50-165/EBC 90-320; the typical British crystal malt used in pale ale and bitter is around ASBC 70-80.

Distillers malt

Standard distillers malt or pot still malt is quite light and very high in nitrogen compared to beer malts. These malts are used in the production of whiskey and generally originate from northern Scotland.

Peated malt

Peated malt is also available; this is distillers malt that has been smoked over burning peat in order to add a dark aroma and flavor characteristic of Islay whisky and some Irish whiskey. Some recent brewers have also included peated malt in interpretations of Scotch ales, although this is generally anhistorical. It has sufficient diastatic power to self-convert. When used in large amounts, the resulting beer tends to have a very strong earthy and smoky flavour which most mainstream beer drinkers would find repulsive.

Pilsener malt

Pilsener malt, the basis of Pilsener lager, is quite pale and strongly flavored. Invented in the 1840s, Pilsener malt is the lightest-colored generally-available malt, and also carries a strong, sweet malt flavor. Usually a Pilsener beer's grain bill consists entirely of this malt, which has enough enzymatic power to be used as a base malt. The commercial desirability of light-colored beers has also led to some British brewers adopting Pilsener malt (sometimes described simply as "lager malt" in Britain) in creating golden ales. In Germany, Pilsener malt is also used in some interpretations of the Kölsch style. ASBC 1-2/EBC 3-4, DP 60 °Lintner.

Vienna malt

Vienna malt or Helles malt is the characteristic grain of Vienna lager and Märzen; although it generally takes up only ten to fifteen percent of the grain bill in a beer, it can be used as a base malt. It has sufficient enzymatic power to self-convert, and it is somewhat darker and kilned at a higher temperature than Pilsener malt. ASBC 3-4/EBC 7-10, DP 50 °Lintner.

Munich malt

Munich malt is used as the base malt of the bock beer style, especially doppelbock, and appears in dunkel lager in smaller quantities. While a darker grain, it has sufficient diastatic power to self-convert, despite being kilned at temperatures around 115 °C. ASBC 4-6/EBC 10-15, DP 40 °Lintner.


Rauchmalz is a German malt that is prepared by being dried over an open flame rather than via kiln. The grain has a smoky aroma and is an essential ingredient in Bamberg Rauchbier.

Acid malt

Acid malt, whose grains contain lactic acid, can be used as a continental analog to Burtonization. Acid malt lowers mash pH, and provides a rounder, fuller character to the beer, enhancing the flavor of Pilseners and other light lagers. Lowering the pH also helps prevent beer spoilage through oxidation.

Honey malt is an intensely-flavored, lightly-colored malt. 18-20 °L.

Melanoidin malt, a malt like the Belgian Aromatic malt, adds roundness and malt flavor to a beer with a comparably small addition in the grain bill. It also stabilizes the flavor.

Unmalted barley

Unmalted barley kernels are used in mashes in Irish whiskey.

Roast barley are unmalted barley kernels which has been toasted in an oven until almost black. Roast barley is, after base malt, usually the most-used grain in stout beers, contributing the majority of the flavor and the characteristic dark-brown color; undertones of chocolate and coffee are common. ASBC 500-600/EBC >1300 or more, no diastatic activity.

Black barley is like roast barley except even darker.

Flaked barley is unmalted, dried barley which has been rolled into flat flakes. It imparts a rich, grainy flavor to beer and is used in many stouts, especially Guinness stout; it also improves head formation and retention.

Torrefied barley is barley kernels that have been heated until they pop like popcorn.

Other grains


Wheat malt

Beer brewed in the German Hefeweizen style rely mostly or entirely on malted wheat as a grain, as does Belgian witbier. Lambic also makes heavy use of wheat. Under the Reinheitsgebot, wheat was treated separately from barley, as it was the more expensive grain.

Torrefied wheat

Torrefied wheat is used in British brewing to increase the size and retention of a head in beer. Generally it is used as an enhancer rather than for its flavor.

Raw wheat

Wheat flour

Until the general availability of torrefied wheat, wheat flour was often used for similar purposes in brewing. Wheat flour was also, erroneously, used as a yeast food in medieval and renaissance brewing; flour would be cast into the fermenter to feed top-floating yeasts, which have no means of absorbing the raw flour. Brewer's flour is only rarely available today, and is of a larger grist than baker's flour.


The use of rye in a beer typifies the rye beer style, especially the German "Roggenbier". Rye is also used in the Slavic kvass and Finnish sahti farmhouse styles, as readily-available grains in eastern Europe. However, the use of rye in brewing is considered difficult as rye lacks a hull (like wheat) and contains large quantities of beta-glucans compared to other grains; these long-chain sugars can leach out during a mash, creating a sticky gelatinous gum in the mash tun, and as a result brewing with rye requires a long, thorough beta-glucanase rest. Rye is said to impart a spicy, dry flavor to beer.

orghum & Millet

Sorghum and millet are often used in African brewing. As gluten-free grains, they have gained popularity in the Northern Hemisphere as base materials for beers suitable for people with coeliac disease. Sorghum produces a dark, hazy beer, however, and sorghum malt is difficult to prepare and rarely commercially available outside certain African countries. Millet is an ingredient in chhaang and pomba, and both grains together are used in oshikundu.

Rice & Corn

In North America, rice and corn are often used by commercial breweries as a means of readily adding fermentable sugars to a beer cheaply, due to the ready availability and low price of the grains. However, corn is also the base grain in chicha and some caium, as well as Bourbon whiskey; while rice is the base grain of happoshu and various mostly Asian fermented beverages often referred to as "rice wines" such as sake and makkoli; corn is also used as an ingredient in some Belgian beers such as Rodenbach to lighten the body.

