How many malts do you need in a recipe?

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hotbeer

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I see all these recipes being tossed out on the board for "approval" and homebrew recipes elsewhere for beer. Quite often they have a mile long list of various malts (yeah, I'm embellishing a bit for effect).

But art those other little numerous malt additions at <1 - 3% really doing much for flavors? As for body I'd think just go for one malt to do that correction and not a smidge of this and a smidge of that.

Since a lot of the recipes I look at from commercial microbrewers that publish are much fewer in number of different fermentables, I'm just wondering if any finds that they actually do add something unique compared to using fewer malts.

I guess perhaps porters and stouts might need one or two more malts than the IPA's and ales I brew with 1 - 3 different malts. But do they really need six different malts?
 
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In a smash you only need 1 haha..
But i do agree, I see some using a ton of malts and maybe they're onto something I don't know about. I don't have any notes in front of me but with the exception of 1 or 2 recipes I brew, the majority I believe have 2 to 4.
 

chthon

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I try to use at most four malts, could be 1 to 3 base malts even (look at historical recipes where brewers used malts from different places over the world), and something like Munich, or Aromatic, or biscuit/abbey malt.

One of the best ones I made was pure Pilsner malt, St.-Bernardus yeast and much EKG hops.
 

tennesseean_87

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Depends on the style. You can get a lot from a good base malt like MO or Munich.
Something like a stout can use a lot more, though. Sometimes you will layer caramel malts in different colors (e.g., some 40, some 120), and I've enjoyed doing a bit of the same with roasted malts. I've found a mix of pale chocolate, chocolate, and roasted barley that I like in both dry stouts and milk stouts. I got a Baltic Porter recipe from a bro brewer friend that placed at GABF that had about a dozen different malts in it between character malts, different roast malts, some dark malts cold steeped, etc. It was pretty good.

Then there's the homebrew problem of inventory usage. Last time I brewed a Pennsylvania Porter, I used 8 oz balck patent, a lb of brown malt, and an oz or two of 5 or so different caramel malts from 10-150L just to use up some leftovers! It also had 6 row and 2 row (because I didnt' have enough 6row left) and corn grits for the base.

I do think it's weird when someone will make a pale ale recipe and include 8 oz of MO, malted wheat, etc. in a recipe otherwise based on 2row. I do think a lb or two of munich or vienna in a pale ale will add some maltiness without caramel sweetness, but a half lb of a base malt is probably not noticeable.
 

oakbarn

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A lot of brews are based on clones and other beers. If the recipe calls for it, it is part of the taste. head or feel. I have found that when I could not get the correct malt, and substituted a different Malt, it does affect the flavor ever so slightly (batch to batch). If you had a recipe for Lemonade that included Myers Lemon, you cannot substitute regular lemons or you will not get the real deal!
 

sibelman

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Like @hotbeer, I'm sometimes amazed at the complex malt bills I read in recipes. My brewing tends toward simple malt bills, sometimes only base malt, often just base plus caramel. But there is no doubt that even a fairly small percentage of an additional ingredient can make a difference.
 
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hotbeer

hotbeer

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Seems like even all your you are of the opinion that 3 or 4 different malts are plenty. One made the exception that they did a recipe to use up a bunch of leftovers and that's fine and understandable. Though I'd be interested to know if they felt that they could have gotten about the same results using just 3 or 4 malts if inventory wasn't an issue.

For me 2 malts are plenty for ales and IPA's. I've been thinking of doing some porters or stouts soon and while I can see maybe a combination of 4 malts making a difference that is worth the increase in malts I get, some of the recipes with six or more different malts and many of them just 1% or less of the total was just seeming odd to me. And I was wondering if that 1% or less of anything really made a difference that couldn't be made up by more of something else already in the recipe.
 

AlexKay

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When I finish a recipe, I generally give it a good hard look to see if the grist can be simplified. And when people post recipes, my first advice tends to be ways to simplify the grist. I hear you.

I could see using up to three different kinds of base malt: wheat, say, plus a mix of Pilsner and Munich in a hefeweizen. You definitely want Munich to give flavor and depth, but all Munich might be too much melanoidan-wise. Or MO, wheat, and biscuit in an English something-or-other.

Two kinds of crystal: say, 40L and Special B in a dubbel, or 55L and DRC in a porter. You could even justify using 20/100L together instead of a single mid-range crystal — I think Brulosophy did a test and found them distinguishable.

Zero kinds of dextrin.

Three roast malts: chocolate rye and Carafa Special, say, and then just a dash of regular chocolate for some roast astringency.

