The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Which malt to buy at home-brew store?

  • Pin It
Glass-Weaver's picture
Glass-Weaver

Which malt to buy at home-brew store?

The malt shelf in the home-brew aisle of a local hardware store holds a bewildering parade of exotic titles, none of which say, "Best for Bread"!  I was reluctant to spend $20 on the wrong thing, so I slunk away malt-free.  The clerk seems clueless about beer-making, much less bread-baking.  Is anyone familiar with the typical malt offerings, and which one would be most appropriate?  (I know that I could order from an online bread supplier, but I'd rather spend the money on malt than shipping.) 


Thanks!


Terri

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Except for use in making bagel dough or boiling your bagels, you may not need to add malt when baking with North American bread flours or all-purpose flours.  They're usually malted adequately by the miller for ensuring proper dough fermentation.


I guess if you use only whole wheat flour that you mill yourself it could be useful, but a big bucket of malt extract would take a while to use.  If the store offers the powdered option, I'd probably get that.  And get diastatic malt for bumping the fermentation activity.  Non-diastatic malt syrup is fine for sweetening or use in boiling bagels, but it's enzymes have been deactivated.


--Dan DiMuzio

Glass-Weaver's picture
Glass-Weaver

I like to have the ingredients on hand that are listed in new recipes.  Currently I want to try my hand at Semmel rolls, most of which call for malt.  The amount is so slight that I wondered how necessary it is, thanks for the explanation.  I certainly don't want a big jar of optional malt taking up space, to use one teaspoon at a time, if I can do without it!  You saved me a trip to town!


So, can I use sugar in the boiling water for bagels, or do I need the non-diastatic malt?  I've read about using lye for bagel boiling too...do you have an opinion on that?


Many Thanks, Terri

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I'm not familiar with any tradition of using lye to boil bagels, although I've read a few messages about it here at TFL.  I am very familiar with dipping pretzels in lye before baking.  Perhaps the technique is related?  I'm not saying it is misguided -- I just don't know anything about it.  Lye is pretty dangerous at room temperature if you're careless.  Plopping bagels into a boiling cauldron of lye and risking it splashing around just from bubbling strikes me as scary.  But I have never seen it done.


People unfamiliar with handling a lye solution should probably avoid it if possible until somone can literally show them -- in person -- how it is safely done.  Some things are just best handled by pros or someone who has had personal, hands-on training.  From what I've heard and read, if just a drop of lye gets in your eye, it will keep working it's way right into your eyeball.  Rinsing won't help.


Malt syrup is added to the boiling water for bagels to add color and shine during baking, but I've used honey or even sugar in a pinch and the results weren't bad.  If I have malt syrup available, that's what I'd use, but obtaining it in usable quantities might be difficult.  I doubt that the diastatic/non diastatic distinction matters during boiling, but it is diastatic malt you want to augment fermentation -- but only when necessary.


--Dan DiMuzio

Glass-Weaver's picture
Glass-Weaver

Good information.  Yes, I agree that lye is tricky stuff.  I am a soapmaker, so I'm very familiar with handling lye, and have a healthy fear, for sure.  Lye heats up so much just from dissolving it in water (at the concetrations needed for soapmaking) that it wouldn't take much additional heat to bring it to a boil.  I sure wouldn't want it bubbling on my stove!


Safe handling for lye dictates that you presume at every step that you will spill or splash, and prepare for it.  I've seen some comments here that the concetrations for pretzel dipping (or bagel dipping) are not so high and dangerous as soapmaking, but I can't imagine any safe level for eye exposure.  (Even neutralized lye in well-made soap stings the eye more than you want to experience.) 


So, if there is a good way to achieve equivilent results in breadmaking, I'm all for that. I just did a quick search here on TFL for "lye bagels", and there are many comments.  It would be interesting to run a comparison of several bagel-finishing techniques...I'll have to put that on my to-do list.  Maybe I can talk a local bakery out of a malt syrup sample.


Terri

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I'm a home brewer. To the best of my knowledge, malt extracts, both concentrated and dried, made for beer brewing are non-diastatic. The process to extract the sugars from malted barley (mashing) intentionally exposes the grain to a range of temperatures of which the final highest temperature deactivates the amalyse enzyme. Furthermore, I think most homebrew shop owners wouldn't know what diastatic malt is unless they are advanced bakers too. It's not an important subject for homebrewers.


Malt flour, on the other hand, made by milling malted barley is rich in activated amalyse enzyme, but homebrew shops don't sell malt flour. KA does, but it's realatively expensive. I agree with Dan, if you're using American milled flour you don't need it. If you're milling your own flour you probably do.


If you want malt as a sweetener only, find a homebrew shop that sells concentrated malt extract in bulk. They will probably sell you as little as a pound, or less. Unfortunatly, the major national wholesaler, Crosby and Baker, pre-package Dry Malt Extract in 3 lb. packages, and most malt concentrate manufacturers (if not all) package malt concentrate in 3.3 lb. cans, or larger; most homebrew shops only offer these prepackaged forms. Some, however, do their own as-ordered packaging of concentrates from 55 gal. barrels, but don't hold your breath, I looked at three I shop from online, and none of them offer bulk sales.


Lastly, only buy UNHOPPED malt extract. Hopped extract has an intentional bitter component in its flavor.


David G

Glass-Weaver's picture
Glass-Weaver

Good information.  This thread helps me get a handle on the whole malt question. 