Corn was originally introduced into the brewing of American lagers because of the high protein content of the six-row barley; adding corn, which is high in sugar but low in protein, helped thin out the body of the resulting beer. Increased amounts of corn use over time led to the development of the American pale lager style. Corn is generally not malted, but instead introduced into the mash as flaked, dried kernels.

Brewers should notice that corn and rice don't contain any enzymes. It is therefore required that these adjuncts are used together with enzyme rich adjuncts, such as normal malts. Prior to a brew, rice and corn should be cooked for about an hour to allow the starch to gelatinize and thereby render it convertible.

Non-grain solids

Buckwheat and quinoa, while not grains, both contain high levels of available starch and protein, while containing no gluten. Therefore, some breweries use these plants in the production of beer suitable for people with coeliac disease, either alone or in combination with sorghum.

yrups and extracts

Another way of adding sugar or flavoring to a malt beverage is the addition of natural or artificial sugar products such as honey, white sugar, or malt extract. While these ingredients can be added during the mash, the enzymes in the mash do not act on them. Such ingredients can be added during the boil of the wort rather than the mash, and as such, are also known as "copper sugars".

One syrup which is commonly used in the mash, however, is diastatic malt extract or DME. DME is prepared by fully converting base malt, then draining the resulting mash, still including amylases, and evaporating it down to a high density. DME is used exclusively in homebrewing as a substitute for base malt. It typically has a diastatic power of around 100 °Lintner.

Regional differences


British brewing makes use of a wide variety of malts, with considerable stylistic freedom for the brewer to blend them. Many British malts were developed only as recently as the Industrial Revolution, as improvements in temperature-controlled kilning allowed finer control over the drying and toasting of the malted grains.

The typical British brewer's malt is a well-modified, low-nitrogen barley grown in the east of England or southeast of Scotland. In England, the best-known brewer's malt is made from the Maris Otter strain of barley; other common strains are Halcyon, Pipkin, Chariot, and Fanfare. Most malts in current use in Britain are derived from pale malt and were invented no earlier than the reign of Queen Anne. Brewing malt production in Britain is thoroughly industrialized, with barley grown on dedicated land and malts prepared in bulk in large, purpose-build maltings and distributed to brewers around the country to order.

Continental Europe

Before controlled-temperature kilning became available, malted grains were dried over wood fires; Rauchmalz ( _de. smoked malt) is malt dried using this traditional process. In Germany, beech is often used as the wood for the fire, imparting a strongly smoky flavor to the malt. This malt is then used as the primary component of rauchbier; alder-smoked malt is used in Alaskan smoked porters. Rauchmalz comes in several varieties, generally named for and corresponding to standard kilned varieties (e.g. Rauchpilsener to Pilsener); color and diastatic power are comparable to those for an equivalent kilned grain.

Similarly to crystal malts in Britain, central Europe makes use of caramel malts, which are moistened and kilned at temperatures around 55-65 °C in a rotating drum before being heated to higher temperatures for browning. The lower-temperature moistened kilning causes conversion and mashing to take place in the oven, resulting in a grain's starches becoming mostly or entirely converted to sugar before darkening. Caramel malts are produced in color grades analogous to other lager malts: carapils for pilsener malt, caravienne or carahell for Vienna malt, and caramunch for Munich malt. Color and final kilning temperature are comparable to non-caramel analog malts; there is no diastatic activity. Carapils malt is sometimes also called dextrin malt. 10-120 °L.

The United States

American brewing combines British and Central European heritages, and as such uses all the above forms of beer malt; Belgian-style brewing is less common but its popularity is growing. In addition, America also makes use of some specialized malts:

6-row pale malt is a pale malt made from a different species of barley. Quite high in nitrogen, 6-row malt is used as a "hot" base malt for rapid, thorough conversion in a mash, as well as for extra body and fullness; the flavor is more neutral than 2-row malt. 1.8 °L, 160 °Lintner.

Victory malt is a specialized lightly-roasted 2-row malt that provides biscuity, caramel flavors to a beer. Similar in color to amber and brown malt, it is often an addition to American brown ale. 25 °L, no diastatic power.

Other notable American barley malts include Special Roast and coffee malt. Special Roast is akin to a darker variety of victory malt.


Belgian brewing makes use of the same grains as central European brewing. In general, though, Belgian malts are slightly darker and sweeter than their central European counterparts. In addition, Belgian brewing uses some local malts:

Pale malt in Belgium is generally darker than British pale malt. Kilning takes place at temperatures five to ten °C lower than for British pale malt, but for longer periods; diastatic power is comparable to that of British pale malt. ASBC 4/EBC 7.

Special B is a dark, intensely sweet crystal malt providing a strong malt flavor.

Biscuit malt is a lightly-flavored roasted malt used to darken some Belgian beers. 45-50 EBC/25 °L.

Aromatic malt, by contrast, provides an intensely malty flavor. Kilned at 115 °C, it retains enough diastatic power to self-convert. 50-55 EBC/20 °L.

See also

* Roasted grain beverage




* Daniels, Ray, "Designing Great Beer", 1996, 2000, Brewers Publications. ISBN 0-937381-50-0

External links

* [ "Understanding Malt Analysis Sheets – How to Become Fluent in Malt Analysis Interpretation" by Greg Noonan]
* [ How to Brew by John Palmer] , an online book detailing all the basics of homebrewing beer.

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