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Thread: Crystal malt and FG

  1. #1
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    Crystal malt and FG

    I really love the aroma of English crystal, but everything I've read says that it adds sweetness. I don't want that, but I don't understand how it can be. Surely amylase will break up the sugars to fermentable forms, right?

    Is there such a thing as enzyme-proof sugars that crystal contains? Would it really increase TG if I used it in a substantial amount, say 10-12%?

  2. #2
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    I'm probably oversimplifying things, but here's my understanding of how crystal malts are made:

    -Grain is steeped and germinated as usual.
    -Before kilning, the malt is held wet at saccharification temperature to produce fermentable sugars.
    -The kilning process caramelizes a lot of the sugars.

    With crystal malt, the enzymatic breakdown occurs in the malting process. By the time they get to the mash, there's nothing left for alpha- and beta-amylase to break down. The fact that the sugars are caramelized is what renders them unfermentable. I don't know the typical ratios of fermentable to unfermentable sugars in crystal malts, but they'll definitely raise your TG if used in excess. I like to use less than 5%, but I've seen a few U.S. craft beer recipes with 10-15%.

    Joe

  3. #3
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    Fawn Grove, PA, USA
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    ditto

    I will echo what Joe said, crystals have always given me a sweet/sugar profile, which can be great for milder, crisper beers, e.g. bitters, American style wheat's. I tend to use them sparingly. On the flipside I am a nut with caramel malts, often up to 40% of the grist and still get finals in the 2-3.5P range without excess sweetness, but rather a richer flavor. I know a lot of folks see them as interchangeable (some are kilned, some are roasted, or both), maybe to an extent, but I would say they are different malts. In short if your hung up on an aroma you may want to sniff around and see if there is a caramel malt that's similar, munich/caramunichs maybe or beef up your base with Maris.

  4. #4
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    Ah, I see I've been approaching this backward. I've used caramel malts in the past, in small amounts of 5-6%, and didn't get a lot of impact from them in ales. Crystal really hits you in the face so i wanted to try putting it up front in a brew and see what the result is.

    But now I'm getting the idea that I hadn't used enough of the cara malts and can use higher percentages without worrying about fermentation issues, which I could get from crystal. (How those sugars remain intact during the mash I still don't understand, and it's going to bug me until i find out.) Anyway, time to order up some cara Munich and aroma.

    Thanks very much for the input.

  5. #5
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    Wired, I think you have things a little backwards. The enzymes in the mash don't do anything to the sugars other than MAKE them, from starches (I know, over simplification, but I think you'll see my point). Once the sugars have been made from starches, whether in the mash, or with crystal malt in the initial stages of wet kilning, they are pretty much set. They will not change again until fermentation. If the enzymes made short chain sugars, the yeast will eat them up, if they made long chain sugars, such as malto-dextrin, the yeast will leave them alone.

    I suspect the difference here between Munich/Vienna malts, crystal malts and caramel malts is the ratio of short chain sugars to long chain sugars in the finished product, hence the difference in residual sweetness in the beer.

    I would suggest large percentages of Munich or Vienna (cara-vienne or cara-munich may also work, but not in as high a percentage) to get what you are after. I find it gives my beers that slightly sweet toasty/bready character without being too sweet. Both Munich and Vienna are self converting, and you could use them up to 100% of your grist. I did that with a homebrewed all Munich (5% cara-Munich) beer. It tasted great, with a nice rich bready/toasty character. Great teaching tool to show people what Munich adds to a finished beer.
    -Lyle C. Brown
    Brewer
    Camelot Brewing Co.

  6. #6
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    This is a lesson in what happens when you don't study chemistry. For years I just assumed that if amylase can make sugar out of starch, it can make small sugars out of long ones.

    Excuse me while I go hit the books

    And thanks for suggesting substitutes that won't introduce fermentation issues.

  7. #7
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    Hey Wired, you're not wrong - the amylase enzymes can make small sugars out of larger ones. We're just saying that crystal malts have already had their starches broken down into simpler sugars. As far as your mash enzymes are concerned, using crystal malt is like adding table sugar to your mash. Yeasts see things differently, though, because a lot of the simple sugars in crystal malts are caramelized.

    Joe

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