From the HBD Archive
From: (Tony Babinec)
Subject: crystal malt color and amount (semi-long)
Date: 1992-03-30 17:14:53 GMT

This posting summarizes the recent thread on crystal malts and

Crystal malt is malt steeped and kilned in such a way that it
becomes a dollop of sweetness and body to add to your brew. For
the extract or grain brewer, crystal malt gives some body and
luscious flavor to what might otherwise be a thin brew. In using
crystal malt, color is also an issue.

As shown in the AHA beer style guidelines, or in Fred Eckhardt's
"Essentials of Beer Style," beer styles have acceptable color
ranges. If you are making a beer "to style," you'll want to take
the guidelines into account, and then use knowledge of the color
property of malt to get your beer in the right ballpark.

First, here is a table that attaches some useful descriptives to
numeric color ratings:

numeric description
- ------- -----------
0 - 2.5 yellow light
2.5 - 3.5 pale
3.5 - 5.5 deep straw/gold

5.5 - 8 amber light
8 - 10 medium
10 - 14 deep

14 - 18 dark brown/black
18+ black

Source: appendix of George and Laurie Fix's "Vienna," although
Fred Eckhardt has a similar table. Eckhardt's book also employs a
second rating scale on a 1-10 range.

Second, here is a table showing the color ratings and contributions
of crystal malts:

malt 1#/1g 1#/5g
- ---- ----- -----
cara-pils 1.5 0.3
crystal 10L 10.0 2.0
crystal 20L 20.0 4.0
crystal 30L 30.0 6.0
crystal 40L 40.0 8.0
crystal 60L 60.0 12.0
crystal 80L 80.0 16.0
crystal 90L 90.0 18.0
crystal 120L 120.0 24.0

Notice that cara-pils malt is lumped in with the crystal malts.
Think of cara-pils as adding those dextrins you want for sweetness
and body while making only a minimal color contribution. This
makes cara-pils malt a nice addition to the grain bill of any
German-style lager, and especially the light-colored ones. See
Noonan's "Brewing Lager Beer" or Miller's "Continental Pilsner" for
some recipes.

Notice also that the Lovibond rating is the color contribution of
1 pound of the crystal malt in 1 gallon of water. Dividing by 5,
we get the color contribution of 1 pound of each malt in the
typical 5 gallon batch. Thus, taken by itself, 1 pound of 120L
crystal malt should approximately result in 5 gallons of wort of
color 24, which would make the wort dark by the first table's
indication. As for SG, depending on your extraction efficiency,
you should get 4-5 points (1.004 to 1.005) of gravity per pound
of malt.

Crystal malts have different national origins. There are U.S.,
British, and German crystal malts available. Some of the best
crystal malt includes Maris Otter crystal malt, as well as Ireks
"light" German crystal malt and "dark" crystal malt. George Fix's
recent HBD append showed that "light" is probably 10L and "dark" is
probably 60L. Homebrewers should press their suppliers to provide
crystal malt with Lovibond ratings. U.S. crystal malts from Briess
Malting typically have a color rating.

Use of inferior crystal malt, or too great a quantity of crystal
malt, will result in "coarse" flavors in the beer. In practice,
homebrewers have used British crystal malts in a German beer, and
vice versa, as the proportion of crystal malt in the recipe is not
very large. As for amounts, Terry Foster's pale ale recipes, which
use pale ale malt as the base malt, use crystal malt additions in
the 4 to 8 ounce range. George and Laurie Fix's basic Vienna
recipe, which uses pilsner malt as the base malt, employs 6 ounces
each of 10L, 60L, and 120L crystal malt to produce an amber beer.
So, don't over-do the percentage of crystal malt in your recipes.
Instead, make judicious use of darker crystals and other dark

Finally, George Fix's HBD posting also showed that the color
contribution of color malt to your wort is contingent on water
hardness. Other HBD postings have mentioned the wort-darkening
effect of splashing hot wort. In an appendix to "Vienna," George
and Laurie Fix make the point that the "color arithmetic" wherein
homebrewers take into account grain volume and color rating to
"predict" the expected color of the resulting wort is roughly
additive for light-colored beers but not strictly additive for
amber beers.

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