For brewers, malt is a key ingredient in creating a flavorful and unique craft beer. Malt comes in many varieties, and understanding how that malt is affected within the brewing process is important. The analysis of each lot of malt comes in a Certificate of Analysis (COA), which should be provided by your Malt Supplier. Within each COA certain parameters and malt traits are identified that indicate the effect the malt will have on your final product. Analysis of the malt’s characteristics indicates the likely outcomes during different stages of the brewing process. Below is a short guide on analyzing your malt and its different parameters, created with the help of Mary-Jane Maurice, Malteurop’s Director of Technical Services, and one of only a few certified Maltsters in the U.S.
Some of the most important malt attributes identified on the malt sheet include:
Beta-glucan (BG), Viscosity, and Friability indicate how well beta-glucan and other cell wall components were broken down during the malting process. If the BG and viscosity values are too high, it indicates that access to the starch inside the cell walls maybe limited and wort separation issues are more likely to occur. This would also correlate with lower Friability values.
Color is more self explanatory but it is often a good indicator of suitability for a brewery considering their brand, brewing goals, and what sort of beer a particular brewery would like to create. Color is measured in SRM (Standard Reference Method) units. The lightest malt has a value of 2 SRM, while the darkest malt can be more than 600 SRM. The malt color wheel below gives a general indication of how the color of your malt can affect the flavor of your beer in the end.
Enzymatic Potential refers to the ability of enzymes in your malt to breakdown starches into sugars during mashing so that alcohol can be produced in fermentation. Two measurements are made to assess this potential, Alpha-amylase and Diastatic Power.
Extract Fine Grind and Coarse Grind numbers indicate how much beer you can actually get from your malt. Fine Grind value indicates the maximum yield within laboratory conditions, and coarse grind value indicates the yield that best resembles brewery conditions.
S/T, Kolbach Index and FAN (free amino nitrogen) are different ways of looking at the percentage of proteins within the malt that are soluble. This percentage is important, as it indicates how well the yeast will be nourished during the first part of fermentation. Too few amino acids can lead to reduced alcohol production and higher final gravities, while too many or too high a percentage may lead to hazy beer (higher protein in wheat = cloudiness in wheat beers).
For more information on malt analysis and the different parameters, you can check out the resources below: