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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Recipes/Ingredients > Why 2-Row as a base malt...?
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Old 09-21-2012, 05:03 PM   #1
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Default Why 2-Row as a base malt...?

Hey guys,
So I am still "newish" to brewing, less then a year into it and only about 15 batches (majority BIAB) made with no personally customized recipes yet but I was wondering... Why do the majority of recipes (ales) call for 2-Row or 6-Row as the base malt? Why don't people use Vienna or Caramel 60 for base malts? Is it because of cost savings? Overly malty beers? Not enough starches in certain grains? Please enlighten me! I want to learn! Next step is recipe creation and I thought switching up the back bone of the beer might bring something new to the table.

Chris

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Old 09-21-2012, 05:13 PM   #2
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Vienna can be, and sometimes is, used as a base malt - oftentime in Vienna lagers and Oktoberfests. Thing is, you can also get a similar end product by using 2- or 6-row and specialty malt, sometimes cheaper, or sometimes easier (particularly for folks who buy grain in bulk).

Most any kind of Crystal is too highly kilned to be used as a base malt. If I'm not mistaken, there's not enough enzymes left in the malt to give them the diastatic power to act effectively as a base malt.

Edit: There are other options out there beyond 2-row, 6-row, or Vienna though. Look at Pale malt, which falls somewhere between 2-row and Vienna (Vienna is basically a kilned 2-row, that's not kilned enough to be Crystal), or Marris Otter, or Pilsner Malt, just to name a few. They all impart different characteristics. HBT has a pretty cool Wiki that can tell you an awful lot about each of them.

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Old 09-21-2012, 05:17 PM   #3
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Most any kind of Crystal is too highly kilned to be used as a base malt. If I'm not mistaken, there's not enough enzymes left in the malt to give them the diastatic power to act effectively as a base malt.
I was going to say this, but you beat me to it.
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Old 09-21-2012, 05:25 PM   #4
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Pssssst- Vienna IS a two-row base malt. "Two-row" describes how many rows on the barley, and is not a name brand. There are many base malts out there- Vienna malt, pale ale malt, maris otter malt, Munich malt, Golden Promise, and yes, good ol' generic US two-row.

Caramel malt is not a base malt. It's a "specialty grain". It's used for flavor and color.

Think of it this way. Say you're making spaghetti sauce. You know you need a tomato base. It can be canned tomatoes (say, US two-row), fresh tomatoes (Vienna malt), tomato paste (Munich malt), or tomato sauce (maris otter). That's your base. Same with beer. Use the base for the main ingredient.

Then, you might add your spices. Oregano, parsley, salt. Think of the spices as "specialty malts". Crystal malts, black malt, chocolate malt, biscuit malt- they are all your "spices".

Using caramel 60L as the base for a beer would be like using salt as the base of the spaghetti sauce. You need your "base" before adding the salt.

I know it's a dumb analogy, but it's the best I could come up with!

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Old 09-21-2012, 05:31 PM   #5
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Wow, Yoop... Is that the second time this week I've read a pasta sauce analogy from you? Or is it two in two weeks?

That reminds me, SWMBO and I need to get crackin' and get some pasta sauce made!

Carry on.

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Old 09-21-2012, 05:33 PM   #6
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Wow, Yoop... Is that the second time this week I've read a pasta sauce analogy from you? Or is it two in two weeks?

That reminds me, SWMBO and I need to get crackin' and get some pasta sauce made!

Carry on.
Oh, it's probably more than two. I almost always use "spaghetti sauce analogies".

I'm eating low carb, and I don't even eat low carb pasta. So I have a crazy obsession with marinara sauce.

Anyway, if you have a better analogy, let's hear it!
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Old 09-21-2012, 05:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
Pssssst- Vienna IS a two-row base malt. "Two-row" describes how many rows on the barley, and is not a name brand. There are many base malts out there- Vienna malt, pale ale malt, maris otter malt, Munich malt, Golden Promise, and yes, good ol' generic US two-row.

Caramel malt is not a base malt. It's a "specialty grain". It's used for flavor and color.

Think of it this way. Say you're making spaghetti sauce. You know you need a tomato base. It can be canned tomatoes (say, US two-row), fresh tomatoes (Vienna malt), tomato paste (Munich malt), or tomato sauce (maris otter). That's your base. Same with beer. Use the base for the main ingredient.

Then, you might add your spices. Oregano, parsley, salt. Think of the spices as "specialty malts". Crystal malts, black malt, chocolate malt, biscuit malt- they are all your "spices".

Using caramel 60L as the base for a beer would be like using salt as the base of the spaghetti sauce. You need your "base" before adding the salt.

I know it's a dumb analogy, but it's the best I could come up with!
Will you just stop procrastinating and make some dang spaghetti sauce already?
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Old 09-21-2012, 05:34 PM   #8
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Crystal malt isn't strictly an issue of kilning. It's basically been pre-mashed so that its starches have been broken down into sugars; then kilned to make those sugars unfermentable. As mentioned above, the kilning destroys the enzymes. But using any crystal malt as your base malt would give you a disgustingly sweet and unfermentable beer. Take a sip of the wort before you add yeast; that's essentially what you would end up with if you tried making a beer entirely out of crystal malt. There are non-crystal kilned malts (like victory, biscuit, black patent, etc) that have had their enzymes destroyed as well, but will benefit from mashing because they have some starches to convert.

2-row malt is very high in enzymes, enough so to make mashing with it as the base grain nearly idiot-proof. It's just about the cheapest malt you can find. It's pretty flavor-neutral, which provides a sort of blank canvas that lets you use the other ingredients to provide the flavors you want. For American-style brewing, that's a winning combo. But there's lots of other malts you can use to comprise all or part of your base, such as Maris Otter, Optic, Golden Promise, pilsner, vienna, munich, malted wheat and rye. Dig around on the forums or click here: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Malts_Chart

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Old 09-21-2012, 05:42 PM   #9
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The real "trick" to whether something is a base malt vs. specialty is whether it's still got enough diastatic power -- naturally-occurring starch-breaking-down enzymes -- to convert its own starch, plus any other starches or complex sugars you add via specialty grains, into fermentable sugars.

US Pale 2-row, Vienna, Munich, Maris Otter, etc. are only very lightly kilned, leaving a lot of diastatic power intact.

Specialty malts undergo processes which destroy the enzymes, leaving them with little/no diastatic power. Different specialty grains have the starch-converting enzymes destroyed in different ways as a side effect of the malting process.

If you use all or mostly grain with no diastatic power, your mash will give you weak, unfermentable starch tea rather than wort.

If by some magical process you could get starch conversion in an all-specialty-grain mash, it would probably also turn out to be a disgusting beer, because specialty grains are designed to be tasty in small doses (no more than a few percentage of the grain bill), and would be overpowering at 100%, but that's like speculating on whether a unicorn burger would best be served well done vs. medium rare.

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Old 09-21-2012, 06:04 PM   #10
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Quote:
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...but that's like speculating on whether a unicorn burger would best be served well done vs. medium rare.
I prefer medium-well to be honest
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