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.
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.