The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Briess - a viable subsitute for diastatic malt powder?

kimes's picture

Briess - a viable subsitute for diastatic malt powder?

Can Briess be substituted for diastatic malt powder in a starter?

BACKGROUND TO QUESTION: I am new to this relm of baking better homeade bread.  I have hand made bread for years, but never really used a soaker, starter, pre-ferment, poolish, etc...

I am trying to start my first starter.  "seed starter" it is called.  The recipe calls for some diastatic malt powder.  I have read lots about it's use.  However, there is none available locally, and I don't have time to wait for shipping as I am in charge of making the bread for an anniverary party.  The closest our local "brew shop" had was Briess, a barley based malt.  This particular batch is the amber extract.

Thanks for your imput!

mrfrost's picture

Maybe you can double check with your source, but it looks like your malt is not diastatic. I don't think there is really a viable substitute and you can probably just skip it. You will still probably get decent results, especially if it's just for the starter. Things may just take a little longer, but not much.

Maybe make sure to try and use flour that already has malt powder included. I think most bread flours(non organic) and unbleached ap flours include it.

kimes's picture

thank you.  i did ask him multiple questions around the same idea.  Is it diastatic or non-diastatic?  How high are the grains roasted?  Do you know the temperature they use when they dry them out?  ...  He said it had to be diastatic, but didn't know anything else.  Couldn't even explain why he though so...  but he said it is what he uses for a beer starter, and I just thought it must have some enzymes then.

Thanks for the malt suggestion! :)

mrfrost's picture

ps: The reason I said(above) that it looks like your malt extract is non diastatic is because on the Briess website, as far as I can tell, they pretty explicitly say their malt extracts are non-diastatic.

 I could not post the link on my other computer. For some reason, it just won't paste, only in the comment section of TFL. Anyway, here is the link:

But again, maybe I missed something or your malt isn't one of these, or your source truly knows something other than what Briess is posting.

kimes's picture

thanks so much for that research!  This, and the following reply, certainly seem right!

davidg618's picture

Briess, Munton & Fisson, and other malt extract manufactures must activate the amylase enzymes in malted barley grain in order to convert the grain's starch into sugar (primarily maltose). These enzymes (there are 2 important amalyse enzymes) are activated in the range of 140°F to 159°F. Once all the starch has been converted and extracted (mashed and sparged, in brewer's terms), the resulting sugar water (wort) is concentrated by evaporating out about 80% of its water; the remaining syrup is sold as Malt extract, mostly in homebrewing shops.

There is one other step that brewer's (professional and home) take wherein they raise the temperature of the mashed grain to at least 168°F. This DEACTIVATES the amalyse enzymes. Furthermore sparging--the passing of heated water through the mashed grain--which removes the sugars is done at temperatures that keep the enzymes deactivated. Diastatic malt extracts are created by draining the mashed grain, not sparging it. The resulting liquor is concentrated, and contains amylase enzyme. However, the yield is clearly less than sparged grain, consequently, I conclude the ordinary malt extracts used for home brewing are non-diastatic. Furthermore, Wikipedia states that diastatic malt extract is almost always labeled noting its diastatic property. I've been buying malt extract syrups and dried malt extracts to make beer for eighteen years. I've never seen a can or bag of extract marked "diastatic".

Both non-diastatic and diastatic malt syrups are concentrated by evaporation, in a vacuum, at low temperature.

There is one circumstance, however, wherein homebrewers would want to use diastatic malt syrup. Some malted barley grains have no diastatic power because they have been kilned dried at temperature that destroy the amylase enzyme needed to convert starch to sugar. Because these grains are necessary for unique flavors and color of some beers, home brewers do a partial mash of those grains with either pale malted barley that has ample amylase enzymes, or diastatic malt syrup which provides the amylase enzymes.

I understand using diastatic malt syrup in place of pale malt in partial mashes is common in the United Kingdom. I've never seen it discussed in USA homebrewing books, or magazines. When ever I do partial mashes I add pale malt grain specifically to provide amylase enzymes to mash the grains whose enzymes have been destroyed.

