What “L” Means Next To Crystal Malt

It’s a pretty common thing when getting into brewing and to see crystal malts and get kinda confused.  Hopefully in this post I can clarify some things about it.


120L Crystal malt full


Crystal malts are found in a lot of beers, and when starting out is a great specialty grain to use because you can get two very dependable results by using it.  1) You will end up changing the color of the beer 2) You will make the beer a bit sweeter.  So to not make a beer boring you can use some crystal malt in your beer and now you’ve just added a different dimension to it.


The malt can be used by itself or it can be used in conjunction of different specialty grains.  At the end of it, though you’ll see all these different numbers next to the grain.  So what do these numbers mean?   The, “L” stands for Lovibond.  All that means is color.   Concerning crystal malt, the most popular ones are, 20L, 40L, 60L, 80L, 120L.  The lower the number the lighter the color impact as well as flavor.  The higher the number is the darker the beer and the sweeter the beer flavor it.  We have a post that goes into some pretty big detail about it all if this interest you.


For a rule of thumb with crystal malt no matter what type you are using, I would not use over a pound of it at a time.  Eventually if you keep adding more and more to a recipe, it will stick out like a sore thumb.   After a while using it for the purpose of only adjusting the color you might find that you get burnt out of the grain.  At that point I would start to learn how the different specialty change color and you’ll be able to make a wider variety of beer styles.



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English Pale Ale Recipe

A nice pale ale is always appreciated.  What I like about Pale Ale’s are that they are so easy to drink and most of the time you even non, “Craft beer lovers”, still like them.  This one isn’t too hoppy and just leaves you with something that is refreshing.  If you make this beer now, it will be ready to drink towards the end of March.  What that means is it is a perfect beer to gateway you into Spring.

Having some aromatic malt in it is going to give a malty nose to the beer.  The crystal malt is of course going to give it some sweetness as well as some color.  The hop profile is is well balanced giving you bittering, flavor, and aroma.  All around it’s a well balanced beer.



9 oz 60L crystal Malt

6 oz Belgium Aromatic

7 lbs Extra Light Liquid Malt Extract

8 oz Malto Dextrin

1 oz Fuggles (60min)

1 oz Willamette (60min)

1/3 oz Perle (15 min)

1/3 oz Hallertau (15min)

1/3 Cascade (1min)

1/3 Fuggle (1min)

WLP 013



OG: 1.055

FG: 1.015

IBU: 32

SRM: 11

ABV: 5%


  • Heat 2.5 gallons of water up to 150
  • Turn off heat, and steep grains for 30 min
  • Take grains out
  • Add in malt extract and malto dextrin
  • Bring to boil
  • Add 1 oz Fuggles, and 1 oz Willamette
  • Boil for 45 minutues
  • Add Perle and Hallertau hops
  • Boil for 14 minutes
  • Add Cascade and Fuggles
  • Boil for 1 minute
  • End boil
  • Cool down, put in fermenter, fill up to 5 gallons
  • Pitch yeast
  • Ferment for 7 days
  • Then bottle with .75 cup of corn sugar
  • Drink after 3 weeks in the bottle.

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6 Friendly Suggestions To Make Your IPA Different

If you are like most homebrewers out there, most likely you have tried an IPA.  If you haven’t you’ve been living under a rock for the past 5 years (I only kid).  The fact of the mater is, IPA’s are becoming and have been a big sensation in the craftbeer/homebrewing world for some time now.  Recently I just put up a post about my general opinion of them and got a lot of feed back.  I wanted to have a follow-up post of though.



One of the great things about homebrewing is that you can MAKE tweaks to what ever you want.   So I have compiled 6 friendly suggestions to help keep your IPA’s fresh, different, and still something that stands out among IPA’s that are out there.   I’ve made plenty of IPA’s in the past, and even now I will still make experimental batches of IPA’s.  These are some of the tips and tricks that I use that continue to keep it interesting.

1) Don’t Use Crystal Malt

This is something that I picked up on from a customer that really is pretty religious about his IPA’s.  I’ve had some of his, they are very good.  For a while in the homebrew world you would see, “Crstyal ___L” in about every recipe.  I personally try to stay away from it when I can because I’ve just used it so much.  For IPA’s try to keep them dry, stay away from the crystal malt, build up the back bone of malt with a bready like grain. This will also change the color a bit, so you will accomplish what the crystal does – changing color (but you’ll avoid sweetness).  My suggestion, use any or all:  Victory, Munich, Biscuit, Vienna, CaraMunich (I know CaraMunich is a bit sweet).



