Posted by Maggie on April 29, 2010
My local brew store carries about 20 types of malted and roasted barleys. Each one lends a different body and flavor to the beer.
Malted and roasted barleys come in a variety of styles. These styles are usually broken down by location-related beer style. The main ones are Belgian, German, Canadian, Domestic (United States), and British.
Caramel and crystal malts of various types also lend different flavors and colors to beer. You can also get flaked corn, wheat and oats that are used is some varieties.
These grains are usually ground up a bit so that they release their sugars and flavors when steeped in water.
Malt extracts. You can extract your own malts from barley but it is a tremendous amount of work and only worth it for the adventure. I recommend buying malt extract in either a dry or liquid form. The dry form is purer but the liquid form dissolves more easily in your wort. I personally like the dry because I like the process of standing over the stove, slowly dissolving it while smelling the nice roasted barley smell or the “tea”. If you are buying from mail-order, the dry malt weights less for the amount of sugar content you want so it may be cheaper to ship.
These malts come in a few varieties.
Pilsner Malt. This is a dry malt that is great for light ales or lagers or pilsners, for that matter.
Light Malt. This also works well with a variety of brews and is less dry than the Pilsner malt.
Dark Malt. As the name suggests, this is good for darker beers such as porters. It has a richer flavor.
You can also get wheat malt that is used for making Hefeweizens or any other wheat-based beer.
Malt extracts do not look like the specialty grains described above. Dry malts look like a refined powder. The liquid looks like thick maple syrup.