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Most homebrewers produce good beer without paying any attention to its acidity levels. Introducing acidulated malt into your mash can help you take the next step and start making great beer with nuanced flavor instead of just making good beer.
Understanding why mash pH levels matter and how they affect your final product will ultimately improve the quality of your Pilsner, wheat beer, or sour beer. Acidulated malt is a pale malt that was invented as a tool that allows a brewer to control the mash pH levels without introducing conventional acidifiers.
In addition, they produce a variety of beer flavors when combined with different hops and base malts, although their primary purpose is to lower the beer’s acidity level.
So, in this acidulated malt guide, we’re going to take a look at its properties and show you how to use it to improve the quality of your homebrews. You should browse through our guide to beer types and varieties to learn more about the characteristics of different kinds of beers.
Key features of acidulated malt
- Flavor: Sour
- Aroma: None
- Color: 1.7 – 2.8L
- Best for: Pilsner, wheat, Gose beers, or light beers
What is acidulated malt?
Acidulated malt originates from Germany, where state laws prohibit brewers from producing beer using anything other than water, hops, malt, and yeast.
The exclusion of additives has made it difficult to control the mash’s pH levels, and in response, local brewers invented a natural way of introducing lactic acid to their brews. This specialized malt is also known as sour malt or acid malt, and it is made of base malts.
It is commonly used in all-grain brewing processes and combined with different types of fermentables, such as wheat malt or melanoidin malt.
Acidulated malts are created by either utilizing the post-kilning process to facilitate the natural growth of the lactic acid bacteria the malt already contains or spraying lactic acid solution over the base malt during the germination process.
These malts are frequently used during the brewing process of sour beer, like Goses and Berliner Weisse, as they create a fertile ground for the growth of bacteria that produce acids and give the beer style its signature sour taste. They also affect the beer’s color, as the introduction of lactic acid results in light or pale beer color.
It is worth noting that the mash acidity levels also depend on the water quality, so adding acidulated malt to the mash might not be enough to lower the pH levels.
Here are some of my favorite beers made with acidulated malt:
- Hudson Valley Symmetrical Garden
- NorCal Gose Beer
- Palatine Pils Suarez Family Brewery
Check out our Honey malt guide if you want to experiment with different craft beer flavor profiles.
Acidulated malts lower the mash pH levels, which affects the flavor of the final product. These malts can create a variety of flavors when used in combination with Motueka, El Dorado, and other types of hops. The flavor of the beer depends on the amount of acidulated malt you add to the mash.
As a general rule, the amount of acidulated malt you add to the mash shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of the total weight of the grain bill. So, for example, adding 1% of sour malt to the grain bill will lower the mash’s pH level by 0.1 or 0.2 points.
Keep in mind that base malts treated with lactic acid can reduce the pH value by 0.3 or 0.4 points, so you need to check which method was used to produce the acidulated malt you’re using. Ideally, the pH level of your mash should be between 5.6pH and 5.4pH, or 5.0pH if you’re crafting wheat beer.
Read our Vienna malt guide to learn more about its properties.
How to brew with acidulated malt?
Acidulated malt is a specialty malt, which means that you have to combine it with one or more base malts to create a specific beer variety. You should bear in mind that most malts tend to be acidic, so introducing too much acidulated malt can push the mash’s pH level below the recommended range.
When to add acidulated malt
The acidulated malt shouldn’t be combined with base malts at the start of the brewing process. Instead, you should add it to the mash only after the conversion of base malts is completed.
In most cases, you’ll have to wait for approximately 60 minutes until the base malts are converted, then add acidulated malt to the mash and let it rest for 45 minutes.
The exact steps you need to take to introduce acidulated malt into the mash may not be the same for all recipes, and you must check the recommended procedure for the variety of beer you’re brewing.
Where to keep acidulated malt
The overall weight of the grain bill determines how much acidulated malt you have to use. As I already noted, the acidulated malt should make up 1% to 10% of the grain bill’s weight.
