Brewing 101: Malt

What is Malt?

Malts, or malted grains, are the primary source of sugar that yeast consume to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2). Let’s take a quick look at malt—what is it and how is it used in brewing beer?

Grain Becomes Malt

Grains, such as barley, oat, rye, wheat, and corn, contain starches. To unlock these starches to convert them to fermentable sugars, enzymes need to be activated. One way of doing this is through a process called malting.

  1. Grain is wetted and then allowed to sprout, or germinate.
    • This process activates the enzymes in the grain kernels that take complex carbohydrates (e.g., starches) and convert them into simpler sugars.
  2. The sprouted grain is dried in a kiln to stop the sprouting process.
    • By using different temperatures, times, and moisture levels, maltsters can produce lots of different colors and flavors of malt.

Learn more about the different types of malt here.

Malt Turns Into Wort

The brewer can take the malted grains and through a process called mashing, activate the enzymes in the grain to convert the starch into sugar.

Mashing is essentially a hot grain tea: Soak grains in hot water to extract the sugary goodness.

For a deeper look into the mashing process, see this article on mash steps.

What is Malt Extract?

Especially as a beginner (and even as intermediate or advanced brewers), you may hear the term malt extract, usually called liquid malt extract or dry malt extract. But what is malt extract?

Let’s break down the two types of malt extract: liquid versus dry.

What Is Liquid Malt Extract?

Liquid malt extract, or LME, is a syrupy liquid. It is produced from wort that is concentrated down by heating the wort under vacuum to evaporate the water, leaving behind a sweet, sticky, thick syrup.

What is Dry Malt Extract?

Dry malt extract, or DME, starts with LME that is dried further by using a spray dryer. The LME is sprayed as a mist and hot air is blown into the dryer to form dry particles of malt extract.

How Do I Use Extract?

Look for an upcoming article on “extract brewing”!


Beechum, Drew, and Denny Conn. “Simple Extract Brewing.” Simple Homebrewing: Great Beer, Less Work, More Fun, Brewers Publications, a Division of the Brewers Association, Boulder, CO, 2019, pp. 22–23. Find on Amazon here.

2 thoughts on “Brewing 101: Malt”

    1. Hello! Are you asking about what to do with liquid or dry malt extract? If so, look for an upcoming post on “extract brewing” that I hope to write soon! Cheers!

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