Crystal Malt vs Caramel Malt: Difference and Comparison

It is normal to think that crystal malt and caramel malt refer to the same product because the distinguishing factors are quite confusing.

The term crystal malt was originally introduced in the European markets during the 19th century. Today, crystal and caramel malts differ in the way they are produced, texture, sweetness, etc. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Crystal malt undergoes a two-step process involving stewing and kilning, while caramel malt only involves kilning.
  2. Crystal malt contributes to flavor and color in beer, while caramel malt primarily affects color.
  3. Caramel malt provides a smoother, less sweet taste compared to crystal malt.

Crystal Malt vs Caramel Malt

Crystal malt is a traditional British malt that is processed with a moisture content of 50% from the kiln to the roasting drum and is roasted at very high temperatures to give a hard-grain texture. Caramel malt is a type of malt made by converting starch to a sugary liquid and offers a caramel flavor to beer.

Crystal Malt vs Caramel Malt

Crystal malts are one of the traditional British malts apart from black, brown, and chocolate malts.

While they are processed, the crystal malts are moved wet (with a moisture content of 50%) from the kiln to a roasting drum.

Crystal malts are roasted at very high temperatures (known as the curing stage). Crystal malts do not contain any enzymes, and they have a hard-grain texture. 

Caramel malts are responsible for adding a caramel flavor to the beer. While producing caramel malts, the endosperms are mashed, unlike in crystal malts.

This is done so that the starch gets converted into a sugary liquid and more flavor is extracted. Caramel malts are conventionally produced from green malts using a process called kilning. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonCrystal MaltCaramel Malt
HistoryCrystal malt came around the 1880s and was originally from England. The term caramel malt came later into use especially in the American market when the homebrewing market was legalized in 1978. 
OrderAll crystal malts are caramel malts as they are just caramel malts produced in a roaster. All caramel malts are not crystal malts as they include both types (roasting and kilning). 
IngredientsThe main ingredient for crystal malt is barley. The main ingredient for caramel malt is either rye or wheat.
SweetnessCrystal malts are very rich in terms of sweetness. Caramel malts are less sweet. 
Hardness90% of the grains in crystal malts have a hard glassy texture. Caramel malts have a comparative software texture. 
ProcessingCrystal malts are roasted in a drum roaster starting at 150°F till 300°F.Traditionally, the caramel malts are produced in a kiln where the grains are evenly spread on the floor of the kiln. 
MashingCrystal malts do not need any mashing for extracting the flavors. Caramel malts are mashed and before that, they are caramelized into long chains. 

What is Crystal Malt?

Crystal malts are made from barley grains and heated in a closed system (roaster) at a very high temperature.

Also Read:  Biscuits vs Scones: Difference and Comparison

In this process, the moisture is not allowed to escape, which leads to the breakdown of the starch interiors into sugar crystals. The amylase enzyme present in barley is responsible for the process. 

Crystal malts are extensively used in beers, but the amount varies with different types of beer. The color of the drink becomes darker if more crystal malt is used.

While using crystal malts, they should be broken down into fine pieces but not grinding into flour. 

The types of crystal malts are rated based on their color depth when used in beers. This specific character of the malt is expressed in Lovibond, whose value ranges from 20 °L to around 200 °L.

The most common crystal malts are found in the range of 30 °L to 40 °L. The variety of color shades in crystal malts depends on the way they are produced. 

crystal malt

What is Caramel Malt?

Crystal malts fall under the category of caramel malts. Caramel malts are produced using two processes, killing and roasting.

Those produced by the latter process are referred to as crystal malts. Caramel malt is produced from green malt through the process of kilning. 

Although the terms crystal and caramel malts are used in the market interchangeably, they are different. Caramel malts became very famous in the US market, especially after homebrewing was legalized. 

Their texture is much softer than the crystal malts. One of the reasons behind this is that after the crystal malts are formed, they are partially mixed with the Vienna/Munich malts or something similar.

Also Read:  Cucumber vs Pickle: Difference and Comparison

This brings a proper consistency to the caramel malts (50% hard grains while the rest half is softer). The amount of sweetness is also less in caramel malts. 

Main Differences Between Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt

  1.  Crystal malt came around the 1880s and was originally from England, whereas the term caramel malts were introduced in the US market after almost a century. 
  2. All crystal malts are caramel malts as they are just caramel malts produced in a roaster, whereas caramel malts include both roasting and kilning.
  3. The main ingredient for crystal malt is barley, whereas for producing caramel malts, mainly rye or wheat, it is used. 
  4. Crystal malts are very rich in terms of sweetness as compared to caramel malts.
  5. 90% of the grains in crystal malts have a hard glassy texture, whereas caramel malts have 50% softer grains.
  6. Crystal malts are roasted in a drum roaster starting at 150°F till 300°F, which justifies their hardness. On the other hand, caramel malts are produced in a kiln where the grains are evenly spread on the floor of the kiln. 
  7. Crystal malts do not need mashing to extract the flavors, but caramel malts are mashed during manufacturing. 
Difference Between Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt
References
  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/j.2050-0416.1978.tb03835.x
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1745-4514.1991.tb00162.x

Last Updated : 26 June, 2023

dot 1
One request?

I’ve put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to you. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media or with your friends/family. SHARING IS ♥️

11 thoughts on “Crystal Malt vs Caramel Malt: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This article is very informative and helped me understand the differences between crystal malt and caramel malt. The post is very well-written and I would like to encourage the writer to continue creating content like this.

    Reply
  2. I feel the information provided on the differences between crystal malt and caramel malt is quite obvious to those who already know the basics of malting. However, it is beneficial for those who are not aware of the specifics.

    Reply
  3. This article is excellent and has provided me with a better understanding of the intricate details about crystal malt and caramel malt. The comprehensive comparison helps in understanding the nuances between the two types.

    Reply
  4. The comparison table provided in the article makes it very easy to understand the differences between crystal malt and caramel malt. The writing is not only informative but also very clear and engaging.

    Reply
  5. The differences between crystal malt and caramel malt were unknown to me until I read this article. Thank you for sharing this valuable information.

    Reply
  6. I used to think crystal malt and caramel malt were the same but after reading this, it is clear that they differ in many aspects. The article is very well-researched and enlightening.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Want to save this article for later? Click the heart in the bottom right corner to save to your own articles box!