David G.

kimes's picture

Since these two lovely replies were not available when i posted, I went ahead and tried it.  (oops) Though, the starter seems to be still on it's own path, would using the non-diastatic harm or render a bad flavor to the starter in any way??

Thanks for all the info!

mrfrost's picture

Probaly just depends on the amount used as to how flavor and color will be affected. Also the type of bread and one's fondness for the taste of malt. Myself, I can't have enough in most of my breads. Love the stuff, especially in sweeter and whole grrain breads. Non diastatic is used for flavor(and sweetener) and the darker stuff may also color the crumb, in addtion to helping the crust brown.

Diastatic seems to be used mainly for it's ability to boost the yeast performance, but also aids in crust browning.

Since the recipe called for diastatic, it was probably only a very small amount. That same small amount of the non-diastatic will probably not have a noticeable effect.

Good luck. What's the recipe, by the way?

kimes's picture

It's just a general seed starter for any recipe.  I am trying some recipes for 100% whole grains, and hope I get the flavor in the starter right.  Starter goes into two kinds: whole grain baguette and rosemary asiago (not as worried about flavor there :) )


nicodvb's picture

thanks for this explanation. I have one question though: if the temperature reaches or passes 168° and subsequently it falls below that threshold will amylase start over to work or is it "dead" for good?

I always use mashing in my rye breads and I don't want to raise the temperature too much to the point of losing sugars ;)

Does barley have a larger amount of amylase enzymes than rye?


davidg618's picture

Rather than try, here's a link

Basically, from what I've read there are many different forms of amylase, Suffice it to say that amylase in wheat flour is denatured by high temperatures. Rye flour amylase is heat stable, i.e., it continues to act at high temperatures. The link above gives a more detailed description of issues important to rye bread baking. J. Hamelman's Bread is also a great source. In my opinion, baking rye breads is not a branch off of wheat bread, but a separate study in itself. What I mean by that is don't expect the same behavior in rye doughs applying procedures and techniques you've learned making wheat breads.

(You actually asked two questions ;-)

The two enzymes relevant to mashing barley malt, alpha-amylase and beta-amylase, are not temperature-stable, they are denatured by heat, i.e., they do not reassemble when cooled. Here's a very readible link, that describes the action of amylase enzymes in mashing for brewing beer. Although not directly related to bread baking, amylase acts similarly in bread doughs. You'll also find a chart that provides more detailed temperatures for optimum mashing temperatures, and denaturing (mash out) temperatures.

If you want to dig deeper into the chemistry and/or microbiology of sourdough starter and dough I recommend you search TFL for articles written by Debra Wink. She knows these subjects much better than I, and has the relevant credentials.

A final note: Bread baking, like beer brewing and wine making, are fascinating (at least to me) processes. If you chose to, you can find lots of information about sourdough starters, bread flours, bread doughs, and bread ingredients in a range of details from uselessly vague to sleep-inducing scientific jargon on the WWW. Nevertheless, I've found the searching fun and informative. That said, my three main priorities in bread-baking, beer-brewing and wine-making are Flavor, Mouthfeel (texture, crumb), and Eye-appeal, and I try to never loose sight of them when I go off on one of my half-baked experiments.

David G.

P.S. I don't understand your comment about using mashing in your rye bread. Please explain?


nicodvb's picture

I'll read them ASAP.

First of all let me say that I never bake wheat bread because I find it totally tasteless, or with very little taste in the best case. In the last 2-3 years I've been baking 100% rye bread for my consumption, always with much enjoyment.

A common practice when baking rye bread consists in scalding a part of the flour (or a good portion of cracked rye grains) with boiling water, in order to bring out the sweet flavor of maltose.
Generally I scald 20% of the flour and the resulting bread tastes quite sweet, but I'm beginning to question my scalding methodology. I'm trying to understand if what I'm doing is correct and if my method can be improved.