What this does, is it will change the color of your beer but also not give too much sweetness.  If you use a yeast that is going to dry out your beer then it shoves the hops in front of everything else.  Having a bready like flavor acts as a really good counter balance to the bitter hops.  It allows the yeast to dry out the beer and you won’t get to much sweetness.  This technique leaves a very clean after flavor.

2) Using Black Malts To Make A Black IPA

This came out sometime last year or the year before. The style was called, “The Cascadian Ale”, later got switched over to, “Black IPA’s”.  Then I’m sure someone thought it was not P.C so it got switched back to, “Cascadian Ale”, then again I think they switched it back.  It’s a vicious cycle and one that I’m not even sure what the name is anymore.  But for the sake of describing it, it’s a, “Black IPA”.



As far as Black IPA’s go, I kinda like them.  I enjoy a stout in the winter time, and to me is just a hoppy stoutish beer.  It’s really the hybrid in my opinion.  The key to these is using, “Carafa III”.  It’s important that it’s dehusked.  For recipes to really make it black use, 12 oz up to 1 lb (per 5 gallons).  On the lower side it will be more brown, to the upper end it’s going to turn it jet black.  The one thing that you might want to consider is adding some calcium carbonate to the beer.  It will help prevent the beer becoming to acidic from the black malts.  If you don’t, you might lose some balance.  1tsp per 5 gallons will be enough.

3) Using Wheat In Your IPA

People started coming to me over the summer asking about these.  To me it’s just a really hoppy American wheat, but if you go a bit more, then it’s a, “Wheat IPA”.  For this one it’s essential that you follow rule #1.  It’s already going to be sweet from the wheat, so don’t go over board.  If you do all-grain, I would suggest using M.O as the other malt to balance out the wheat and don’t even worry about specialty grains (maybe a bit of Munich but that’s just me).  If you go this route, most of the time wheat’s are in a 1:1 ratio with wheat and barley.  Wheat malt extracts already have that included already.  If you are looking for specialty grains, think about using some acidualted malt maybe or even some Rye.

4) Rye & Honey Malt

This is actually one of my favorites that I make.  Rye is one of those malts that for a while was being forced into recipes. Rye-PA’s where also,  “The Thing”, for a while.




Rye has this spicy flavor; very distinct and unique.  Because of the spiciness of the rye, a lot of people will add crystal malt – not I though.  I like to take a twist and add in Honey Malt.  Again, something a bit different to give that sweet and spicy flavoring really pairs well with some traditional American hops (staying true to rule #1).  When I do this one, I like to FWH which is when you add the hops in before the boil, and then I will go crazy towards the end of the flavoring and for flame out as well as dry hop.  I try not to overly hop the flavor section of this style of beer.  I really try to make it easy to taste the  sweet and spicy in the mix.  Doing that technique for this beer style really makes an interesting beer.  Amarillo hops are amazing for aroma and maybe something clean in the beginning like Magnum.

5) Use English Hops

One that is underused is using English hops for an IPA.  I know it’s not an American IPA but again, something a bit different.  Target is at 9%, East Kent Goldings sits around 7%, Fuggles are in the low 4% – I’m sure if you play around with them a bit then you can come up with something very interesting.  My personal preference is I like to use the lower alpha stuff towards the beginning of the boil and the higher alpha stuff towards the end of the boil.  Just personal preference but I always feel it’s easier to drink that way.  Then again, it’s best to play around with it and see what happens.




6) Using Belgium Yeast

Belgium IPA’s are interesting.  These really bring out some interesting beers, normally I have found that when I do this, it’s either a big success or a complete failure.  Usually there is no middle ground.  The best results that I’ve had are with Trappist Ale.  The reason for this is because you can have a pretty big malt bill for this and it will be able to do something with it.  If you go for another Belgium Ale yeast, usually you risk having too much residual sugars which really make an unbalanced beer.  Typically using Trappist Ale yeast will leave a big complex body, use that with conjunction with some aromatic malt or even some acidulated malt and you’re going to have something that is off the wall different.  Using Nobel hops would also give it a twist or just German and Czech hops.






