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Crystal Malt vs. Caramel Malt: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on November 7, 2023
Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt are both kilned grains used in brewing; while they're often used interchangeably, Crystal Malt is kilned with moisture to develop sugars, whereas Caramel Malt is fully caramelized for deeper flavors.

Key Differences

Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt are both specialty grains predominantly used in the brewing of beer. Crystal Malt undergoes a process where it's kilned while still wet. This method allows the starches within the grain to convert to sugars which crystallize within the kernel. Caramel Malt, on the other hand, is exposed to higher temperatures that allow the sugars within the malt to caramelize, providing a rich, caramel flavor.
Both Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt are renowned for adding color, flavor, and body to beers. The extent to which Crystal Malt is kilned affects the color and flavor intensity it imparts. A lighter kiln results in a paler color and milder flavor, whereas a deeper kiln creates a richer hue and taste. Caramel Malt, due to its caramelization process, tends to offer sweeter, fuller flavors reminiscent of caramel or toffee.
The use of Crystal Malt or Caramel Malt in brewing can vary based on the specific style of beer being produced. Brewmasters might choose Crystal Malt for its sweet, malty flavor, adding complexity to lighter ales. Caramel Malt is often sought for bolder, darker ales or stouts, where a more profound caramel taste is desired.
In terms of terminology, there's often confusion between Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt. Some brewing communities use the terms interchangeably, while others distinguish them based on the processes described. Nonetheless, both Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt are staples in the brewing industry, each contributing unique characteristics to the final product.

Comparison Chart


Kilned with moisture, allowing starches to convert to sugars.
Kilned at higher temps to fully caramelize sugars.

Flavor Profile

Sweet, malty flavor with varying intensity.
Deeper, richer flavors resembling caramel or toffee.


Depends on kilning depth; ranges from pale to deep hues.
Tends to be darker due to caramelization.

Usage in Brewing

Used to add sweetness, body, and complexity to lighter ales.
Chosen for darker ales or stouts for a pronounced caramel taste.


Some communities use terms interchangeably, others differentiate.
Sometimes used interchangeably with Crystal Malt.

Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt Definitions

Crystal Malt

A brewing ingredient that provides color, flavor, and body to beer.
To enhance the beer's mouthfeel, they incorporated some Crystal Malt.

Caramel Malt

A specialty malt kilned to caramelize its sugars, giving a deep flavor profile.
The stout's rich caramel notes were achieved using Caramel Malt.

Crystal Malt

A specialty grain kilned with retained moisture, allowing for sugar development.
The brewer added Crystal Malt to impart a sweet touch to his ale.

Caramel Malt

Malted barley that has undergone higher heat exposure for full sugar caramelization.
The brew had hints of toffee, indicating the use of Caramel Malt.

Crystal Malt

A malt variety characterized by its internal sugar crystals.
The distinct sweetness of the lager came from the Crystal Malt.

Caramel Malt

Malt processed to bring out deeper colors and flavors in beers.
The reddish hue of the ale was a direct result of the Caramel Malt.

Crystal Malt

A kilned grain often used in lighter ales for added complexity.
For a richer taste, the brewmaster upped the proportion of Crystal Malt.

Caramel Malt

A brewing ingredient known for its pronounced sweet and caramel-like flavors.
To give the beer a dessert-like profile, they used a generous amount of Caramel Malt.

Crystal Malt

A malted barley subjected to heat with moisture to crystallize internal sugars.
The pale ale's unique flavor was a result of the light Crystal Malt used.

Caramel Malt

A grain favored for dark ales and stouts due to its rich character.
For his signature stout, the brewer relied heavily on Caramel Malt.


Can Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt be used together in a brew?

Yes, brewers often combine different malts to achieve specific flavor profiles.

Are Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt the same thing?

No, while often used interchangeably, they undergo different kilning processes, with Crystal Malt being moist-kilned and Caramel Malt caramelized.

What flavor does Caramel Malt generally add to beer?

Caramel Malt imparts a rich, sweet flavor reminiscent of caramel or toffee.

Which malt tends to be darker in color: Crystal Malt or Caramel Malt?

Typically, Caramel Malt is darker due to its caramelization process.

Does Crystal Malt contribute to the fermentable sugars in a brew?

Yes, the sugars developed during the kilning process can contribute to fermentation.

In what types of beers is Crystal Malt most commonly found?

Crystal Malt is often used in lighter ales, IPAs, and lagers for its sweet and malty profile.

How does the use of Crystal Malt affect the body of a beer?

Crystal Malt can enhance the beer's body, making it feel fuller on the palate.

What is the primary purpose of using Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt?

Both are used in brewing to impart color, flavor, and body to beers.

How does Crystal Malt get its name?

It's named for the sugar crystals that form inside the grain during its unique kilning process.

How does the kilning process of Crystal Malt differ from that of Caramel Malt?

Crystal Malt is kilned with retained moisture for sugar crystallization, while Caramel Malt undergoes higher heat exposure for full caramelization.

What are some other names for Caramel Malt?

Some brewers use the terms "Caramel Malt" and "Crystal Malt" interchangeably, though they have distinct processes.

How does Caramel Malt affect the head retention of a beer?

The proteins and dextrins in Caramel Malt can improve head retention in beers.

Can I replace Crystal Malt with Caramel Malt in a recipe?

While they have distinct characteristics, they can sometimes be used interchangeably, but it may alter the beer's flavor and color.

How does the moisture content in Crystal Malt compare to other malts?

Crystal Malt is kilned with retained moisture, which distinguishes its processing from other malts.

Is Caramel Malt a good choice for stouts?

Yes, its rich caramel flavor makes it a popular choice for stouts and other dark beers.

How can I determine the flavor intensity of Caramel Malt?

The flavor intensity is often linked to its color; darker Caramel Malts tend to have a more pronounced flavor.

Why might a brewer choose Caramel Malt over other specialty malts?

For its rich, sweet caramel and toffee flavors, which can enhance the depth and complexity of a beer.

Can Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt be used in non-beer recipes?

Yes, they can be used in baking and cooking to impart maltiness and sweetness to various dishes.

Are there different varieties of Crystal Malt?

Yes, depending on the kilning depth, you can find light, medium, and dark Crystal Malts.

What's the recommended storage for Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt?

Both should be stored in a cool, dry place, ideally in airtight containers to preserve freshness.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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