Thanks for you informations, very appreciated.

davidg618's picture
davidg618 that the amylase in rye flour is activated by the hot water, which in turn converts the rye's starches into sugars, ergo sweeter dough. (I just wouldn't call it mashing.) I believe, however, there is a tradeoff, and an upper limit of how much of the total rye flour you can hot soak before sticky dough, and gummy bread will result, as well as the amylase further degrading the already fragile gluten structure, especially in 100% rye breads.

Like I said earlier rye is a study unto itself.

If you don't already have it, I recommend you borrow or buy J. Hamelman's Bread. He provides, in my opinion, the best information, in baker's terms, re the good and bad effects of rye flour's attributes.

I also found this website that borrows heavily (plagerizes) from Bread--probably violates copyright laws--it has much, but not all, of the information I allude to. I think you'll find it worth the read.

David G

davidg618's picture

You could have left out any form of barley syrup, with no serious effect. You haven't said how much, but my guess is it was in the teaspoon or two range. If it's non-diastatic then all you've given your yeast and bacteria is some additional sugar to munch on. If it's diastatic (doubtful, in my opinion) it's given your yeast and bacteria slightly more sugar to munch on by converting more of the starch in the flour to sugar.

A recommendation: get your starter as active as possible. For a 1:1:1 feeding (seed starter weight:flour weight: water weight) feeding look for at least a doubling of volume in eight hours, 4x is possible. One gets starter active by feeding it, at room temperature, until it at least doubles in eight hours.

David G.

dasmueller's picture

I have used brewers DME- Dry Malt Extract several times in breads I have made and have noticed little to no flavor impact so I would not worry about having used it in small quantities.

Read w interest Davids comments and it makes me think I should start brewing again-making liquid bread. 

A full mash is what I have done in the past which uses no extracts. The DME I have used has been only as a priming sugar prior to botling. Anyone who has not had a 5 gal volume of boiling wort-raw beer for lack of a simpler description, would be amazed. It makes the whole kitchen smell like malted milk balls !

bqmother's picture

The malt powder I purchase specifically for baking breads from King Arthur is non-diastatic.  However, I have forgotten to use it on several occasions, and the breads come out just fine. 

La masa's picture
La masa

You can make your own malt at home. Just sprout some wheat or barley berries. If you're going to use them immediately grind them in a food processor, if not dry the sprouts into your oven with a very low heat (100F or 38C) and grind in a food processor.

This has been discussed before:

Nickisafoodie's picture

See this link on making your own diastastic malt : 

I've made my own for years using whole wheat berries which sprout in a couple of days, using a 1 qt canning jar filled 1/3 with wheat berries, and covered with a 4" square piece of flexible window screen, secured by the jars metal screw on rim. They are rinsed and drained 3x per day, kept in my oven with the light on.  They sprout within one day and are ready in two days depending on conditions, fully filling the jar.  I then dry them in a 170 degree oven (the lowest mine will go), with the door cracked. 

In a few hours they are rock hard, and you can taste the sweetness and complexity when you bite into one.  I then grind them into a fine flour like powder using my Whisper Mill - a good excuse to buy a mill and start grinding your own whole grain flours?  The resulting malt powder is sweet and I gives the proper recipie wonderful notes, better enzyme activity and more.  The following text is from the link:

"This is taken from a reprint of an article that appeared in The Rodale Catalog and was sent to us by one of our subscribers.

Diastatic malt has long been a secret of professional bread makers in Europe. It is made from sprouted grains that have been dried and ground. In bread recipes, it replaces the sugar or honey needed to feed the yeast and brown the crust. Because diastatic malt is full of enzymes and vitamins, it increases the nutritional value of the bread. In addition, the action of the enzymes on the yeast and flour improves both the flavor and appearance of the bread; it creates a finer texture and helps the bread stay fresh.

Diastatic malt can be made at home using wheat berries, purchased from a health food store, and your food dehydrator. When using it in bread recipes, remember that it is very potent and only a small amount is needed.

Don't forget that your dehydrator makes a wonde"rful place to raise your bread."

 Cheers, and good luck!

Truth Serum's picture
Truth Serum

I bought some malt at the local home brewing shop, and was wondering if I could substitute it for non distalic malt.  Now I know I can. And I learned that I can make my own using sprouted wheat berries !