Not all malt concentrates are made equal.

Malt Concentrate is Malt Concentrate is Malt Concentrate….

In the beginning there was Blue Ribbon Malt. You could find it in the baking section of the grocery store. It had a myriad of uses, including making beer. This being the 1920’s, with alcohol production/consumption in the US being illegal, the directions on the label were quite coy. To paraphrase… “Do not do this, then that, then this other thing. If you do, it will produce beer, and that would be illegal”. While it was a good all-purpose malt concentrate, used in baking, chocolate malts, candy-making and yes, beer making, it was not designed especially for beermaking and did not make really good beer. But then, neither is about 98% of all the malt concentrate produced in the world today, including most of the malt concentrates sold for beermaking purposes.

There is a world-wide commodity market for malt concentrates, and most malt concentrates, including most of the malt concentrates used in making various beer kits, are made in factories designed to produce commodity food products. Malt concentrates are used in a wide array of products, including edible foods like bagels, candy, powdered drink mixes, vitamins and breakfast cereals (it is sprayed on corn flakes to make frosted flakes). It is also used in making pet food. As a percentage, a very small amount of the malt concentrate made in the world is used to make beer. And an even smaller percentage is actually produced with beermaking in mind. This is an important distinction.

Good beer making requires using products that are specifically designed to make beer. Let’s walk through the process of malt concentrate production to see how different processes effect the finished product.

The major differences between the two approaches involves how the malted barley is heated at the beginning of the process and how the malt concentrate is handled after the heating process.

Temperature is important in brewing because the types and percentages of fermentable or non-fermentable sugars produced are dependent upon the temperature in the mash tun. A temperature of 148-152’F ensures production of the types of fermentable sugars that make for a well balanced, good tasting beer. This process also takes longer and requires greater skill. Companies buying malt concentrate to use in bagels or pet food don’t care about the levels of fermentable sugars (after all, why would they?). Consequently, malt factories whose primary focus is supplying the food industry opt for the faster, easier mash tun regime of 158-164’F. Fine for corn flakes…not as good for beer.

The food industry also does not have to concern itself with particulate matter (uncoagulated proteins and the like) in the malt concentrate. So, malt concentrate factories forgo the boil/centrifuge/filtering. These processes are necessary if your intention is to make a good quality beer with nice color and clarity.

Finally, because beermaking is such a small part of the overall business of most malt concentrate producers, they have not, and are not likely to, invest in equipment necessary to actually make beer. Consequently, if they are producing a “beer kit”, instead of investing in boil vessels and hop storage facilities, they will simply add barrels of hop extract to the malt concentrate prior to packaging.

So, how are The Coopers Brewery malt concentrates and beer kits different? The Coopers Brewery is first and foremost a brewery. We make beer. And when we aren’t making beer, we make products for making beer. We have four Master Brewers (an actual legal designation in Australia) on staff who oversee the process. The care and processes that go into producing Coopers homebrewing products are the same that go into the beers that renowned British beer and spirits critic Michael Jackson praises for “their heartiness and uncompromising honesty”.

Malt concentrate is not malt concentrate. If you don’t know exactly what you are getting, it probably was not intended for beer making. Use Coopers Brewery homebrewing products and be sure you are using products by brewers, for brewers.

Should You Read the Instructions?
“The Coopers Brewery is first and foremost a brewery. We make beer. And when we aren’t making beer, we make products for making beer.”
-Tom Heffernan
home : about homebrewing : exploding the orthodoxy : product info : brewery tour : about us : cooper's brewery : retailers : recipes : for the reseller