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

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 11, 2024
Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt both refer to malted barley that's been kilned for color and flavor; however, Crystal Malt is roasted with moisture, creating crystallized sugars, while Caramel Malt is heated until the sugars caramelize.
Crystal Malt vs. Caramel Malt — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt


Key Differences

Crystal Malt is a specialized malt used in brewing that involves taking malted barley and then roasting it in a way that the sugars within the barley crystallize. This crystallization process imparts a sweet flavor and a particular color to the beers in which it is used. On the other hand, Crystal Malt also contributes to the beer's body and mouthfeel, due to the non-fermentable sugars it introduces.
Caramel Malt, sometimes used interchangeably with Crystal Malt by some, has its distinct process. While it starts with malted barley, the kernels are heated in such a manner that the sugars within them caramelize. This caramelization not only gives the malt a rich flavor reminiscent of caramel but also gives the beer a reddish hue.
In brewing, both Crystal Malt and Caramel Malt are employed to enhance the flavor, color, and mouthfeel of the beer. However, their use must be calculated, as too much can overpower a brew or make it excessively sweet. It's also worth noting that while the terms might be used interchangeably in some contexts, discerning brewers recognize the differences in process and resultant flavor profiles between the two.
The distinction between these two malts lies mainly in their production process, resulting in different sugar profiles and flavors. When choosing between the two, brewers will consider the specific taste, color, and texture they wish to impart to their brew.

Comparison Chart


Roasted with moisture, leading to crystallized sugars
Heated till sugars caramelize


Sweet due to crystallized sugars
Rich, caramel-like flavor


Varies but can impart reddish hues
Generally a deep reddish hue

Use in Brewing

Enhances flavor, color, mouthfeel
Used for rich caramel flavor and color

Sugar Profile

Contains non-fermentable sugars
Contains both fermentable and non-fermentable sugars

Compare with Definitions

Crystal Malt

A popular choice among brewers for enhancing beer body.
To balance the bitterness, the brewer opted for Crystal Malt.

Caramel Malt

Malt known for its caramelized sugar content.
The signature sweetness of this ale is from the Caramel Malt.

Crystal Malt

Barley malt with sugars crystallized from roasting with moisture.
For added mouthfeel and sweetness, Crystal Malt was introduced to the brewing process.

Caramel Malt

A malt variation heated until its inherent sugars caramelize.
The caramel undertones in this beer are the result of the Caramel Malt added.

Crystal Malt

Specialty malt with crystallized sugars.
The sweet notes in the stout are attributed to the use of Crystal Malt.

Caramel Malt

Malt offering a rich caramel flavor and reddish color.
To achieve the reddish tint in the beer, the brewer used Caramel Malt.

Crystal Malt

Malted barley roasted to crystallize its sugars.
The brewer used Crystal Malt to give the beer a sweet undertone.

Caramel Malt

Malted barley that's been kilned to caramelize its sugars.
The deep, rich flavor of the brew comes from the Caramel Malt.

Crystal Malt

A malt imparting color and sweet flavors to beer.
The amber hue of the ale comes from the inclusion of Crystal Malt.

Caramel Malt

Used in brewing to enrich flavor profiles.
For a more robust flavor, the brewmaster chose Caramel Malt.

Common Curiosities

Why might a brewer choose Caramel Malt?

For its rich caramel-like flavor and reddish hue.

Can I substitute Caramel Malt for Crystal Malt in brewing?

While sometimes used interchangeably, they offer different flavors; substitutions should consider the desired beer profile.

How do the colors of beers differ when using these malts?

Both can impart reddish hues, but the shade can vary based on the malt's roasting level and process.

Are these malts used in all types of beers?

No, their use depends on the desired beer profile, but they're common in many ales and stouts.

What flavor does Crystal Malt impart to beer?

Crystal Malt gives a sweet flavor due to its crystallized sugars.

How does Caramel Malt differ from Crystal Malt?

Caramel Malt is heated until its sugars caramelize, while Crystal Malt has crystallized sugars from roasting with moisture.

Can I use both malts in a single brew?

Yes, brewers often blend malts to achieve desired flavors and colors.

Is Crystal Malt sweeter than Caramel Malt?

Crystal Malt tends to be sweeter due to its crystallized sugar content.

Are there different varieties of Caramel Malt?

Yes, depending on the degree of caramelization, there are varying shades and flavors of Caramel Malt.

What is Crystal Malt?

Crystal Malt is malted barley that's been roasted to crystallize its sugars.

Can overusing Crystal or Caramel Malt make beer too sweet?

Yes, excessive use can result in an overpoweringly sweet brew.

Which malt is better for a deeper color in beer?

Caramel Malt typically offers a deeper reddish hue due to caramelization.

Why is it called "Crystal" Malt?

The name comes from the crystallization of sugars during its roasting process.

Which malt is better for a thicker mouthfeel in beer?

Crystal Malt, with its non-fermentable sugars, often enhances the beer's body and mouthfeel.

What's the primary processing difference between the two?

Crystal Malt involves roasting with moisture, while Caramel Malt focuses on caramelizing sugars.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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