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Old 12-06-2012, 11:57 PM   #1
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Default Grain differences?

I've only got two all grains under my brew belt, but I'm confused about some of the grain terms thrown out in recipes.


If a recipe calls for Munich malt, which one do you know to buy if you see German, Belgian, or briess offered when you go to buy? What about 2 row? I saw one recipe for a porter earlier today that looks interesting and one of the grains was caramel/crystal malt 30L. If you were ordering these grains, what do you do if you only see 20L and 40L offered, but no 30L?

I've got another all-grain kit coming to me soon, so I'm not going to venture out of my (somewhat) comfort zone yet. I know I'll want to try something different than a kit soon, so what do you do when you can't find a specific grain to fit the bill?

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Old 12-07-2012, 12:07 AM   #2
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Bottom line is, you can brew great beer with grain of any origin.


However, like any agricultural produce grains will have different characters from one area to another. Different varieties are grown in the UK than the US, etc. in addition malting practices vary from country to country and even between between maltsters.

So, for maximum style accuracy it pays to use the grain appropriate to the origin of the style. Within reason. I am close to Northern Brewer which has a huge varieties of grains, but even they don't have everything so i sub things out.

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Old 12-07-2012, 12:22 AM   #3
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Someone correct me if I am wrong, but 20L, 30L, 4L, etc are basically the same. I think they are "cooked" differently to get them darker. The L is a unit of darkness.

You should be able to use something close or combine two for an average.

Don't take my word for it.

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Old 12-07-2012, 12:32 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yesfan View Post
I've only got two all grains under my brew belt, but I'm confused about some of the grain terms thrown out in recipes.


If a recipe calls for Munich malt, which one do you know to buy if you see German, Belgian, or briess offered when you go to buy? What about 2 row? I saw one recipe for a porter earlier today that looks interesting and one of the grains was caramel/crystal malt 30L. If you were ordering these grains, what do you do if you only see 20L and 40L offered, but no 30L?

I've got another all-grain kit coming to me soon, so I'm not going to venture out of my (somewhat) comfort zone yet. I know I'll want to try something different than a kit soon, so what do you do when you can't find a specific grain to fit the bill?
Doing kits to start with is a great idea from the standpoint that you can get your process down pat without a lot of variables. When your ordering the kits, make sure to try to get a variety with different ingredients so you can begin discovering what some of the different grains and hops taste like. Then, when you decide it's time to venture out, remember that it's YOUR beer now. In a case like the Crystal scenario you mentioned, read up on the grains available to you and make a decision based on your own taste. If you like a very subdued caramel flavor go 20L, or you may want a much darker beer and want to impart some serious caramel flavors you may want to skip up to a 60 L. For me, I'm an anti roasted malt guy. When I brew a recipe that calls for it, I reduce it or eliminate it and maybe add a little chocolate malt. The ultimate joy of brewing (for me anyway) is to be able to create something to my tastes not someone else's. A little reading, some experimentation, and a lot of tasting will eventually get you where you want to be.
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Old 12-07-2012, 12:46 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by freisste View Post
Someone correct me if I am wrong, but 20L, 30L, 4L, etc are basically the same. I think they are "cooked" differently to get them darker. The L is a unit of darkness.

You should be able to use something close or combine two for an average.

Don't take my word for it.
The L stands for Degrees Lovibond which is simply the color of the grain - any grain, from barley to wheat to corn. True that usually when someone say "I added a little 120L for color", they are typically referring to Crystal malt (barley thats been kilned in such a way to caramelize the sugars in the grain. This particular grain is used to improve body and head retention (unfermentable sugars) and to add a caramel taste. In this case the higher the number L, the darker the grain and the more caramel flavors it's going to have.
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Old 12-07-2012, 12:48 AM   #6
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Thanks for the replies. I really appreciate them. I think my biggest flaw is not "going with the flow". If I brew a recipe you posted here, then I want to follow the recipe to a T. The attitude here is "it's ok to sub this for that" for a certain recipe if I can't get that one ingredient, but my mind tells me I can't do that, since it's not in the recipe. I'm just hard wired like that I guess.

I forgot more times than not how much freedom this hobby really gives me.

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Old 12-07-2012, 12:51 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freisste View Post
Someone correct me if I am wrong, but 20L, 30L, 4L, etc are basically the same. I think they are "cooked" differently to get them darker. The L is a unit of darkness.

You should be able to use something close or combine two for an average.

Don't take my word for it.
No, not right, sorry! They are the same grain, yes. But there are flavor differences and not just color differences- otherwise they'd only make 120L and 20L and let you combine them to make whatever color you want!

120L is darker, raisiny, burnt toffee. 20L is caramelly sweet. The other colors, from light to darker, gradually change character. Combining two for an average might make the color right, but not the flavor.
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Old 12-07-2012, 12:52 AM   #8
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Just post the question if you are considering a recipe.....and you think think you found an equivalent grain .....someone will tell you if it makes sense to use it.

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Old 12-07-2012, 01:01 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper

No, not right, sorry! They are the same grain, yes. But there are flavor differences and not just color differences- otherwise they'd only make 120L and 20L and let you combine them to make whatever color you want!

120L is darker, raisiny, burnt toffee. 20L is caramelly sweet. The other colors, from light to darker, gradually change character. Combining two for an average might make the color right, but not the flavor.
Thanks, Yooper. That's basically what I meant to say as far as the starting ingredient (although I don't have the experience to describe the differences in taste as well as you...or at all). And sorry if my statement seemed to suggest using a little 120 instead of a lot of 20. As you said, color may match but flavor will not.

For my info, how different would a brew be with one part each of 20 and 40 vs a brew with two parts 30? Thanks again for clarifying mistake.
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Old 12-07-2012, 01:04 AM   #10
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My guess is that mixing the 20 and 40 equally to approximate the 30 would be better than choosing all 20 or 40.....

Either way I cannot imagine it making a real noticable difference.....

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