Malt is grain, such as barley or wheat, that has been soaked, germinated, and then dried in a process known as malting.
The malting process is conducted by soaking the selected grains in water until they germinate. Then the grains are transferred to the germination floor and dried with hot air to halt the germination process. Malt is critical for brewing because of the enzymes that develop during the germination and malting process. These enzymes are measured as diastatic power and are what enables starches to be converted into sugars during the beer’s mash process.
A beer with too low of a ratio of malted grains to non-malted grains in its grain bill will not have enough diastatic power to be able to convert all of the starches to sugars, and therefore will have a very low starting gravity and a low alcohol by volume.
A grain bill or mash bill is the whole of the different malts, grains, and adjuncts that make up a beer. The grain bill is very important when designing a beer recipe, as it is primarily responsible for the potential original gravity, color, and diastatic power of the beer.
A beer’s grist is the milled or crushed malt and grain that comprises the grain bill prior to the mashing process. An example description of a beer’s grist would be: crushed American two-row malted barley, German pilsner malt, and some white wheat malt.
The color or colour of a beer is typically described using either the Standard Reference Method scale (SRM), Lovibond scale, or European Brewery Convention (EBC) scale, which reference a numerical value to define the color and shade, and in some cases clarity or turbidity of a beer. The higher the number, the darker the referenced color is.
A beer’s color is primarily composed from the pigments of the grains that make up its grain bill. The pigment of a grain will darken if it is toasted, caramelized, or roasted, and that will impart that color on the finished beer. In the case of an imperial stout, the roast of the malt is so dark that it makes the beer nearly black. It is important to remember that as the color of the grain darkens, the acidity typically increases. Beer can also gain color from adjuncts, such as fruits and sugars.