How To Use 6-Row Malt For All-Grain

One of the base malts that is rarely used is, 6-Row brewers malt.  A lot of people blow off 6-row as a base malt and it is often overlooked.  While I personally don’t use it very much, I do find myself at times looking at 6-row as the only possible solution for what I am trying to achieve.  So this post is here to help bring better light to 6-row and how to use it in your beer. A lot of people ask,  “What is the difference between 6-row malt and 2-row malt?”.  Most of the time, homebrewers will use 2-row for their base malt.  But, there are times when using 6-row is better served and 2-row just does not have the properties that are needed to accomplish certain flavors or conversions which 6-row can.

So what is 6-row malt?

6-row malt is base malt, it’s a type of barley.  One thing to note about this particular type of malt is, it has less potential as far as the OG is concerned.  Essentially what that means for you as a brewer is, if you use 10 lbs of 2-row pale in one batch, and 10 lbs of 6-row in another batch, you would end up with a higher OG for the 2- row when comparing it against the 6-row.  The grain it self contains more proteins and it is huskier.

6 – row alt has a higher amount of amylase in it as well.  Amylase helps convert starches into fermentable sugars.  That’s why you will see with pumpkin beers or even cream beers (because they use corn), 6-row is usually the preferred malt to use.  If you are looking to do any cereal mashes, 6-row is the ticket that you want.  Having 6-row as your base malt will help get the most out of these different adjuncts to aid with flavor as well as ABV.

Flavor Of 6-Row

The flavor of 6-Row is pretty unique to me.  The only way I can ever describe it is, it has a, “grainy” flavor.  The flavor it’s self doesn’t have a lot of depth like M.O but defiantly has more flavor the 2-row brewers malt.  It’s this very, “old school”, flavor profile.  If you have tried any beers that are pre-probation recipes you’ll get the same flavor.

When To Use This Base Malt

I like it for some of my American lagers, it has this, “old school”, flavor as well as look to it.  As stated before, any beer that has corn, flaked rice, or any vegetables it would be good with.  I’ve made some, “old school”, American IPA’s with this malt that turned out pretty well.  I did a SMaSH brew with this and cluster hops, and called it a “Cluster IPA”.   Doing something like that kinda gives a feeling that you made one of the, “Original” American IPA’s.

My Personal Preference With 6-Row

When I go all-grain, I tend to lean on M.O or just American Brewers malt.  Both of these seem to do pretty well.  When I’m making beers that don’t have a lot of specialty grains I really like to use M.O.  It brings out this nice biscuit flavor.  To me M.O is nice if you want a malt forward beer or if you are hopping the beer like crazy because it has this nice, “back bone” to it.  If you really are looking for specialty grains in your beer, then 2-row pale/2 row- brewers malt is what you might want.  The 2-row pale and 2-row brewers malt doesn’t bring a lot of flavor into the beer.

And that is where 6-row usually falls.  Not a lot of space for it. It fit’s into this box that is narrow but well defined.  Any old style American lager, or any starch like beer, American 6-row is going to find its place.  Also the one thing about 6-Row is, it is pretty husky.  That makes it great for if you are making a wheat.  It will help prevent any stuck sparges.

Conclusion

At the end, it is an underused base malt but it’s easy to see why. There are times when it does make sense to use it and I would not avoid using it in those circumstances.  If you are looking to bring out any really cool flavors I would play around with it and maybe even make a SMaSH just to see how the flavors work with it.

I do want to hear about if you use 6-Row at all and if you do, when and how you use it!   Leave your comments below!

Cheers,

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6 Comments on “How To Use 6-Row Malt For All-Grain”

  1. Jaz Says:

    May I kindly have your thoughts on using 6 row malt to produce a non or low purine beer.

    Reply

    • Jay's Brewing Says:

      I’m sorry, Jaz but that’s not something I have experience with. I was able to find bits and pieces of info online but noting concrete that I’d feel comfortable sharing. If your search yields you a result please share. I’m sure there are others that would love the info.

      Reply

      • Jaz Says:

        Hi Jay
        Thanks for getting back. You are of course correct in that there is little research at present on the interesting topic of low purine beer. The Japanese have already got in on the act and producing tasty, decent ABV zero purine beer.
        The reason is that in an age of ever increasing health concerns it makes sense to develop not only tastier beers but healthily beers.
        The Guardian newspaper recently had an article that Gout is on the increase for the same reasons as obesity etc. It’s no longer the disease of rich aristocrats on a rich diet and drinking port but now everyone is susceptible.
        The reason why beer is the sworn enemy of gout is the high Uric acid content in yeast which is staggering high. (High Uric acid = high purine levels = gout).
        There is 1810 mg of Uric acid in 100 gms of Brewers yeast compared to 7.1 mg in the same of cheese!
        Therefore the amount of Uric acid in a couple of pints of beer explains why the Japanese are making zero Purine beer.
        I am not sure but low purine beer also utilises 6 row barley as the metabolism during fermentation may produce less purines but i need to do more research.
        My interim method is to focus on yeast elimination. (If you look at a purine chart (http://www.acumedico.com/purine.htm) you will see that pilsners / lagers have a less purine level to ale. I can only assume this is to do with the yeast count at the end of the process as lagering over a long period will reduce the yeast count thereby reducing the Uric acid content.
        Fascinating stuff and definitely food for thought.
        Jaz

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