You’re going to need approximately 12lbs of grain to make a 5-gallon batch, so in this case, you’ll have to add 1.2lbs of acidulated malt to the mash. Most manufacturers sell this specialty malt in 2lbs packages, and you’ll have to figure out a way to store the remaining malt.
Acidulated malt should be stored in dry spaces and at temperatures below 70F. In addition, it is advisable to keep the malt in a Ziploc bag so that it can remain fresh unit your next beer-brewing session.
Matching acidulated malt with different malt varieties
Sour malts can mix with a wide range of base malts. They’re commonly used in combination with Pilsner malt to produce a variety of Pilsner beers.
In addition, you can mix them with drum-roasted caramel malts like Carahell or other specialty malts such as Munich malt. Aside from Pilsners, acidulated malts are added to wheat beers, Sour IPAs, or Gose beers like Westbrook Gose or Two Roads Clementine Gose. You can use acidulated malt to balance a pale ale.
Acidulated malt analysis
|Color||1.7 – 2.8L|
|Usage||Up to 10%|
The Best Alternatives to Acidulated Malts
Obtaining information about the acidity of malts is difficult, so it is often impossible to know the exact pH levels until you complete the fermentation process and can test your finished beer. That’s why you shouldn’t add acidulated malts to the mash unless this ingredient is listed in the recipe.
These specialty malts aren’t the only method you can use to drive the beer’s pH level into the desired range. Let’s take a closer look at the alternative options you have at your disposal.
Several acidifiers can serve as a substitute for sour malt, although obtaining these substances can be challenging.
- Lactic acid – This type of acidifier is largely available at stores that sell brewing equipment. It is usually sold in a liquid form, and you can add it to the mash in stages until you reach the preferred pH level. Homebrewers often prefer food-grade lactic acid to acidulated malts because it is easier to use.
- Phosphoric acid – This type of inorganic food-grade acid is often found in soft drinks. It reduces the wort’s bicarbonate level by replacing it with phosphate. Introducing phosphoric acid into the wort will lower its pH level without affecting the flavor. The only downside is that it can ruin the beer’s taste if you add too much of it.
- Sulfuric and Hydrochloric acids – These acids aren’t available to home brewers because they’re caustic. Aside from being dangerous sulfuric and hydrochloric acids can also ruin the beer’s taste if they’re not used properly. Hence, they’re only commonly used by large breweries.
Selection of the Water Source
Water increases beer’s pH levels because it contains bicarbonates, calcium, magnesium, or carbonate. Most sources supply you with water that has a neutral acidity level, but in some cases, water can be alkaline as its pH level is 8 or 9.
That’s why checking the water’s acidity level before you use it in a batch can help you lower the beer’s acidity. Tap water is usually good enough for beer brewing purposes, although it is advisable to remove chlorine before adding it to a grain bill.
A buffer like the 5.2 Stabilizer contains monosodium phosphate and disodium phosphate that can lower the mash’s acidity level to 5.2pH.
However, the product doesn’t always work as advertised, and you may have to add much more than a recommended tablespoon of the product to the mash to reach the desired acidity level.
Frequently asked questions about acidulated malts.
Question: How to measure the beer’s acidity level?
Answer: The easiest way to measure the acidity of your beer batch is to use brewing pH test strips.
Question: Where can I buy acidulated malts?
Question: Do I have to use acidulated malts?
Answer: You don’t have to use acidulated malt even if the beer recipe lists it as one of the ingredients, as you can replace it with food-grade lactic acid.
Having at least some control of the brew’s acidity level will enable you to create a specific beer flavor. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of guesswork involved in determining when and how much of this specialty malt you should add to the mash.
Measuring the acidity level of the base malt is only possible after the brewing process is completed, so getting the pH level within the 5.4 to 5.6 range can take several tries. Acidulated malts can be useful if you want to brew sour beers as they make it easier to lower the mash’s acidity level.
You should consider using alternative options like liquid lactic acid or phosphoric acid if you’re not an experienced brewer. Was this guide to acidulated malts helpful?
Let me know in the comments or continue reading our Golden Promise malt guide to finding out how to use this malt to brew English and Scottish ales.