Overview of using malt grains to improve kit homebrew

Homebrewing with specialty grain and malted barley can be daunting for the kit brewer, but it will make a massive difference to the quality of your beer.

And it’s fun!

In this article we’ll give you an overview of the difference between using specialty grains and crushed malt to flavor your homebrew kit.

Make better beer with real grain

Brewing with raw ingredients gives you more in common with your local microbrewery than the dodgy homebrewer down the road.

The extract kit will give you fermentable sugars and bitterness, however much of the flavor and aroma is lost during manufacturing. All things being equal, the results of a kit beer can be a little bland.

Brew with grain – the beer’s better!

Brew with grain – the beer’s better!

We want awesome craft beer though, so we’ll add extra flavor through using specialty grain and malted barley.

Specifically, adding specialty grains and malted barley will:

  • Deepen the flavor of your beer.

  • Add more body.

  • Give a long lasting, lacing head.

It’s easy

Don’t be daunted. Many brewers make using grain an exercise in complicating things.

But homebrewing with malt is not hard. You probably have all the gear you need right now.

With a few tricks and tips, you can easily extract flavor from specialty grains and crushed malt.

The difference between steeping and mashing

Let’s cover off the two ways that you can extract flavor and fermentable sugars from grain – steeping and mashing.

Option #1 – Steeping

Steeping is soaking specialty malt in hot water to extract the goodness.

Steeping is soaking specialty malt in hot water to extract the goodness.

Steeping specialty malt is the easier of the two techniques using grain.

You are essentially making one giant tea bag and a big cup of malt tea.

You soak crushed specialty malt in hot water to extract flavor, aroma and color. You don’t need to convert starches to sugar through mashing.

The sugars and character of the grain are already developed by the maltster and can be readily extracted in hot water. You just dissolve and leach them out.

Only certain grains can be steeped, such as crystal and roasted malt.

Find out the easy way to steep specialty malt for awesome homebrew.

Steeping: the essential information

Grain types - Any crystal malts – eg carapils, carared, caramunich. Anything with crystal, cara or caramel in the name. Also special B, aromic and dextrin malt. Roasted malts – chocolate, roasted, black or patent.

Water to grain ratio - 3 quarts of water per pound of crushed grain (6 L per kg).

Steeping temperature - 150-170°F (66-77°C).

Steeping time - 15-30 minutes

Notes - No conversion need to happen and no mineral additives needed.

Option #2 – Partial Mashing

Mashing is a little more involved and involves soaking the grain at a set temperature and time.

Mashing is a little more involved and involves soaking the grain at a set temperature and time.

Mashing is where you soak crushed malted barley in hot water for a certain time and temperature.

Typically this is 152°F (67°C) for one hour.

In these conditions, enzymes develop. These enzymes convert starches to sugars.

You extract these sugars, along with flavors for great beer.

When brewing with kits we can mash a small amount of malted barley to add depth to our homebrew.

Discover how easy mashing can be.

Partial mashing: the essential information

Grain types - Anything referred to as a base malt, kilned malt, flaked or torrefied. Specific examples are Pilsner, ale, wheat, Vienna, Munich, brown, biscuit and rye.

Water to grain ratio - 4-8 quarts of water per pound of crushed grain (2-4 L per kg).

Mashing Temperature - 150-155°F (64-69°C)

Mashing time - 60-90 minutes

Conversion test - Liquid is clear, darker, smells deliciously malty and tastes sweet. Iodine doesn’t change to purple/black in a starch test.

Possible additives - ½ tsp gypsum (calcium sulfate) to help conversion.


Want To Step Up Your Homebrewing Game?

Take your homebrewing to the next level with our advanced extract kit homebrewing guide.

We've packaged nearly 20 years of medal-winning homebrewing experience in this practical and results-focused guide.

Download your copy now and make great homebrew.


Advanced Kit Homebrewing series