And optionally, one malt that isn’t easily characterized. Golden naked oats, which brings something different to the table than most other crystal. Or acidulated malt, if you count that. Or Briess Extra Special.

Edit: I forgot smoked malt! How could I? I’ve used two different kinds of smoke (beech and alder) in a rauchbier.

And then one unmalted adjunct.

So in a dubbel or a dunkelweizen or a Baltic porter, that all adds up to … ten? Twelve, for a smoked version of one of those? I can’t say I’ve ever used ten (or twelve!) different grains in a recipe, but I suppose, given the above, that I could rationalize it.

But don’t get me started on hops. I’m not sure most people can taste a second aroma/flavor hop, much less a third. I’m not sure anyone can taste the fourth hop in their Citra/Mosaic/Amarillo/Galaxy IPA.
 

Holden Caulfield

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Quite often they have a mile long list of various malts (yeah, I'm embellishing a bit for effect).
I guess perhaps porters and stouts might need one or two more malts than the IPA's and ales I brew with 1 - 3 different malts. But do they really need six different malts?
In my humble (and a little bit snarky) opinion...

The great beers of the world use relatively few malts. Westvleteren 12 only uses Pilsner and Pale malt along with dark candy syrup. I read somewhere (so may not be true, but I believe it) that Ayinger has only has 4 or 5 malts in its entire inventory from which they pull to make all their amazing beers. Fullers London Porter, which is ranked #1 in its style on Beeradvocate uses 4. Timothy Taylor Landlord uses 1. Pilsner Urquell uses only Pilsner malt.

Anything more than 5 grains, not including acidulated malt, is making a muddy mess - we're not making curry or mole. :D
 

GoodTruble

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Molé porter! Genius!

I agree simpler is usually better, but also there are efficiency and cost reasons why breweries may want to keep it simpler. Part of fun (and advantage) of homebrewing is that you can experiment a lot more without the overriding economic concerns. We can use ingredients that would in no way be feasible at commercial production levels, and we can add 8 different malts just to see how it goes.
 
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Depends on the style. You can get a lot from a good base malt like MO or Munich.
Something like a stout can use a lot more, though. Sometimes you will layer caramel malts in different colors (e.g., some 40, some 120), and I've enjoyed doing a bit of the same with roasted malts. I've found a mix of pale chocolate, chocolate, and roasted barley that I like in both dry stouts and milk stouts. I got a Baltic Porter recipe from a bro brewer friend that placed at GABF that had about a dozen different malts in it between character malts, different roast malts, some dark malts cold steeped, etc. It was pretty good.

Then there's the homebrew problem of inventory usage. Last time I brewed a Pennsylvania Porter, I used 8 oz balck patent, a lb of brown malt, and an oz or two of 5 or so different caramel malts from 10-150L just to use up some leftovers! It also had 6 row and 2 row (because I didnt' have enough 6row left) and corn grits for the base.

I do think it's weird when someone will make a pale ale recipe and include 8 oz of MO, malted wheat, etc. in a recipe otherwise based on 2row. I do think a lb or two of munich or vienna in a pale ale will add some maltiness without caramel sweetness, but a half lb of a base malt is probably not noticeable.
I agree that there is a lot of potential to improve a recipe by layering and faceting with different roasts. My best stout recipe started as a "pantry sweep" to use up leftovers in my grain bin. I've brewed it several times since, and have updated/streamlined it a bit to make it easier to order from my homebrew supplier. I get it as a "short kit" that omits the base malt to save on shipping and reduce storage space, and I order them 3 at a time. I call it Rhinestone Carboy, use the search function to check it out.
 

bwible

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Aside from the “kitchen sink” recipe to use up all those little packs of grain that have an ounce left of this or 3 oz left of that, every grain in your malt bill should have a purpose or be there for a reason.

I have some recipes with 4 or 5 grains and I have some with 11.

- You have to have at least one base malt. Some recipes combine base malts, like Octoberfest combines Munich and Vienna.
- Many recipes have crystal, some have more than 1 color crystal to “dial in” a color.
- I’m a fan of Cara-pils. I put 3-5% in pretty much every recipe for head retention. I don’t care what others say - I like it and I use it.
- I almost always need a couple ounces of acid malt as needed to adjust mash ph.

So without doing anything special I can have 5 or 6 grains right there in a basic recipe. Now add character malts like biscuit or victory, go to a stout with more dark malts, or any recipe with adjuncts, etc and you can see how a recipe can easily have 10 different grains.
 