All things considered, there are ways to make your IPA something a bit different then the ones that you can get in the store.  Making a different style beer is one of my favorite things to do in this hobby.  While some people like making clones, I would rather build up a recipe that is going  to bring something different to the table and push the limits.  Traditional beers are fun to do and there is always a special place in my heart for them, but wacky beers are also kinda fun to play around with and also test your knowledge of brewing, just like moving from automatic to manual. So if you want to test your abilities with your homebrew knowledge, try to change it up a bit and challenge yourself with making a non-typical IPA.

My question for you is, do you do anything thing special to your IPA’s to make sure that they stay a bit different?  I would love to know.



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How To Design Your Own Beer Recipe – Step 4 – Malt Extract

If you are at this point hopefully you have a basic understanding of specialty grains and the hops, now time to get the gist of malt extract.  Malt extract comes in dry (dme) and liquid (lme) form.

For ease of this conversation I will be using LME as examples but we do have a conversion chart that might help some if you like the dry.

How Much Malt Extract Do I Need?

This one has a general rule to follow for when you are creating a recipe.  Use 1 lb of LME per gallon or 1.5 lbs per gallon for a richer brew.

For a 5 gallon recipe, that would mean that you will start with about 5 lbs LME or up to 7.5 lbs of LME.

Doing this will get you in the ball park of 5% ABV with consideration of grains used.

When Does That Rule Not Apply?

Depending on the recipe you may want more or less.  When a brew is heavily hopped you will want to add more malt extract and if a brew is not that hopped then you will want add less – in general.   If you want more alcohol go heavier, if you want it lighter add less.  Pretty simple stuff.

How Will I Know What The OG Is Gonna Be?

There are calculators out there like beertools or this free one which help.

Do I Chose Amber, Pilsen, Golden Light, Wheat, or Dark Malt Extract?

When I make my own recipes, I use only Pilsen light or Golden light malt extract (exceptions are wheat beers which I use wheat lme).  The way that I change the color as well as the taste of the beer is by specialty grains.

Now if you weren’t planning on using that many or any specialty grains, the colored types of malt extract (dark or amber) might be a better choice for you.

All malt extracts were made from grains.  Below shows how these different malt extracts were made.

Golden Light is made from – 2 row

Pilsen light is made from – pilsner malt

Amber malt is made from – 90% 2 row and 10% crystal malt (or 95% 2 row 5% crystal malt depending on manufacturer)

Dark malt is made from – 90% 2 row 5% Chocolate 5% Roasted Barley

To go full circle, you don’t want to add to many specialty grains with amber malt extract or dark malt extract because in my opinion it can get carried away pretty fast since they already included specialty grains in the making.

In my opinion, if you wanted to really add complexity with specialty grains I would  advise to  stick with pilsen light or golden light malt extract.


Both have there advantages and disadvantages.

LME is nice to work with in the fact that when you put it in the pot it doesn’t turn into a dust cloud of stickyness when it hits the steam.  The problem with it is sometimes it can burn on the bottom of the pot if you add it without heating it up.

The, “correct” way to work with it is, take a tea kettle of hot water and soak the packaging of the LME so it becomes loose.  That way when you add it to the water it doesn’t sink to the bottom and burn immediately.

DME has an advantage that when you add it, it will not burn to the bottom of the pot because it will float to the top of the water.  The problem with it is that sometimes it is hard to break up once it floats to the top of the pot.

A Quick Shout Out For All-Grain Brewers…

Don’t think I forgot about you guys.  When you are making recipes all-grain you  have a little more wiggle room because of the fact that there are so many base malts.  We have a post about flavor profiles of the base malts.

A general rule of thumb for all-grain brewers is you want to use somewhere around 7.5lbs of base malt up to 10 lbs of base malt.  Using that amount of malts will again get you in a 5% range for beer.

Note: If you use M.O you really don’t need to add too much more victory or biscuit malt because it already carries that flavor with it. 

Is 5% ABV Beer Important?

The only reason is that it is what I consider a, “standard” ABV for beer.  With 5% ABV you follow fermentation as normal.  If you go much higher you might need to do secondary or keep it in bottles longer to condition otherwise it will taste, “hot”.

If you go to much lower it will be light and if you are not going for a session beer then you will probably think that your beer is weak.

At 5% though you can do a lot to the beer and is a fairly easy beer to drink.


See not too bad for this time around.  Next is water treatment, if you chose to go down that road or not it is something that you might consider.

Leave your comments or questions in the space below, and have a happy valentine’s day!


