Making Your own Crystal (Caramel) Malt at Home

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There’ll be days in which you want to brew but lack the ingredients.  This was my case the day after Christmas 2012 and decided to give making my own Crystal malt at home so I could brew. I originally documented my process over at reddit, but feel it’d be invaluable to have on the blog as project.  Time from start to finish will be 4 hours or so.  Thankfully you can step away for fairly significant chunks of time during the early steps of the process, later on during the roast you’ll want to constantly supervise.  At the end of this post you’ll find my recipe to my Aramis Pale Ale that was made with this homemade Crystal malt.  It’s a English style Pale Ale made with Aramis, a French hop that has tons of noble flavor with a touch of lemon.

Finished homemade crystal malt at home.  Left to Right: Dextrin, Crystal 20, Crystal 40-60, Crystal 80-120

Finished homemade crystal malt at home. Left to Right: Dextrin, Crystal 20, Crystal 40-60, Crystal 80-120

What is Crystal Malt?

Crystal Malt, also known as Caramel Malt, is a brewing ingredient used to give beer flavor and colors.  It’s barley that has already had it’s starches converted to Maltose.  Since the Crystal Malt is roasted after conversion some of the sugars are crystalized/caramalized rendering them unfermentable, that’s why using too much can leave your beer cloyingly sweet.  The flavors that Crystal Malt lend to your beer vary greatly and are significant in the flavor profile of your final product, however one must maintain balance of the beer through proper recipe formulation.

If the malt’s starch has been converted we know the grain has been mashed, and that’s what we will do!  After we mash the grain, we’ll dry it out followed by roasting in the oven to the desired color.  Before you begin you’ll need a Stock PotSpoon, Scale, and a Few Cookie Sheets.

Mash to Convert

Use 1.25 quarts of water per pound of unmilled malt. Heat your mash (water and grain) to 154F and hold at temperature for a hour.

 Mash Out to End Conversion

Heating your mash to 170F and holding for 10 minutes will end halt enzymatic action your mash.

Heating your mash to 170F and holding for 10 minutes will end halt enzymatic action your mash. There is no need to sparge as we’re trying to retain as much sugar in the grain as possible. As you’re mashing out turn your oven on to 225F – 250F for drying of the grain.

Drying the Grain

Lay your drained malt out in a single layer on your cookie sheets.  Place cookie sheets in the 225-250F oven.  Be sure to stir your malt often to prevent uneven drying and early roasting.  This step took me a hour for the small cookie sheets and a hour and a half for a larger pan.

Lay your drained malt out in a single layer on your cookie sheets. Place cookie sheets in the 225-250F oven. Be sure to stir your malt often to prevent uneven drying and early roasting. This step took me a hour for the small cookie sheets and a hour and a half for a larger pan.

After Drying, It’s time to Roast

Post Drying, Getting Ready to Roast

The small pan on the left I split in half, used the first half unroasted as a dextrin malt. The other half I roasted a few minutes @ 325F which gave me a light Crystal, probably 15L – 20L. The Crystal is sweet with a tiny bit of caramel in it. The pan on the right I roasted @ 325F, stirring every few minutes, for 10-15 Minutes in the oven, which resulted in what I’m judging is in the 40 – 60 L range. Sweet, Caramel, with a bit of Toffee is what I get from this one.

Roasting the Malt

Half of this went directly from this sheet to a jar to use as Dextrin malt, while the rest went to a light Crystal, 15-20L or so.

Half of this went directly from this sheet to a jar to use as Dextrin malt, while the rest went to a light Crystal, 15-20L or so.

Roast Longer for More Color and Flavor

Immediately out of the oven, color still looks light but as it rests it will darken.  I judged this tray to be Crystal 40-60 and used it as such.

Immediately out of the oven, color still looks light but as it rests it will darken. I judged this tray to be Crystal 40-60 and used it as such.

I judged this malt to be Crystal 80-120.

I judged this malt to be Crystal 80-120.

This is the finished product.  Left to Right:  Dextrin, Crystal 20, Crystal 40-60, Crystal 80-120

This is the finished product. Left to Right: Dextrin, Crystal 20, Crystal 40-60, Crystal 80-120

 Results

The final product after resting for a few weeks is very similar to their commercial examples.  I feel the homemade malt has a bit more of a nutty/toasty flavor to it than the commercial examples.  This could also come from it being extremely fresh.  With that said,  it takes a lot of time for little return.  Crystal malt is cheap enough that I’ll continue buying it unless in a pinch.  If you are in a pinch, it’s simple to do it just takes time.

Aramis Pale Ale, made from home made Crystal malt.

Aramis Pale Ale, made from home made Crystal malt.

Recipe

10# Pale Ale Malt
.5# Crystal 40-60 (homemade)
.5# Crystal 80-120 (homemade)

1.5oz Willamette 4.6% @ 60
.5oz  Willamette 4.6% @20
.5oz  Willamette 4.6% @10
1.0oz Willamette 4.6% @ 0

Safale S-04

Mash @ 153F for 60 minutes.  Ferment 60-63F for 10 days, cold crash and keg.  Drinkable @ 3 weeks, good at week 5.

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