Beer Brewing Grain

Most beer recipes include multiple grain additions. Some examples are malted barley, caramel wheat, crystal rye, and flaked oats. They are collectively known as the Grain Bill. The useful part of Barley, Wheat, Rye, and all rest, is the individual Hulls or Husks, which is generally called Grist.

Grist can be prepared for brewing in many ways. They can be grouped into 2 categories: malted and unmalted grain. Before brewing, the Grist is cracked or crushed so the Hulls or Husks are open. It is then added by mashing or steeping.

Species of Cereal Grain

There are seven primary cereal grain species used in brewing beer. Each species may have multiple varieties and quality grades.


Barley is the standard cereal grain used for beer recipes. It is very effective as a base malt.

Two Row Barley has more refined flavor, lower protein content, and lower diastatic power.

Six Row Barley has less refined flavor, higher protein, and higher diastatic power.


Adds a creamy feel to beer. It can be as effective of base malt as barley. Wheat increases head creation and retention.


Adds a black-pepper spice to beer.


Adds a silky feel to beer.

Corn (Maize)



Sorghum is used to brew gluten-free beers. Approximately 0.5% are gluten intolerant, but possibly more than 10.0% are gluten sensitive.

Malted Grain

Grain is malted so that it has the right enzymes for the brewing process. Malted grain is full of both starches and the enzymes that reduce starch into sugar.

Malted grain is essential to make beer, and it must make up a majority of the grist in the grain bill. Without malted grain, the mashing stage of the brewhouse process will not produce sugar for the yeast to ferment into alcohol, and the resulting beer will have no strength.

Examples of malted grain used in brewing include pilsner malt, crystal malt, and chocolate malt.

Unmalted Grain

Unmalted grain is also known as specialty grain. It does not contribute any sugar to the brewing process. It may be used to affect the flavor/aroma, body, head creation/retention, or color.

Examples of unmalted grain used in brewing include flaked grain, roasted grain, and torrified grain.

Diastatic Power

Diastatic power is the ability of a cereal grain to reduce its starch into sugar during mashing. The diastatic power of a malted grain depends on two factors: the species and variety of grain, and the type of malting.

Diastatic Power is a measureable characteristic. It uses the units degrees Lintner. A malt rated with a higher degrees Lintner basically has more enzymes.

This grain characteristic is also known as Grain Utilization or Extract Efficiency.

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During the brewing process, grain can cause some byproducts which create aromas in a finished beer.

Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS)

Dimethyl Sulfide creates an aroma of boiled corn (maize), cabbage, or tomatos in beer. It also creates a mild aroma of sulfur in beer. It is present if a beer's sustained boil is not long enough, or if beer is not cooled quickly after the sustained boil.

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