(I live in the Yakima Valley...you should smell the hops drying in the kilns during harvest.  Ghastly!  It puts us off beer for months until the memory of that stench fades.)

caseymcm's picture
caseymcm

Some homebrew shops do sell small bags of dried malt extract (DME), or may sell it bulk (any amount you need) morebeer.com sells 1/2 lb containers.  Also some places will have a big drum of liquid malt extract and, again, they can sell you as little as you need.


As David G said, if you want diastatic to add to your flour, then malt extract won't work for you.  You can get plain malted barley that should work though.  Get a simple, light colored malt (pale malt or base malt), probably the cheapest stuff they have.  It will include the hulls, which are required for filtering during mashing.  I think if you crush it gently in a mortar and pestle, the hulls should separate and be pretty easy to remove with a seive.  I haven't tried it so I can't say for sure.


I plan to try malting some store bought barley myself sometime and trying this to go with home milled flour.  I especially want to use it to try PR's mash bread.  I started some barley sprouting a few months ago but I was busy over the weekend and neglected it.  It never sprouted properly and started to smell bad.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

I've read that spouting wheat berries is a little easier than barley for homemeade malt preparation and is as effective. If you can't get the barley to sprout correctly, try wheat.


I wish I had known this the last time I was in a place and was looking for some barley. They had some wheat berries but I didn't know they could also be used.

caseymcm's picture
caseymcm

Thanks Dwight, you are right.  I have had good luck sprouting wheat already, some for sprouted bread and some to dry just for this purpose.  I just dried them in the sun for a few days rather than at a controlled 100° F as I've seen recommended so I wasn't sure how good they'd be.  I should try grinding them up and adding them in.  They're just sitting in a jar right now.


Of course, it may be hard to tell the difference in the finished product as it may be subtle.  I'll have to do a side by side comparision with a "control" dough.  That's partly why I was hoping to use barley to get a greater diastatic effect, along with ambitiously sticking to the formula and being true to my homebrewing past.

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

I am a homebrewer as well and have successfully crushed small amounts of pilsner malt in a mortar and pestle and shook through a kitchen sieve, on occasion, for baking.  

suave's picture
suave

You need to buy malted grain.  Malted rye has more distatic power, wheat slightly less, but still has plenty.  Both are fairly common.  Stay away from barley.  Distatic malts are not roasted, so they look exactly like corresponding grain, but are quite a bit softer, so grinding them in a coffee grinder is a snap.  They rarely put diastatic power at the label (although brewers have not one but two units for measuring it) but indicating degree of color is fairly common.  Anyting labelled 4 °L or less will be diastatic.  For non-diastatic malt you'll probably have to resort to barley, since both rye and wheat are uncommon.  Look for medium crystal or caramel malts. 

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Be careful now ...speaking as an ex-national class brewer (medals to prove it) and as a so-so baker!  Most recipes that ask for adding a bit of malt are doing so not for the sweet maltose (higher glycemic index than table sugar, and more easily digestible by yeast), but are doing so for the enzymes.  But those dry malts do not have any active enzymes unless the package specifically states "Diastatic Malt" rather than just "Malt".  Given the difficulty in finding diastatic malt, I would recommend making your own.  It is fun and it is easy.  There is a thread here that covers how to do it ...it involves sprouting grain in a jar followed by drying and grinding (coffee grinders work fine.)  Anyone can do it and it is far cheaper to make your own than to buy the stuff.  Do not buy the whole grain malt you see at the brewing store, but buy whole grain berries from someone who sells them for the purpose of making flour or for planting.  Barley and wheat both work fine.  We buy whole-berry wheat in 50# bags and grind it ourselves, so it is no bid deal to grab a handful and to sprout it for making our own homemade diastatic malt.  And did I mention that it is fun?


Google "Make your own diastatic malt" and then follow the link to the The Fresh Loaf thread and read up ...And if you cannot find the wheat or barley berries (kernels), then check for a local feed and seed type of store.  I am betting that even if they do not sell small quantities that they would donate a couple of handfuls to you from a damaged bag...


If you DO find diastatic dry malt in your local brewing store, then do not worry about what color it is, e.g. amber, light, etc.  You will only be using a small amount relative to the amount of flour in your formula, so get what you want.  I believe the lighter versions will have more active enzymes than the darker, but that is just a guess on my part.


Brian


 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Brian,


Could I simply take pale ale malted barley, malted wheat, or malted rye (from my brewing supply), crack it and sift it with the same results?


David G.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

David,


  To some extent you can, but the diastatic power of the whole-grain malt sold at your brewers store is much lower than the make-it-yourself stuff (and lower yet if you buy the powdered malt.)  When you make it yourself, you sprout the grain, dry it, bake it at about 100 F for an hour, then grind it into flour.  When commercial malt is made, the process is similar, but rather than dry it and bake it at a very low temperature, they bake it longer and at a higher temperature.  The brewers malt has to contain some enzymes for the mash, so they do not destroy the enzymes completely (and that is one of the reasons why you always have 2-row in your brewing recipes.)  Your 2-row pale malt will probably have the most enzymes since the other malts all get kilned longer and hotter.  Does 2-row have enough?  Maybe.  Probably.  Who knows?  If your brew supply store sells unmalted barley grain, then you can make your own with that, or buy whole wheat or barley kernels at your local Feed-n-Seed.  We buy 50# bags and grind our own flour, so wheat kernels are always at hand ...


Brian


 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

You've obviously studied brewer's malt from a baker's point-of-view. I've only studied them from a brewer's point-of-view. I assumed pale two-row would have all it's amalayse since both its forms are needed for mashing, and it's always recommended when mashing darker malts, but I've never researched the temperatures malt is kilned.


David G