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The Ultimate Dry Irish Stout In 4 Easy Steps

So it’s time to start looking at the next step for the Dry Irish Stout.  I’ll put up pictures for it when I end up making it (this weekend hopefully) but I wanted to get the recipe out today so people can start working on it or at least have time to make some modifications if that’s your thing.

If your lost in what I’m talking about, this stout you can drink by it’s own if you wanted to but it’s going to be used for the whiskey/rum aged stout.  This is a stand up stout by itself though.   If you have ever tasted “Murphy’s Irish Stout” this is based off of that one.   You can find this recipe in the “Clone Brews”, it’s loosely based off of it.

Style: Dry Stout

OG: 1.042

FG: 1.009

IBU: 35

SRM: 77

AVB: 4.2%

Yield: 5 Gallons

Serving Notes:  This stout is ready to drink as soon as it is carbonated.  It will peak at 2-4 months and will keep at cellar temperatures for 5 months.

Food Pairing: Mussels, Clams, Scallops


9 oz roasted barley

6 oz chocolate malt

4 oz 60L crystal malt

5 lbs Light DME

8 oz cane sugar

1 oz Kent Goldings Hop (60min Boil)

1/4 oz Kent Goldings Hops (15min boil)

Yeast: 004 Irish, 023 Burton, Safale – 04 (what ever your weapon of choice is)


1) Steep in 2.5 gallons of water: 9 oz roasted barley, 6 oz chocolate malt, 4 oz 60L crystal malt at 150 degree’s for 30min.

2) Strain the grains into your brew pot and 5 lbs of your malt extract, 8 oz of cane sugar and bring to boil.  At the beginning of the boil add 1 oz of Kent Golding hops.

3) Boil for 45min and then add 1/4 oz of East Kent Goldings hops and also irish moss if you want (1 tsp).

4) Boil for 15 more min and then turn off the heat and let it cool.  Fill up to 5 gallons and pitch yeast.

All grain method:

Mash 6.25 lbs of British 2-row pale mat with specialty grains at 152 degrees for 90min.  Add 20% less of the hops & cane sugar that you would for the extract recipe for 90 min boil.  Add the flavor hops and Irish moss for the last 15min of the boil. 

For the fermenation of this beer, you are going to let it ferment in the primiary fermenter for about a week, then rack it into the secondary.  In the secondary add the oak chips to your beer which have been soaking in rum or whiskey.  Let it sit in secondary for about 4 weeks – 6 if you would like.


Roasted Barley

This has an almost coffee like flavor that comes out.  Roasted barley is commonly seen in stouts and porters.

Chocolate Malt

This malt is much like the roasted barley in the sense that you will get coffee flavors out of it, but it is bit darker.  Also hints of chocolate… may seem obvious but that’s kinda my thing – I like to state the obvious.

Crystal Malt 60L

You’re going to get some sweeter flavors out of this malt.  0.25 lbs of crystal 60L is just enough for an accent in the brew and not much more.


Actually this is one of the reasons why I enjoy this brew.  Black pat to me if not used correctly can leave some very over powering flavors, I believe people refer to them as HARSH.  Black pat, is kinda like roasted barley but up to 600L depending on who makes it. It’s just a dark malt.  By not using it, your avoiding an over powering flavor that would take away from the oak if you chose to use it.  If you wanted to add black pat to make this beer a bit more, “Robust” then I would just add 1-3 oz of it.  Not any more then that.

5lbs DME

Just the body of the brew.  This brew is only getting up to 4.2%.  It’s a border line session beer.

8 oz cane sugar

Don’t worry it’s not going to make your beer taste, “cidery” as so many brewers have been told.  The reason that it would taste cidery was because of the pitch rate back in the day and poor nitrogen levels.  Adding cane sugar is going to be adding fermentable sugars to the wort.  Check it out.

Kent Golding Hops

Great hop for Irish Stouts.  Its just a great European hop.  If you wanted to choose 2 hops, for the last 15min you could always do, Fuggles or Styrian Goldings.  Either one would work fine.


I’m a big stout guy.  I very much enjoy the stouts when it gets into colder temps.  One thing that I really enjoy about this recipe is how light of a brew it actually is.  While it’s dark it’s very easy to drink.  So like I said earlier, if you just want a solid dry stout recipe, this is the one to do.  If you want to spruce it up with the oak and whiskey thing, it can handle it as well.

Either way, it’s a pretty good dry stout to make.  One that has been a staple of my brewing for some time.


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