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jerrylotto

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Malt dials in more than just flavor - also has an impact on color, mouthfeel, aroma and strength (ABV). There are a lot of variables. Good idea to start out simple and change one variable at a time. Unless you are following someone elses recipe, each malt you add should have a purpose, whatever the amount. Toasted malts in particular should be used sparingly. And your mash schedule may need to change with adjunct malts.
 

Oleson M.D.

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Truth is, you only NEED one malt. We have made many single malt beers, mostly Pilsners.

Same with hops. Single hop, single addition.
 

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For me it depends on the beer. I'm happy with a single malt pale ale. It would be impossible to make let's say a stout without at least 2 malts (a base and something dark) but it'd be fairly boring. I find that 3, 4 or 5 are all even better. I've been tinkering with a porter recipe for a bunch of iterations now and can clearly tell from one batch to another if I add a couple % black malt, or 5% victory, change the caramel from 40 to 120 or have both, swap some base malt with Munich, and so on.

There will be a limit on the # and %'s of additions that you can tell are present, but the # of actual malts that do something can get fairly high. I'd say 6 at least.
 

renstyle

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A 2nd for the three or four malts per recipe, generally.

The wild ones with multiple 1% and 2% additions are for when I'm clearing out stock and making a "stone soup" brew!
 
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As Denny Conn likes to say use as many as you wish as long as you can justify each one. I use no more than three or four.

There is one beer I usually make in the fall, a brown ale, that has 6 malts in it. It's very good, so I'm not changing the bill (thanks @Orfy for that Hobgoblin clone).
 

madscientist451

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Short answer....only one variety of malt.
Longer answer depends on what your definition of "need" is.......
The last few decades, I've really stepped up my home cooking chops, and its amazing how much really good food
can be created with just 4-5 ingredients. So what I'm saying is that it doesn't have to be complicated to be good.
:mug:
 

Beermeister32

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Short answer....only one variety of malt.
Longer answer depends on what your definition of "need" is.......
The last few decades, I've really stepped up my home cooking chops, and its amazing how much really good food
can be created with just 4-5 ingredients. So what I'm saying is that it doesn't have to be complicated to be good.
:mug:
I’d agree with this. I generally try to use fewer, not more varieties. Where I’ve had a lot of malts is mocking up clone recipes where you are initially taking a composite of three or four recipes. I think that is where the 1% of this or that comes from. Generally they can be reduced or combined with other similar malts.
 

corkybstewart

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I used to get very creative and fell for the "complexity" trap. For the past 15 years I've brewed much simpler recipes without any loss of flavor or more importantly, enjoyment. Unless you are a supertaster I don't think a malt that makes up less than 3% of a grain bill will be easy to taste. My porter uses base malt, chocolate and black patent, nothing else. Stout is base malt, chocolate, and roasted barley.
 

Oleson M.D.

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The one time multiple malts were used was in our English Barleywine. It turned out very, very good, being awarded a 1st Place Trophy.

So this is an example of "more is better". But it is the exception to the rule.
 

jerrylotto

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How many of the four or more are actually necessary?
Once again, flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, color, and gravity. Depends on your targets. I typically use more than three malts for my stout and porter recipes. I have a couple of IPA recipes that use more than three and I often mix base malts (like two-row, maris olter and pilsner) when I'm running low on one or the other or want extra biscuity goodness out of my base.
 

Steveruch

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I used to get very creative and fell for the "complexity" trap. For the past 15 years I've brewed much simpler recipes without any loss of flavor or more importantly, enjoyment. Unless you are a supertaster I don't think a malt that makes up less than 3% of a grain bill will be easy to taste. My porter uses base malt, chocolate and black patent, nothing else. Stout is base malt, chocolate, and roasted barley.
I use base malt, brown, and black patent in my porter.
 
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hotbeer

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7: Let's Brew Wednesday - 1936 Mackeson Stout

Brew it with and without the flaked oats to see if it matters to you.
Well that only has 4 malts in it. And for a stout, I already said I might can see as many as four. Albeit it has some other fermentables too.

Or are you suggesting I may not notice?

When I do begin to mess with Stouts and Porters, I'll do this one several times and see.
 

kevin58

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Well that only has 4 malts in it. And for a stout, I already said I might can see as many as four. Albeit it has some other fermentables too.

Or are you suggesting I may not notice?

When I do begin to mess with Stouts and Porters, I'll do this one several times and see.
The flaked oats aren't malted.
 
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hotbeer

hotbeer

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The flaked oats aren't malted.
Good point.

Maybe I should do some reading on the use of them.

But is the short story that they just add to the fermentable base to result in more alcohol when mashed with stuff that can do the starch conversion?

Or is there actually a unique flavor or body added? Besides just the taste and character of more alcohol that might be gotten some other way.
 
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