Beer - Malt For Full Body
Most of the malt available from home brew suppliers today is of good quality. The supply shop staff can offer advice as to the quality of particular brands. Fellow brewers can also be a good source of information. Ask about their preferences and brands with which they have had good success. Observe how a supplier handles and stores malt. If you see several open bags lying around or grains scattered all over the floor, this may be cause for concern. Malt will absorb moisture from the environment and moisture negatively affects malt in several ways. Thus, be alert for wet bags or bags stored in a humid environment. Grains on the floor may be a sign of pest activity. For obvious reasons, it would be best to avoid malt that has been invaded by insects and rodents.
The best malt is plump and firm and uniform in size, shape, and color. Good malt should not contain straw, dirt, or foreign materials to any extent. After all, you are paying for malt. Malt grains should be easily crushed between your fingers and should have an agreeable taste and aroma. Compare different brands of the same type of malt for these characteristics. Make sure the color of the malt you select is appropriate for the style of beer you plan to brew.
Many suppliers will sell you pre-crushed malt. This is a nice service if you don't have access to a malt mill. However, crushed malt doesn't keep as well, since the interior of the grain is exposed to moisture and mold spores. If you intend to use the malt reasonably soon, crushed malt should do fine. It will keep for a few months if stored in airtight containers. If you don't plan to brew for a while, or if you are purchasing malt in bulk, it is best to use unground malt. If you don't have a mill, your supplier will usually let you bring the malt back to be ground just before you need it. You may be able to use a mill owned by a friend or member of your home brew club. If you have your own mill, grind your malt just prior to brewing.
Unground malt will keep well for six months or more if stored in sealed containers in a place that is dry and not too warm. If you buy malt in 50 lb. bags, simply close the bag and store in a location where it will remain dry, cool, and away from pests. Rodents and insects will get into your malt if they get half a chance so take appropriate precautions to protect against this. Because malt has such low moisture content, there is no need to store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
As with other ingredients, there are good quality malt extracts and there are some that are not so good. In general, the quality of extract has improved dramatically over the last several years. The staff at your local supply shop can usually recommend a good brand. Experienced brewers are also a good source of information. Your own experimentation and experience can also be a good guide. Once you find certain brands that give good results stick with them. Buy popular products from suppliers you trust.
Look for expiration dates on containers of extract and don't buy expired products. If a container doesn't have a date, don't buy it. Also, containers that look like they have been on the shelf forever probably have. Steer clear of these. Bulk extract from your supplier is generally fresher than canned and can provide considerable savings. It is typically available in both dry and syrup forms.
Unopened cans and dry extract can be stored at room temperature. Opened containers of malt syrup should be resealed and kept in the refrigerator. Liquid extract will gradually tend toward darkening and flavor deterioration regardless of whether it is opened. Thus, it should be used within six months for best results. Dry extract readily absorbs moisture from the air and should be stored in a dry location in multiple layers of airtight plastic. Dry extract that has absorbed moisture will begin to harden and darken in color and will eventually form lumps and clump together. However, properly stored dry extract is not as prone to darkening as syrup.