Homemade Specialty Malts

Hello Brewers,

I'm sure you must have thought about making a 'Special Batch' using Specialty malts but couldn't source the required malts. Well, now you can make your very own range of specialty malts right in your oven !!!
Specialty malts basically start from the base malts like Pilsner malt, Pale Ale malt, Wheat malt etc etc.. They have been given various tradenames like Caramel, Crystal and Dark series. You will often notice these malts are denoted by a numbering system like Crystal 20, Cara 60 so on, this refers to the degree Lovibond colour rating of the malts.
What these specialty malts do is that they impart Colour, Aroma, Flavour, Body as well as improve head retention in the beer. Specialty malts work on a basic principle of 'Caramelization', which means converting simple fermentable sugars into higher and darker unfermentable sugars. This degree of caramelization will impart the colour and flavour.

This is a Caramel Vienna series I made. 20-40-60-80-110L

What you need

  • Base Malt ( I prefer German or Belgian base malts as they are of a superior quality) Each base malt will will give its own unique flavour.
  1. Pilsner - good for Caramelized pilsner (CaraPils) and lighter Crystal/Caramel malts (15-40L)
  2. Pale Ale - good for darker Crystal/Caramel malts (60-120L), Chocolate and Black malt
  3. Munich - CaraMunich series 20-40-60L. (impart caramel, toasty, malty flavours)
  4. Vienna - CaraVienna series (imparts toffee, nutty and dry fruit like flavours)

  • Oven
  • Bowl and Baking pans
  • Time (5-7 hours)

The Process

I generally make 250 - 500 grams batch of any given specialty malt because that is max my oven can handle. Smaller quantities also mean that you have better control over the entire process.
Suggestion for beginners: make a 250 gram batch.

I. Soak the grains
Base malt should be soaked for a minimum of 2 hours. I usually leave them for about 3-4 hours. Place the base malt in a bowl and add just enough water to cover the surface. Eventually over time, these grains become waterlogged and swell up

II. Mini Mash
After the grains have been soaked, drain excess water from the bowl and transfer the grains to a baking pan. The grains should be around 2 inches deep. Tightly cover the pan with aluminium foil making sure the heat stays trapped inside as far as possible. Moisture in the center gives the enzymes a favorable condition to work. The goal here is to keep the oven temperature at a steady 60-70 C. There are ovens that go as low as 50C, especially the newer digital ones. Don't worry if your oven has a minimum setting of 100C, simply leave the over door slightly open. 
I like to call this step a Mini Mash because the starches get converted into fermentable sugars within the grain. Grains should stay at this temperature for about 60-90 mins.
I like to keep the grains in a Bread pan because of its depth.

III. Drying
Its now time to dehydrate the grains. Take a baking pan and spread the grains as thin as possible. Make sure the grain bed is less that 1 inch thick. Turn up the temperature to about 120C and let the grains sit there for about 2 hours. During this step, the malts should not be covered as the moisture will remain trapped inside. Intermittent stirring of the gains is advised to prevent kernels from scorching on one side and to ensure the grains are evenly dried. This process also stops all enzymatic activity leaving you with only the sugar for next step. 

IV. Roasting the Malt
This is the step that will determine the final colour of your malt. Turn up the temperature to 170-180C. This will caramelize the sugar within the grain. Different ovens have different heating properties, so experiment with your oven a bit. 7-10 mins at this temperature should give you a colour rating of about 10L. 25-30 mins at this temperature will give you colour of about 60-70L. 50mins will give 100L and so on.
While roasting, stir your kernels from time to time to prevent uneven charring of grains. After a couple of batches, you'll get a hang of your oven settings and time required for a particular colour rating.

Note: the outside of your kernel might look charred, but what matters is colour of the grain core. 

Estimating the colour of your homemade specialty malt is the next step to give you accurate colour rating for future use.

Comments, suggestions and queries are always welcome.



  1. Excellent post.

    Questions -
    1. Is the process for making chocolate wheat the same. Or there are differences when we work with wheat malt ?
    2. Can we use these grains immediately after making them or do we need to wait for a few days before using them ?

  2. Thanks Sapan.

    Answers -
    1. Yes, the process remains same. Only thing you need to do is roast it for around 2 hours. To prevent charring, care should be taken and grains must be stirred often.
    2. Lighter grains less than 20L can immediately be used. Rest all specialty grains should be aged for a minimum of 2 weeks to drive away the harsh substances. I wrap my newly made malts in muslin cloth to condition them as well as keep insects away.

  3. What kind of oven we are talking here...


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