If you want to take your brew to the next level specialty grains are a great addition to add something extra to your brew. We use these in all our partial mash recipes. In our 20th episode of Brew Talk with Mr. Beer we discuss some of the basics around using specialty grains on your brew day.

We use these in what we call our Partial Mash recipes and Zach has been an all grain brewer for a long time we thought it was best to get him to talk specialty grains and just grains in general.

The first question I have for you is brewing with Specialty Grains has to vastly differ from brewing with all grain. Could you elaborate on some of the differences between the two methods?

The differences might be less than you think. When brewing all grain recipes, you still need specialty grains for the roasty, sweet, or biscuity flavors. The major difference comes from the base malt, since we use extract, we don’t need to make a sugar rich wort from grains, Cooper’s has already done that for us.

How can the volume of grains that you are using for steeping affect the beer? Is there such a thing as too many grains or too little for steeping?

Yes, since we’re using the grains for color and flavor it is possible to add too many making your amber into a brown or your brown into a porter or adding too much crystal and having too much sweetness (among other problems).

What would say is the most common type of grain that could be used with a lager, a porter, etc.?

The most common types in lagers would be the biscuity malts. Since most lagers are light in color, the ones you find most often are Pilsen, Vienna, Biscuit, and the like. Things that may add a small amount of color, but mostly add flavor. For a porter you’re looking not only for roasty or burnt toast flavors, but also that classic dark color. These are your Chocolate, dark Crystal, and Black malts.

What would be the base grain for someone to use if they wanted to like experiment with different hops in a boil?

In an all-grain “SMaSH” beer, Single Malt and Single Hop, you’d use any of the base malts grains; 2-row, 6-row, Pilsen, Maris Otter, and the like. To try that with Mr. Beer, you’d have to try something more along the lines of starting with the unhoped BrewMax DME or LME’s to get to that pure starting point. After that, you can play with steeping different grains to see what interesting combinations you can create.

Is there a certain type of grain that you prefer to use when you are brewing certain styles? Like, Lager, IPA’s, Stouts

Again, it all comes down the style. Malty English styles love Maris Otter, Biscuit, and even Rye. With lagers I start with Vienna, Pilsen, 6-Row, light malts that have biscuit or toast flavors. With IPA’s I dig the clean 2-row, palest malts because it’s all about the hops. Things like crystal malt can mess with that and even lead to some oxidation-like flavors.